You may or may not have been wondering where I’ve been lately due to the lack of posts since the Kitchen Design series, which had great feedback by the way so I will be doing more of these types of posts and my first foray into Vlogging, the LIVE intro to Brigitte? Yeah yeah I know it wasn’t brilliant, but at least you got a live view of Brigitte and I will be subjecting you to another in the next couple of weeks when I reveal her in all her glory! (have you checked out the sneak peeks of her on my socials?) Plus I think vlogging may be the easiest way to stay in touch with you all when I am camped out on the beach with expected dubious internet connection!
You may also be wondering when the hell she will be finished and like ‘how long does it take to decorate a caravan?’ Truth is, I haven’t been working on my lovely Brigitte all this time, in fact she is all but finished even though we have had some hold ups, I’ve mainly been working flat out on an apartment refurbishment project in North London. This I will blog about in more detail in a later post, but, suffice to say for now, completing the renovation of a vintage caravan and ripping out and completely refitting an apartment in six weeks takes A.Stamina with a touch of masochism and B.a good team of tradesmen and it is on the subject of trusted tradesmen that I write today.
The extremely tight six week schedule on this project has reminded me of just how crucial having a good team of trusted tradesmen around you is. I’m glad to say generally I have built up quite a good team of people whom I work with, but on this project I had to use a couple of new tradesmen and the outcome was mixed, ie one good and one definitely not so, which resulted in delay and almost completely threw the schedule off! It’s all sorted and we are back on track, but it is seriously stressful when you find you are dealing with an incompetent tradesman not to mention often costly! There are a few things I’ve learnt you can do to help safe guard against this (none of them will ever be full proof obviously) and I definitely overlooked one of these when I took this particular guy on. I could kick myself, but when you are up against it managing a project schedule and doing all the other million things involved like ordering and specifying etc.. it happens and to be honest it’s the challenge of project management, getting everything to work together, materials ordered and delivered on time, co-ordinating the work and scheduling the trades, is part of what I love about renovations.
Projects are always challenging and inefficient or bad tradesmen are the kind of issues that can and often do threaten to throw things off track, but you have to hang on in there and with the help of pills and wine, bring it back. I jest obviously (though I’m not going to deny a glass or two can help at the end of a stressful day!) however the more trusted the team you are working with and/or the better the network you can call on, the easier this is to do. Not so easy if renovation works are not something you are doing regularly, so how can you find a tradesman you can trust for your project ? Well if you asking me I think we should first take a look at what constitutes a trusted tradesman , this is what I look for and have found pretty much sum up my own favourite tradesmen:
WHAT MAKES A GOOD TRADESMAN?
SKILL & WORKMANSHIP
This is obviously the key consideration. I’m looking for quality and a conscientious workmanship. Someone who cares about the work they are producing for both themselves and me. Pride in their work is their main motivator.
I want someone who is as good as his or her word. Churning out great work is clearly the first criteria but if a project is going to run smoothly I also need someone who will turn up when they say they will, complete the job within the timescale that both they and I set.
Who wants to work alongside a grumpy, unhelpful person? I certainly don’t. Part of what I love about a project is the team work and interacting with others and thats quite apart from the fact you often need tradesmen to ‘dovetail’ their work in with the next or work alongside to make things happen. So a friendly team player really does help!
CLEAN & TIDY
This will vary but there has to be a reasonable level of tidiness and respect for where they are working. I find looking at the way they turn out and the condition in which they keep their vehicles will give you quite a good idea.
I’m always keen to get good prices from tradesmen and I am known to haggle quite hard at times but I’ve generally found that if all the other qualities are there, a fair price or day rate is usually a ‘given’ Sure some trades do charge fairly high rates but as long as they fall into that general rate and aren’t being greedy I’m fine with that. I’m wary of those that charge too low as well as too high. Most good tradesmen know the going rate if they need to undercut or they are charging up there is a reason and it’s usually not a good one!
How to find a good tradesman ?
