When Renovating, How Can You Avoid Hating Tradies?

Weird title but I've been doing some Reno's during covid and I find myself bordering on a hatred of tradies. Like racism or sexism, just generalised negative beliefs. I've had a couple of really good trades, and the work is fine. But for every one of those, I've had to deal with 5 idiots.

Why I say hatred is because I find myself discriminating against Australian born and trained tradies. I am actually ashamed of this and it, like all prejudices isn't borne out. I seek out trades that have come over from the UK or Germany and believe the quality is better, although I had one Scottish guy who I almost came to blows with.

Look, I know this is a strange post but, I don't want to hate tradies. I don't want to think they're lazy, greedy, stupid, and undependable. Because that's not true. But more and more that's what I feel. I just get the sense that the entire industry is a rort and a jungle and it's all very grubby. Intellectually, I believe in unions and all they've done and continue to do for wages overall. That's all fine in the abstract, but when you've got a carpenter that does shitty work and then is nasty about it and you've got to threaten him with vcat just to finish a bad job that you'll end up paying a better (foreign) chippie to fix, its hard not to feel annoyed.

Has anyone else dealt with this? How did you resolve it? I would really like to stop renovating so I can go back to blissfully watching real estate propaganda like the block.


  • +5

    Seems like a strong generalisation based on limited anecdotal experience. Are you suggesting there aren't any decent trade-workers out there? Maybe increase your budget or change your hiring selection process.

  • +1

    Just like any job, there is a big range of bad to good tradies, even if you get a good one, they may have stretched themselves thin and taken on too many jobs at once and cut corners on your job, you just dont know the circumstances of the person or the state their lives are in.

    • I feel like your statement is borderline contradicting itself.

      I guess it depends on the definition of 'good' in this situation.

      A 'skilled' tradesmen wouldn't take on more than they can handle and then cut corners on projects just to finish on time. A skilled tradesmen might perhaps take on more than they thought they could originally handle, and then allow enough time to complete projects in a timely manner.

      What's going on in in their lives is none of my concern as long as they complete the job I'm paying for, within their given expectations. If they're rude pricks, but do an amazing job, I'm a happy customer. If they're nice, mean well, but do a shit job, I'm not happy.

      Business is business, and I just want what I'm paying for.

  • +15

    I think you are totally correct but I don’t think you’re gonna get away with saying that on here.

    It’s almost impossible for people like us to find a skilled tradie with a good work ethic.

    The best ones are usually constantly subcontracted by property developers and builders.
    It’s really only the dregs that are left.

    Obviously you can strike it lucky occasionally. There’s a higher strike rate if you get a recommendation from someone you know.

    If you know anyone that’s a property investor and uses their own tradies that’s a bonus. Even investors who use property managers sometimes know of good people.
    The real estate agents have to provide property owners with invoices that have the tradies contact details.

    That’s what I’ve done in the past.

    Sometimes the good tradies can recommend others. A good one often associates themselves with likeminded people and they are aware recommending a lousy tradie reflects on them.

    Other than that, my only advice is to lower your expectations.
    Assume you are going to encounter the bad apples.
    When you get a good one, treat them well and massage their ego.
    Make sure you never make them wait.
    Pay them promptly.
    Give them a case of beer.
    Buy them lunch.
    Offer to help them doing the donkey work like removing rubbish, carry their tools and supplies.
    Make it easier for them to park their vehicle, move your car to an inconvenient location to accommodate them if necessary.

    You should aim to strike a balance of being welcoming and happy to see them but not someone who’s gonna stand for any nonsense.
    They need to feel motivated to work for you but aware you won’t stand for shoddy workmanship or being ripped off.
    That’s difficult to do when you hate everyone but you need to be the one playing them not the other way around.

    If you do get a good one, recommend them to others and tell people to mention your name if they hire them. They are more likely to remember you that way if you need them again.

