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5-step plan for before you call a tradesman

If you are planning house renovations or maintenance, you probably have a specific end in mind.

In order to get there in one piece, make sure you know what the journey will entail by getting sorted first.

The Find Tradesman Hub centralises all building-related trades advice and registers of Licensed Building Practitioners. This Hub also includes Registered Master Builders.

Doing work without a consent can turn into a legal matter.

Before you start

1. Check whether you need a consent

As tempting as it may be for some to rip in and get the job done, or cut costs by ignoring the need for a consent, it is an offence to do work without one when it is legally required.

  • As a building owner, you are responsible for determining whether or not your work needs consent.
  • To find out more about work that requires a consent, see this Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment page.
  • If you are relying on advice from other people, such as tradespeople or architects, ensure they are qualified to give you that advice.
  • See Building that does not require a consent as a starting point. It lists those people besides the local council who are qualified to advise you.
  • You may be able to do work such as building a deck without a consent if it is inside certain guidelines.

2. Prepare a budget

  • Have a budget and know how much flexibility is in it. Make it realistic and as far as possible, stick to it.
  • Be prepared for unforeseen problems that might cause a budget blow-out and have a contingency plan.
  • Be prepared to make compromises in your grand vision to ensure the extent of the job is in keeping with the value of the house, or to stick within your budget. Don't over-capitalise.

3. Find good builders or contractors

  • Make sure the professionals you choose are right for the project and can meet Building Code requirements.
  • Think about your job: Is it simple or complex, does it require restricted building work?
  • Word of mouth can be gold: Ask family and friends.
  • Get recommendations from good tradies for others in different fields. Plumbers will know builders who know tilers, who know joiners, and so on, and this can be a good way in to finding the right person.
  • Check out the trades person finder websites, some of which have reviews.
  • See our Wise Up story on making sure your trades person is properly qualified.

Be persistent

There are times when the noisy wheel gets oiled first. Don't be afraid to chase up a tradesperson for a promised quote, or to get work moving (and finished).

This is especially important when a particular trade or business is in high demand as they may say they are coming around to quote, but then don't turn up.

But do be polite and respectful about it, and patient within reason, if you don't want to end up at the bottom of their priority list.

5. Get quotes

  • Prices can vary widely
  • Bigger companies may give higher estimates because they have higher overheads, but they may also offer a more streamlined service because they have the staff and resources.
  • Always get more than one estimate.
  • Ask the higher bidders why they are high and low bidders why they are so low.

6. Payment

  • For small projects paying at the end is reasonable.
  • For larger ones, you may need to pay some upfront, but don’t pay upfront in full - pay in stages on completion of each stage.
  • Reserve the final payment for after the work is fully completed and you're satisfied.
  • Don’t do final payment before small unfinished details are sorted. It's this kind of work that slips through the cracks.
  • For jobs with a lot of materials you could discuss with the tradespeople opening your own account at a supplier.

Have a ball-park finish date, but build in some flexibility.

Other issues:

  • Do you need insurance? Check with your insurance company that you are insured correctly for major renovations.
  • Is the job big enough to require a written contract? If your project is above $30,000, your builder is obliged to give you a contract.

Trouble shooting

Be prepared to deal with problems, and don’t have an unbreakable deadline. While you should expect work to go largely to schedule, some flexibility is key to a painless result.

In other words, don’t invite everyone to your deck party until you know for sure the deck is finished.

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