So how do you find one? Check out my top tips below:
This is a fairly obvious one and the first thing most people think to do if they need to hire someone for a job large or small and why not? its probably the best and most fool proof way BUT be mindful of the fact that everyone has different standards and ideas about what is good, acceptable and shoddy workmanship, you know it, its like, “I love Tesco’s Own label” whereas it could be “I won’t touch anything that isn’t Waitrose” Not only that but there is also a case for “horses for courses” there are some tradesmen who will happily handle something fairly straight forward very well but there are maybe other more complex jobs that require more skill, think GP, Doctor, Consultant. So if a friend of yours had a shower tiled on a basic wall with standard ceramic tiles and is delighted with the result, be sure that their recommended tiler is capable, read ‘accustomed to’, laying and cutting your Fired Earth natural stone or Calacatta Marble! different ball game..
KEEP ON THE LOOK OUT FOR GOOD WORK
If you are likely to be wanting some work done in the near future or even if you haven’t anything planned when you are out and about keep an eye open for good workmanship. Maybe a friend may have something done, ask for the name of the tradesman and keep a note. It may be you are out and notice a sign written van that catches your eye because they are advertising something specialist or a way that makes you look twice, I usually take a photo on my phone or if I can I will strike up a conversation with the tradesman ask them about their work, get a card. It could be you are in a restaurant or shop and see some great workmanship or something different, ask the owner or manager for the tradesman’s details.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Do some research on the work you are looking to get done. Have some knowledge up your sleeve this will help you to see through some of the ‘BS’ that you will get fed. I’m not saying you need to be an expert but the internet is an amazing resource and you can find out so much about pretty much anything. Its my biggest yard stick, I’m not saying I could do it myself but after having being involved with so many renovations now, I am up to speed on the basics of how most of this stuff is done and what can and can’t be, I have to be to work a schedule, you may find my previous post ‘when to ignore the builder’s advice‘ an interesting read at this point. Some, not all, but usually the ones I don’t end up taking on funnily enough, will use a smoke screen of BS to blind you with science and try to appear super knowledgable, this is usually to hide inadequacy in my experience, the good ones don’t usually need to. Its worse too if you are a woman I might add, but it happens to men also, we are all familiar with the sucking in of air scratching of chin scenario, this usually means they aren’t up to it, avoid!
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY!
See and get quotes from at least 3 and preferably 5 tradesman, you will definitely get a feel for price and who you feel comfortable with. Then when you have eliminated the ones you definitely don’t want, ask the rest to give you contact details of previous clients. Call them up and ask questions, about there time keeping etc.. not just about the end result, ideally ask if they would mind you taking a look, though I get that this doesn’t always seem the right or easiest thing to do. I would definitely ask though if it is a major build and if the builder is good they won’t have a problem with giving you names and details. If someone asked me, I wouldn’t mind would you?
CHECK OUT ONLINE TRADESMEN SITES
This would probably not be my first port of call, but I have used it before and had mixed results.I’m thinking of Trust a Trader, Rated People, MyBuilder.com and the like. The good thing about these sites is that they do run on customer reviews which can be helpful BUT as I said before everybody has a different idea about what ‘good’ is and so they can be misleading. You don’t really know what was involved in previous jobs they may have been more simple and not requiring same skill set or level. So be aware. They work like Tripadvisor, one man’s caviar is another man’s, well, fish eggs!
WORK VIA ANOTHER PROFESSIONAL
If your project is a fairly large one, you may opt to work with a trusted professional. An Architect, Interior Designer or general Builder who who will already have gathered their own team of trusted tradesmen this will take a big pressure from you if you choose correctly. If its a larger project you may want to consider all three of these. The Architect and Interior Designer would be involved at the earlier stages and can also help you by project managing if you feel thats what you wanted. If the work doesn’t require an Architect you could employ and Interior Designer to design and bring in their tradesmen to complete the works. If you are confident on your design a good general Builder can project manage and bring in his/her trusted tradesmen. You should check these professionals first though as l have ready suggested with individual traders. There are good and bad standards in all areas but you also need to be able to work with them and so you should feel comfortable to do that too.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
Follow your gut instincts. If you get the wrong feeling or something just doesn’t feel right listen to yourself, this is often one of the best yard sticks.
FINALLY – GET IT IN WRITING
I always like to put something in writing when I’ve agreed it, even if it is just a text to confirm whats to be done, the start and finish dates and the price. It may make no difference at the end of the day but I find it keeps it very clear. You must get their written confirmation though and if they don’t seem to want to give you that then I would question why.
So what do you think? Have you had good/bad experiences with Tradesmen? Would love you to share your ideas and thoughts with us?
And here’s a handy checklist to help you in your search for a trusty trader!