    • +1

      These are good points, thanks. I think the dynamics you've described are riight and Ive seen them - the best tradies dont have to advertise to the public. I will try and lower my expectations, or to use foreign tradies who could have higher expectations. I actually do all of your suggestions just as part of being a good human being. I have found though that it is a lot of emotional work- you really do have to manage these guys' feelings. It's annoying since you dont have to do that for nearly any other services I can think of. I had at least onen argument because I asked a tradie to do something and his feelings were hurt and he said he didnt really want to 'do me a favour anymore' and I had to say you're not doing me a favour, your're doing what youve been contracted to do. I really cannot imagine an accountant telling you that because you caught an error in their math, they dont want to 'do you a favour' and finish the tax return you've contracted them to do.

      You should aim to strike a balance of being welcoming and happy to see them but not someone who’s gonna stand for any nonsense.They need to feel motivated to work for you but aware you won’t stand for shoddy workmanship or being ripped off.That’s difficult to do when you hate everyone but you need to be the one playing them not the other way around.

      That's a damn good way of looking at it, should be up on the VBA website. I've got a wee bit left to go. You cannot let the hate take over or I won't be able to play the game.

      • -1

        Whilst I appreciate I have no idea on your case or circumstances, keep in mind there could be some miscommunication between you and tradie about work that needed doing. He might have done what he thought he needed to do, then you keep asking for "extras" to be included that you aren't going to pay him for.

      • Are you getting all these people from airtasker or something?

    • +4

      I have to ask…..are you kidding ????? Seriously,lowering expectations / massaging egos / buying gifts / inconveniencing yourself to make someone you are PAYING happy ? Where have we gone wrong in work ethic that this kind of pandering is seen as the only way to get a job done well…whilst also paying a premium ? Do you think that would fly if it where a Dr / ambo / cop / fire fighter ? What if you were told the way to get someone decent in those sectors was to "lower your expectations" or "massage their ego" in order to get a decent service from them ? Sorry (not sorry),but that is insanity…if i pay you (or am about to hire you),you had better have done the job well,or at least turn up or answer your phone if you aren't coming (several tradies recently have not done the above and have stuffed us around for weeks…losing us days of work / pay and inconvenience bordering on dangerous).

      • This is Australia. Unless you got a teleporter or source of foreign trained workers, I honestly don't see any other way.

        • If this pandemic has taught anyone anything,it is that jobs can be lost / big companies can fold / entire countries can fall into recession in the blink of an eye….so tiny little tradies getting all cocky about jobs may want to remember that,that's all i can say (and people will remember when this $#!tstorm ends).

          • +1

            @parisienne: Every day I pray for brexit to mean a free travel zone with the UK. One year of uk tradies moving down here and all the Aussies will be homeless or working at Macca's where they should be.

  • +1

    Do a licence search.

    My old neighbour is in a world of pain because he hired the worst tradies in Brisbane

    A simple QBCC search showed his builders paid more in penalties then they earned and were barely a business. He knew that and went with them anyway because they were loaning their number to guys from eastern europe who couldn't get a license or insurance and were soooo much cheaper than anyone else.

  • +11

    Are you the common element here?

  • -1


    You can only ever have two of these at once.

    If it’s good and fast it’s not cheap.

    If it’s cheap and fast it’s not good.

    If it’s good and cheap it’s not fast.

    Go for the lowest quote and you’ll get the lowest quality people and workmanship.

    • I usually go with a middle of the range quote, or the second cheapest option. The cheapest option usually rule themselves out for reasons other than price.

      • +3

        Using second cheapest you are going to get shit. The best guys are already taken, and don't care about doing your $1k job when they have multiple $10s of k jobs lined up. The cheapest ones are the cheapest because it's the only way they can get work, their workmanship is likely poor, so the only reason people hire them is on price.

        Surely it tells you something when some people are turning away work, and others are basically begging for it?

        • +4

          The logical conclusion from your comment is to always hire the most expensive people possible, that's not actionable advice.

          • @koalabargains: If you're not willing to pay for quality, you're not going to get quality. It is actionable, it's just not palatable to you in particular.

            You get what you pay for.

            • -1

              @Minimum chips: Okay, do you apply this elsewhere in your life?

              Which car do you drive?

              If it's not a Bently, then why not?

              • +1

                @koalabargains: I drive a 1999 Toyota Camry, but I don't mind when it doesn't perform like a Bentley. My post history contains no complaints about the features and interior of my $2000 car. I bought just about the cheapest thing I could, and my expectations are appropriate.

