Rome wasn’t built in a day, and renovation projects can feel as drawn out as the 800 years it took to complete the ancient city.
That’s a lot of time to be spending with a group of tradespeople whose skills and efficiency could be the difference between regrets and raging success. So, how do we ensure a better experience and therefore a better job?
We break it down to eight steps.
1. Right from the start
Word of mouth is still as relevant as it was pre-internet. Ask architects and building designers who have worked on friends’ houses for referrals. You’ll need to shop around though; build a list via online directories such as Houzz, which has client reviews and testimonials as well as photographs that show the standard of work. Find out if the tradies are licensed for the type of work you want carried out; who they’ve had building contracts with, and how many jobs they have on the go. Find out whether they’re part of any recognised industry associations and if they have relevant insurance.
2. Talk the talk
Communication is king during any project, and renovations are no different. Start by building a professional rapport, then clearly map out your expectations and requirements from the start. If there seems to be a lack of planning, bring this up as a problem to be addressed. Attempt to draw up a timeframe that states deadlines for all the major milestones, then allow for feedback if it’s deemed unrealistic. If you are unsure about anything, let them know. Remember what your favourite teacher always said: There are no bad questions.
3. Plan ahead
There’s an app for that! Yes, you can be a project manager even if only on an unofficial basis, thanks to the plethora of project management software programs and apps that help you keep tabs on your tradies’ hours and workflow. Try Asana or Snapguide. Failing that, you should create a run sheet showing when your tradies start and finish, also identifying each individual task to be carried out by each tradesperson, including area clean-ups – insignificant on the face of it, but time consuming nonetheless. Also, as the home owner you are responsible for any onsite hazardous materials, such as lead or asbestos. There are ways to prep the site so as to prevent the exposure of hazardous substances, for instance laying plastic sheeting to stop the circulation of dust.
4. Budget blunders
The accepted formula goes thus: To avoid over-capitalisation, you shouldn’t be spending more than 10 per cent of the property value on a cosmetic renovation. Clearly map out a budget with your tradespeople and be clear about what you can and can’t afford. Agree on a set price up front and also when you will be paying. Lock it all in at the start and get it in writing.
5. Helping hand
Don’t treat your tradies like underlings. Consider their needs and attempt to be part of the team, albeit from a safe distance. If you used an architect for the project’s initial design, recall how you respected their professional integrity. Tradies should be treated no differently. Before their arrival, clear the work area of any obstacles or breakable items and make sure your house is easily accessible. If you can offer them a parking space, do so, and if you have a dog, keep it away as much as you can.
6. Be a good host
Consider how you feel in your workplace. If a well-deserved lunch break helps motivate you through your afternoon crash, wouldn’t it be the same for a tradie? If they’re spending the entire day working at your house, they will probably bring a packed lunch. Offer them a shady spot in the garden or a bench on the balcony to eat it. Offer cups of tea or coffee at regular intervals, and maybe even buy or bake a few cookies. Post-project, show your appreciation with a positive review online. This is easy via online services, such as Houzz.
7. Check in
Depending on the size of the job, the jury’s out on whether to stick around or rent a nearby apartment for the duration. It basically comes down to personal preference. If you’re living out, check in every couple of days and leave contact details in case any issues arise.
8. Don’t overdo it
While a polite head around the fence is nice, be sure not to get under their feet. Hovering can be annoying for busy tradies keen to finish the job, especially if they feel micro-managed. Keep your conversations short and let them get on with turning your dream into a reality.
Houzz is the biggest residential renovating and design community online – it’s the 21st-century way to design your home.
Visit Houzz to see the portfolios and reviews of local architects, designers and tradespeople to help you find the best pro for your project.