Following on from last week’s pre-Spring gardening tips, we will move the focus to inside the home and give you some insight into the best ways to go about the larger DIY tasks that require external tradespeople.
While choosing the best tradesperson for your job, a few tips and some common-sense will go a long way to avoiding potential costly disasters:
- The initial process of gathering quotes can be bewildering. The first thing to know is that an estimate is different to a quote. An estimate is the equivalent of a guide price, and the final cost could be higher if the job turns out to be more difficult or time-consuming than expected. Always ask for a quote, and bear in mind that several factors can influence the disparity in projected costs.
- Smaller builders will have lower overheads to consider, which can help them keep prices competitive. However, lower overheads may mean the builder doesn’t have all the resources needed to do the job in-house and will use a sub-contractor. Always check whether sub-contractors will be used – their involvement can complicate proceedings considerably, particularly in the event of a dispute.
- When it comes to materials, one company may be using better materials than another, or cutting corners to save costs. Be in the know and do your research online or call a builders merchant to check the quality of materials (and their typical cost).
- All builders allow a profit margin and if this is small, it may drive the quote down. A builder may be able to do this because their firm is well organised, or (less flatteringly) because they can’t win enough work.
- Always check out the professionalism of your contractor before you sign anything. Look out for positives such as dedicated premises, a liveried van, a landline phone number and (best of all) customer testimonials they are willing to pass on to you.
- Prepare a plan of action once the work is scheduled. Chat to your builder and ascertain how long is the job likely to last, and where will it be taking place? Organise necessary contingencies like bottled water in case plumbing work is involved, torches for electrical complications, or planning meals out or at family/friends’ houses rather than trying to cook in a dusty and chaotic kitchen.
- If your neighbours are likely to be affected (for instance, if the work involves a skip being parked on the street), it is polite to give them advanced warning and do your best to ensure the contractor’s waste doesn’t migrate onto their property.
- If the job requires it, cover your floors with old bed sheets or thick newspaper to protect them from dust, damage and spillages. Be prepared to give everything a thorough spring-clean afterwards!
- Other tips for before the work starts include hiding ornaments where drill vibrations can’t knock them over and taking pictures off the wall if there’s going to be a lot of hammering. If you have pets, consider what the impact on them will be and take steps to minimise disruption.
- Finally, when the work is taking place, strike a balance between leaving your builders to it and keeping an overview on activity. An hourly enquiry about progress will ensure tradespeople are far more inclined to be co-operative. When the work is finished, check for unresolved snagging issues, and only hand over payment once you’re happy.