The Terror of the Tradie from Hell

You’d assume that most trade contractors who provide trade services to home owners and renovators are competent, professional, personable, honest and have a conscience.  But we’ve all heard the horror stories of the ‘tradie from hell’. 

Like the carpenter who set up to install doors and sprayed sawdust over the entire contents of the householder’s garage.  Or the electrician who sauntered in, wandered around, chatted happily about current affairs, did the job and then charged for the entire time (including conversation).  Not to mention the tradie who trudged across the wet front lawn and marched right in the front door, or the air-conditioner installer who disconnected the wiring throughout half the house and then disappeared for a week – only to become aggressive upon his return when asked when he was likely to be able to reconnect the electricity and finish the job. 

It’s a shame that the occasional bad apple can spoil the entire barrel, but needing to hire a tradesperson to get a job done strikes terror into the core of some people.

Fear no more!  In this three Part article  series we list the Top 17 Tips for choosing, hiring and working with a suitable contractor to get your job done, whether it be a simple electrical power point installation for your DIY home improvements or a building project for your larger renovation.  And for further peace of mind, we also include some resources and links to get you on the path to doing your own further research, if you need to (and we recommend that you do).

17 Top Tips for Successfully Choosing, Hiring and Working with Tradespeople


Part 1  Successful Sourcing

There are a few different ways to find out about the choice of contractors available to you in your area for the work you want done.  It is very important to find someone you can talk well with : - someone who listens to what you want and whose answers and descriptions make sense to you.  And if you feel you need to ask more questions, you shouldn’t be made to feel that you can’t or shouldn’t.  Good communications with the contractor you choose is essential to you getting the result you want.  Naturally, the level of complexity of the discussions will vary depending upon the size of the task at hand – if you’re just getting a new power point installed, it’s probably not very complicated!  But if you’re having a structure erected, pool installed, or bathroom or kitchen remodelled, it is going to involve quite a few considerations which will take time to work through.  You certainly don’t want to feel intimidated by someone who’s going to be spending a lot of time at your house.  Choose wisely.   

1. Word of Mouth.  No rocket science here – finding out about a terrific tradesperson from someone else who has used them and who has been happy with the service and result is a great way to source someone to do your job.  Just be sure that you have the same, or at least similar, likes/dislikes and requirements and criteria as the person who so enthusiastically recommended them to you.  Tradies also know other tradies.  If you’ve worked with a tradesperson whose work you’ve been happy with and you’ve got on well with them, chances are that if you need another tradesperson for a different job, and they know someone in that area, they may recommend someone you’d also be happy with.

2. Websites. There are a number of online services who offer to match trades service providers with people needing a contractor.  On the larger online services websites it is possible to read other users’ ratings and comments on service providers, which will be helpful in assessing whether the contractor is suitable for your job.  There may be a certain level of ‘vetting’ or ‘filtering’ of service providers by these websites, but unscrupulous operators can still get through any system, so that shouldn’t take the place of doing your own, independent checking.

3. Work going on in your area. This may or may not be a reliable source of quality, trustworthy trades contractors – beware.  If you regularly see a particular solar panel installer, or carpet cleaner, or swimming pool installer in your suburb it could either be that they are indeed excellent and popular, or it could be that they have canvassed the area and a number of residents have decided to give them a try.  If you are in the market for solar panel installation and you see them being installed in your suburb, certainly enquire to the household (maybe by dropping your phone number in their letter box and inviting them to call you if they would recommend the installers services, if you are nervous about knocking on a stranger’s door) for feedback or comments.  Also be aware that some businesses, commonly roof restoration companies, will offer a homeowner a discount on their quoted job if the homeowner agrees to display a small advertising billboard at the front of their property for an agreed time period.  This may be, but should not be assumed to be, a vote of confidence in the service provider.  Be alert to the seemingly popular service providers in your area, but as always, do the appropriate checks, as will be detailed in the next section.

4. Referrals through Associations. Some trades associations have online search facilities to help you locate a member in your area.  For example, if you need a plumber, you can go to the Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services Association of Australia (the largest plumbing industry association)website ( and enter the service you are looking for (such as general plumbing or solar plumbing) and your postcode and the site will return a list of association registered plumbers for you to choose from.  Other associations, such as the Master Builders Association ( and Master Painters Australia ( have the same search facilities.  Google to find the association that represents the trade you are after (most national associations also have a State body you can contact) and see if you can find a suitable service provider that way.

5. Match the tradesperson/builder with job. You wouldn’t get a brain surgeon to perform heart surgery, nor get an electrician to change a light bulb (although I’m sure that’s happened).  It’s important to match the size and scope of job with the tradesperson who’s skill, experience and preference is for that kind of work.  Consider, in as much detail as possible, exactly what it is that you need done and check that this is up the alley of the service provider you are considering engaging.  It will be more cost effective and efficient if you have a good match.

6. Ask a busy person. A final point to keep in mind when sourcing a tradesperson is - ask a busy person to do something and they can probably do it because they’re great workers and are busy because they like to be!  You’d have to ask yourself why someone isn’t busy – are they not in demand?  (Perhaps they have just finished a job – there could be a credible reason!)  Choosing a busy, capable person could be a good idea to consider.  Just make sure they’re not too busy, or you may never get them to start your job!

 Click Here to read Part 2 Checking Credentials.