                I got my bathroom renovated two years ago (with my not-buying-a-Bentley money). I went with a 30k quote where others quoted 17k. They did the work fast and well, and the 17k guy has new awful reviews and is no longer trading

          • @koalabargains: Nope, it's don't hire the ones that are cheap and can't get work.

            • +2

              @brendanm: Right, so hire the most expensive and the busiest tradies. Got it. Excellent advice.

              • -3

                @koalabargains: Didn't say that either. I can see why you have issues with everyone to be honest. MSPaint hit the nail on the head I think, what's the common factor here? You.

                • +1

                  @brendanm: Yup, problems don't exist with tradies, I'm the problem. Tradies are fine. Got it. Great take.

                  • -3

                    @koalabargains: Lol and it continues. You seem to be extremely difficult to get along with, I can only imagine what it would be like doing a job for you.

                    • +1

                      @brendanm: You're being facetious. Its boring. I'm not here to argue. I wanted and got coping strategies for dealing with tradies. Your suggestions are retarded.

                      Hey, next time you need a doctor, make sure you go to the most expensive and the busiest one you can find.

                      Let me know how that goes for you.

                      • @koalabargains: Again, not what I suggested. However you may have noticed that all the actual good doctors are always booked out. The ones you can get at a moment's notice are generally rubbish. Weird that.

                        You looked for bottom of the barrel, you got it. You want to micromanage and tell people how to do their jobs, they get annoyed. If you know how to do it, then do it. I do my own work because I don't trust anyone else to do anything properly.

                        • @brendanm:

                          However you may have noticed that all the actual good doctors are always booked out. The ones you can get at a moment's notice are generally rubbish.

                          Wow, you really do have this mentality for everything. Try private health insurance and non-bulk billed doctors. Its such a bizarre tautological mindset.

                          I do my own work because I don't trust anyone else to do anything properly.

                          Another mindboggling stupid suggestion. You're really going for gold.

                          • @koalabargains:

                            Try private health insurance and non-bulk billed doctors.

                            So then you are paying more for a better service?

                            Another mindboggling stupid suggestion. You're really going for gold.

                            How is this stupid exactly? I get exactly the result I'm after. The work I've done myself has been of a much higher standard than that of the trades who worked on my house.

                            • +2

                              @brendanm: It is stupid because it is not scalable and it's not possible for most people.

                              If you have a bad doctor, do you look for a new doctor or a better way to find a doctor? Or do you DIY it? Or goto medical school for 12 years?
                              It's ridiculous.

                              Doing it yourself is an idiotic suggestioin. Project managing it yourself could be useful to some people as owner buildering is something one can do. Especially when you conside that builders subcontract out 75% of a job, so an owner builder is really just stepping into the role of a do-nothing, off the tools builder.

                              Not only is it stupid but it's illegal to perform building work without the correct license.

                              • @koalabargains: It's ok to just admit you don't have the ability to do something.

                                • +1

                                  @brendanm: Are you suggesting people do their own electical work too?


                                  Just how stupid does this go, exactly?

                            • @brendanm:

                              So then you are paying more for a better service?

                              By this analogy, are you suggesting that cheap builders are free and subsidized by the government?

  • +4

    This has not been my experience either with our original conversion or most of the modification since then. Then again I, usually, have a very clear idea on what I want achieved, do my research on who I’m getting in and, if possible, get recommendations from friends. I, also, tend to use something like the Master Builders website to put my jobs up for “tender”. I, also, make it clear to people I’m interviewing for work that I’m not interested in the cheapest quote but the best job. I won’t haggle every cent but I expect the finished product to be very good.

  • +1

    What exactly is it that the tradies are doing? Wouldn't they just come in, you show them the work and leave them to do their thing?

    • Haha when did you last hire a tradie? It's rarely that simple.

      • Doing that is a great way to get (profanity) over really badly.

      • +2

        Had an electrician in a few weeks ago, did a great job. Ask any tradie you know and they'll tell you that standing over them watching everything they do is a great way to piss them off.

  • +3

    Want something done right, do it yourself.

  • +3


  • +2

    Any specific examples of a bad vs a good job during your renovation?

