Having built a house from scratch as well as renovated a couple of homes, I’ve learned the hard way that excellent communication with tradies is a vital factor in getting what you want. So much can be lost in translation: sometimes people aren’t listening to you, or you’re not conveying your ideas successfully, or your ideas are vague and therefore open to interpretation. Here, I outline my hard-won tips on the best ways to communicate with tradespeople.
It might sound obvious, but simply exercising hospitality to people working in your home will start you on the right track to good communication. If you’re having work done that will take a long time, meaning you’ll have tradespeople in and out of your house for days, maybe even months, it pays to have a good relationship. You don’t have to be best buddies with everyone who comes through the door but a friendly manner and the odd cup of tea or coffee for those who are there for a while should smooth the way.
But give them space
On the other hand, there’s a job to be done so give your workers space and don’t watch their every move. Other than the odd cuppa, most will want to get on with their work rather than sit around chatting to you. And do you really want them chatting on your time anyway?
Respect their expertise
While being firm about what you want and not being afraid to be speak your mind, do respect that they’re the experts at what they do. Strike a balance here. Don’t hover over them and tell them how to do their job. Be collaborative and seek their input. We all work more effectively when our efforts are clearly appreciated, and with the odd pat on the back, so make sure you’re vocal with praise when due, and not just complaints.
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Put it in writing
Any contractor will appreciate you knowing what you want and they’ll work better to a very clear and well-articulated brief. Have everything in writing from the start – and I do mean everything.
Research before the start
With this in mind, do a massive amount of research before you start. Look through magazines, websites, Houzz stories and photos, create mood boards and ideabooks. Do as much as you can to finetune your brief to the tradesperson. After the job has started is not the time to start showing your builder pages of magazines you like.
Be clear about changes
However, not everything always goes to plan. If there are changes you really want, or if something unforeseen comes up, it is your right to change your mind. Just be aware that changes can have a domino effect and one change can lead to another, so work out with your tradesperson if that is the case. Don’t make any assumptions though. You can’t expect to make lots of changes without cost implications. Find out if there will be any charges for the variations. Agree on variations as you go to avoid any shocks at the end.
On a recent renovation, I informed a joiner of some amendments to the cabinetry he had drawn up. He was the director of the company and he politely nodded at all my adaptations to the drawings, but when one of his employees came to do to the job he was still working with the original drawings – none of my amendments had been documented. So it really is crucial to ensure that changes are documented throughout. If it’s amendments to drawings or plans – ask to see the new drawings.
Remember that it’s your home and you will likely be living in it for a long time. If there’s anything that’s bothering you about the progress of works or how things are being done, say it straight away; it will be too late after the job is done. Just be clear and firm, and polite. Even if you’re getting frustrated, don’t lose your temper or raise your voice – you’ll get further and earn more respect with a calm demeanour, and anger will only inflame a situation.
Step into their shoes
If it does ever come to a conflict situation, it’s always helpful stepping into the other person’s shoes and trying to see things from their point of view. Building and renovating can be so stressful that we can lose sight of things and become irrational. If you try to see their side of the story, you might be more conciliatory and that will help to resolve any issues quickly. On the other hand, if something is not being done to your satisfaction, it’s important that you stand up and be clear about you want.
Be clear about cash
From the outset, it’s crucial that you have a written agreement about what the job is going to cost and a clear schedule of payments. Know exactly when the contractor will be invoicing and for how much. If it’s a large job, you may need to pay a deposit and make progressive payments. If you’re not happy with any of this, the time to say so is at the beginning.
Author: Liz Durnan on Houzz
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