Living through renovation work, house painting or other large projects is not for the faint hearted! Most of us have done it, or at least had friends who have done it. And nearly all have some degree of dissatisfaction with the process (even if the final result is often quite good).
The horror stories that abound are occasionally about rip-offs or dodgy work, but more more often they're about mis-communication, mess, chaos, unforeseen extra work, missed deadlines and broken budgets. In fact Kevin McLeod has made a very successful career televising just these events in Grand Designs. He and his team can be sure every build will contain these exciting elements. Reality TV with guaranteed drama! No wonder the series has lasted decades.
So it's surprising that when we talk to builders, painters, and other trades about a big job, we forget to cover 'possible dramas'. Nearly all pre-work discussions centre around price. When we first phone a tradesman we ask for a 'quote' before anything else.
Of course price is an essential part of every job. But maybe we should be asking other questions before we even bother with the quote.
Until fairly recently my wife and I always started with 'money'. But we are older and wiser now.
From personal experience here are some questions we should have asked before we talked money.
1. To a paver - Who can recommend your work? We didn't and now have paving that sends rainwater the wrong way. We hired a nice guy who was just not great at his job.
2. To a fencer - How likely is it that we will have to pay extra? We didn't and when the fence-post-hole-digger hit sandstone (almost inevitably in the Lower north Shore) we had to pay a lot more money for this 'extra', written in mice type at the bottom of the quote.
3. To a painter (supplied by a real estate agent for our rental property) - When you say you can paint the gutters, does that mean you'll clean/sand/prime before the paint goes on? We didn't and our El Cheapo painter just went over rust and dirt. Now the gutters are peeling and in a worse state than before.
4. To a kitchen installer - Will you finish our kitchen before you start the next project? We didn't and cooked in the lounge room for 6 weeks while out new kitchen sat 90% finished but unusable.
A lot of this comes down to experience. My wife and I now know not to take anything for granted. But, looking back our obsession with the 'best price' (read cheapest price) seemed to end in frustration nearly every time. I'm sure we could have found good value AND professional tradesmen by asking more questions than 'How much?'
Other questions might include:
How long will this take?
When are you free to start?
What disruption can I expect?
What are your working hours?
Can you work around our schedule?
How else will my home be affected?
Will my neighbours be affected?
Do you clean up off site or at my home?
Do you do the work or sub-contract?
What materials do you use?
What preparation do you do?
How will you protect my home?
Who helps you?
How many people can I expect?
Who holds the key?
Have you done much of this before?
What problems can you foresee?
Do you live nearby or 100kms away?
Will you tell me as soon as 'extras' arise?
Can you show me pictures of similar work you've done?
What else do I need to be aware of?
What past clients can I speak to?
Do you feel confident doing this work?
Do you really want this job?
... you get the idea ...
My clients are smarter than me because they ask these sorts of questions all the time. And I've worked hard to provide an interior painting service that can answer these questions, online and in person.
There really are hundreds of guys who will give you the lowest price and the highest stress, if thats what you want. But there are also many, many tradesmen who are professional and realise theres so much more to the job than 'the job'.
You just have to ask.
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