    You've been more specific with race/nationality and adjectives than you've been with the actual work you're dissatisfied with.

    • +2

      Bad example:

      I hired a guy to put in several skylights. I thought he was going to be on the tools. When the work started he had subcontracted to a couple of vietnamese lads who did the work and did it well. Mid-way through the job he demanded more money for each window because "it's taking longer than I thought and there's not much in it for me anymore." At this point I have a couple full units in, and a couple holes cut out. We had a massive argument about it and I had to get a quote from someone else to come in and finish the job and I told the original guy that I he was breaching the contract midjob, I couldn't pay him until the work was finished by the other guy, and we would have to settle up at the DBDRV and VCAT in a couple of years. And that as a consequence of his breach, his 'cut' from the work would be decreased by the second guy's work because no one likes to take over a job and have to rectify stuff. It wasnt until he saw the quote from the other guy that he changed his tune and finished the job as quoted. After that I decided to never hire a tradie that wasn't on the tools, I don't need additional middlemen.

      The good examples are really mundane. They're all basically, called around to a couple of people to get quotes, they were all within 5-15% of each other, chose second cheapest option, he showed up and did a great job.

      • So was the other tradie a "local Aussie"?

        It doesn't sound like you have a problem with "local" tradies. You have problems with underquoting tradies.

        This tends to happen when you accept an unrealistically low quote.

        • +1

          Then the tradie shouldn't accept such a low quote, knowing he will likely increase it mid job.

          • @Ryanek: They shouldn't but they do. What does that have to do with race?

            The customer will have legal recourse but it is extremely drawn out. It's not the customer's fault but the consequence is there nonetheless.

            If one doesn't learn from their mistake (ie. Accepting unrealistically low quotes) and instead takes irrational precaution (ie. Discriminating between tradies based on nationality/ethnicity) then one is bound to once again be at a loss.

        • +3

          That was just one problem. That guys quote was actually smack in the middle of the three I got. The guy I was going to replace him with was the highest quote by like 5%.

          Both were Aussies.

          Underquoting is a problem, there's nothing worse than an unhappy tradie figuring out on the job that he (profanity) up. Uncomfortable for everyone.

      • +2

        Personally, you're not alone. I ask them what the job is, what needed to be done. Then they give me a quote. And almost never will the quote be enough. I've had many jobs done and 90% are overbudget and I never cheapen them. I've even tried to get someone who quoted more and it's still the same result.

        It's not a case of you get what you pay for most tradies are a different breed and very frustrating to deal with.

        Going by word of mouth is slightly better, but it's not a foolproof plan.

      • -3

        Your story sounds made up.

  • +1

    Are you hiring cheap tradies? Anecdotally, everyone I know who complains about tradies consistently hires the cheapest, or second cheapest, ones they can find.

    As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

    • +2

      you get what you pay for.

      I think OP genuinely just wants that.

  • +5

    I only use tradies through word of mouth. If I need one and don't know someone suitable, I will ask one of the good ones I have used before for a recommendation.

  • +5

    How I pick tradies is I pick smart ones… the ones who when you are getting the quote work out in their heads (and out loud to you) how they are going to do it. Ones who explain the process, ones who ask questions. I've been very lucky with my choices this far. Also the ones who are actually going to do the work. Many of the bigger companies get someone to come out to quote, and send other guys to do the work. I don't trust that usually either.

  • +5

    If I ring a tradie and get an English or Irish accent, I usually thank them for their time and don't bother. I've found that pommy tradies are the worst. Poor quality workmanship and if you question them about it, it ends up in a shouting match and a half finished job that they walk out on.

    I never go with lowest quote and I rely a lot on word of mouth from other customers. I'll ask around anyone who has had work done and ask them who they recommend.

    Lastly, I'll go with the tradie that ask questions, explain what they are doing and generally sounds like they have an IQ higher than their boot size. I look for people I can get a long with. I don't care how good a tradie is if the moment the guy turns up and their attitude rubs me the wrong way.

    • +1

      This ^

    • Same can be said for customers.

      • Oh, absolutely. A lot of the time, the tradies are great guys, just the customers are ignorant, entitled racist arse towels. As a part time locksmith, I've has my share of arsehole customers that rub me the wrong way, so I just don't accept their jobs.

