If you’re anything like us, when you land in a foreign language country you know enough to say ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘how much is this?’, or apologize for your lack of the local language.  Communicating with tradies can often feel the same.  They speak a fluent technical tradie language and some of them assume we totally understand, when we often have no idea what they’re talking about.  After all, how often have you needed to know what a joist hanger is, or what to do with a puddle flange!

For any renovation it’s important to have a joint understanding of the job and the plan. Confusion and lack of understanding often leads to conflict. 

Given, generally you will both speak English as a common language, you’re in a good position to begin breaking down any ‘tradie-speak’ language barriers to gain an understanding of your project.  

What often stops us is a fear of seeming silly, or that someone will ‘take advantage’ of our lack of knowledge. Will we get ‘ripped off’? We’ve all seen those stories about jobs that seem to ‘blow out’, and while those people exist, we’ve found the vast majority of ‘tradies’ are amazing and want to help you.

It’s daunting knowing where to start with renovations, home improvements or home maintenance. If it’s a leaky tap or an electrical issue, we’re all pretty confident contacting a plumber or an electrician. But when it is more complex renovation or maintenance related issues, and there’s a whole host of various trades required, we really need to get it right.  

Ask lots and lots of questions to fully understand what is going to happen, as you’re the customer about to spend your hard-earned cash. One thing we keep in mind – if it’s difficult to communicate with your trades at the beginning, it’s probably not going to get better as the job goes on. 

Our first contacts with trades are in essence an interview process. We try to assess if we want them on our ‘team’.  To do this we have a few key things we do; 

  1. Start with the end in mind; describe to them what the end-goal is, no matter how big your vision is. Are you looking to do maintenance, or is this about your dream bathroom renovation? Be clear yourself about the outcome you want. Remember that once you talk with them about the ‘vision’ you can always scale it back. We then listen to how they describe the job back to us to see if they’ve listened.
  2. Then ask them.
    1. What are all the different trades they might need and how they will ensure everyone is onsite when they’re needed?
    2. How long should you expect the job to take?
    3. What materials are needed, and the availability of goods? 
    4. What are the contingencies you must think about – what could go wrong and how would they manage that?
    5. If things do go wrong, which is not unusual as renovations often ‘discover’ other issues, who will be the key person to keep you informed and get your approval for any variations needed. 
    6. Will they document a quote along with a ‘scope of works’ and a ‘schedule of works’ that will allow you to know their plan.
  3. And lastly, use that wonderful word ‘why?’ Keep asking ‘why’ until the answer makes sense or seems logical. 

Getting the best out of your renovation means creating the best team from the start. 

Good luck and adios, arrivederci, au revior, sayonara, annyeong, BYE!

June 15, 2022 — Mark McKie

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