Managing Trades

by | Jul 8, 2020

Managing Trades

Managing trades, regardless of whether it’s a DIY or builder managed project, is essential. It’s inevitable you will interact with trades. And whether you intend to or not, how you interact with them affects the project.

Balancing Act

As with any management scenario, there is a balancing act between making sure the job gets done well and ensuring there is a pleasant environment onsite. If you’re working with a builder, your job is 100% easier because it’s up to the builder to make sure the job is done correctly. Really, you just need to make sure you make the necessary decisions on time and make sure it’s a pleasant environment! Now, for all you Type A personalities out there, take a deep breath and read that last sentence again. That’s right. You need to let go of being in charge just this once. If you are paying a builder, let him or her manage the trades.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t talk to the trades. In fact, if you don’t talk to them it is probably going to get really awkward. Especially if it’s a big project and they are there for days on end. Have a chat with them. Ask how their day is. But then let them get on with their work. It’s hard for trades to work while an owner is chatting away to them or asking questions about what they are doing. Of course, if they need your input on something such as the height for a pendant light or the position of a power point, you will need to discuss this with them. Or if you see them doing something you know is not right ie putting the vanity on the wrong wall – let them know. They can then contact the builder and find out where the confusion happened.

The Builder’s Role

People new to the building game are often confused about the difference between the builder and the trades. Very few builders have all trades in house anymore. Some of the big ones will do, but more often than not, the builder subcontracts out to different trades. He or she then acts as a project manager by purchasing all the materials, hiring, managing and coordinating the trades and ensuring trades complete works as per the National Construction Code and all relevant Standards.
In quoting a job, the builder gets quotes from trades to complete the agreed scope of works (Hopefully you have signed a detailed Scope of Works. If you haven’t you need to). If you have hired a builder, make sure you understand the builder has hired the trades. The trades act under his instructions. And in this instance, it’s best to have just one chief. In plain speak, don’t give the tradies instructions to change the scope of works. It may interfere with other trades, the schedule, and/or change the cost of works from what they quoted. If you want to change something, speak to the builder first. He will then speak to the trades. I speak from experience. Owners changing the scope of works directly with the trades gets very messy.

Be Pleasant

Please. Do yourself a huge favour and be pleasant with the trades. As builders, we have sent trades to a job and it’s been like lambs to a slaughter. They might be tough as nails but honestly, a horrible owner will send them running. They can’t get out of there fast enough and that’s when they make mistakes. Trust me. Treat people well and their standard of work will be higher. And they are more likely to give you that little bit extra. One of our worst jobs ever was for someone who just wasn’t happy with anything and generally really unpleasant to be around. And I can definitely say trades made more mistakes on that job than any job we’ve ever done. The trades were on edge the entire time. The owner made them nervous and they didn’t do their best work.

DIY Projects

If you’re doing a DIY project, managing trades is a bit more complex and there are a few things you should be aware of.
1. Formalities – once you’ve found your trades (See Finding and Hiring Trades), start everything out properly. Get their insurance details, their license details and a contract from them.
2. The Scope of Works – Agree on the scope of works with your trades. It’s best to have a scope of works written out and signed by both parties. The more specific it is, the less confusion there will be.
3. The Order of Works – understand the order of works so you know what decisions you need to make and when. For example, you need to choose plumbing fixtures and appliances before rough in. You also need to make sure you have the items onsite for trades to complete the scope of works. If trades have to come back because you didn’t have everything there for them, they will charge you extra.
4. Certification Paperwork – Know what forms you need from which trades. For more information on this see Is Building Certification Required. For example, if you’re doing a bathroom reno and your waterproofing is redone, you need to get a Form 16 from the waterproofer. If you alter plumbing, you need a copy of the Form 4/4A from the plumber.
5. And finally, Managing Expectations and Communications and managing trades go hand in hand. Please make sure you pop over to read this insight as well.
Unless you’ve done a lot of renos or are in the industry, you really are at the mercy of the trades to do the right thing by you. This is a vulnerable position to be in so choose your trades carefully. If you are questioning the standard of their workmanship, you can refer to the QBCCs Standards and Tolerances Guide – Or, you can ask us to do a site inspection.
The good news is, once you’ve found good trades, it’s like finding a pot of gold. It can change your renovation world. My advice is do whatever it takes to keep them onside so you can call on them in the future.

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