  • +3

    After having to use tradies for some renos in the past 20 yrs i found that bad attitude and crap work quality is the norm. They all seem to be out to make a fast buck with no interest in their standard of work.
    Wherever you can research diy guides to avoid them if you can.

    • -3

      I'd say that says more about you than them. For 20 years you would know who to use and would of formed relationships with tradies, my electrician and plumber i have i just call to do a job, usually come same day and i don't even ask for a price as i have used them for years and trust them.

    • +1

      Jeez, I'd hoped it was just the recent group but I guess the shittinest is passed down through the generations.

  • -1

    I wouldn't do a job for the OP no matter how much lol. Run a mile. not worth the drama.

    • +3

      Awesome, I love it when the shitty trades rule themselves out and saves some time.

  • A good suggestion is to have a detailed drawing/sketch showing the scope of work. With more complex jobs have a specification listing material selections etc. Try to get your sketch/ spec referenced in their quote. Also, don't change design criteria half way as variations are not only costly but break the workflow for the job.

  • +3

    I agree with koalabargains about the preponderance of poor AU tradies, at least the ones we've hired in the past eight months. Even when they "seem" like they're knowledgeable, the end jobs (in our case) have been pretty disappointing, and this is with checking reviews/getting rec's from other people/hiring "proper" tradesmen. We also make sure we mention anything that we feel might need detail so we're all on the same page— doesn't seem to work. Worst still, is that I run a business and if I were to leave bad feedback, I'd suddenly get a bunch of anonymous bad feedback in retaliation. (PS: yes, this has already happened, hence why I mention it).

    Here's what we've had, thus far:

    Guys laying a new vinyl wood floor in an empty house. We go and pay for the flooring and arrange a day. Me & two kids scrape all glue & remove carpet nail strips, vacuum, and etc after removing carpet. All good. The guys show up and we leave to let them get to it. Arrive back & looks good. Then, they guy says "that's $350 for floor prep because there were some low spots we filled in." It was our understanding installation was included in the flooring pricing. I ring the flooring guy and he's like, oh no…that's not a part of the purchase. Who has a perfect, pristine floor to start with in a 1980's house? Saleman knew precisely what the house was because we spoke at length about it. It was never even mentioned that there could be more to be paid. That night, the carpeting that they cut back to lay down the finish edges where hallway met bedrooms has pulled up. I had to call and have them come back, again— only this time, a different guy showed up. He was here for at least two hours, trying to fix the job and get the carpet glued down. It's down, for now. Moving on….

    Electricians hired to install a split A/C, add power-points, a ceiling fan, and a bathroom fan/light. All plants around the A/C location were entirely obliterated. Partly on me for assuming they'd lay down a pallet or something to minimize. One day job becomes two, as they bought a fan/light which was too large for the opening. That's on them as surely that is part of what they should know (measuring). That pushed the ceiling fan install forward, as well, as they ran out of time trying to fit the fan/light. Only this week, we discovered a side gate which we didn't need to use over winter, was blocked by the outdoor power point they installed. So, we can't open our gate.

    Next is the retic guy. He came right out, a friendly guy who advertises he does it all re: retic. Replaces some of the heads but then says he doesn't do the actual units….wha? So, hire 2nd guy (rec'd as good), he comes out and fits the unit, all seems good. Says he can fit a hose bibb off one of the retic outlets so I can water patio plants while the retic is running. I say okay, but forget to test it. When I do, I see he fitted it facing sideways, instead of downward, so hose is sticking out from the side. Nothing comes through. So, I remove hose and try again. I get muddy dirt/sand shooting out sideways across the patio. A mess. Not sure what to do with that one. Just recently, have gone out to cut back shrubs which grew up a bit too high over winter— find 2 retic heads that are blocked. Two retic guys and both missed it (wasn't buried or anything).

    Fourth, the gardeners. Good reviews with ad saying the guy is a retired builder. I just want a quote to weed the front. It wasn't even overgrown, mainly daisy's/baby's breath, etc, but I'd done my back in working for days in the rear garden & I just wanted it done. First they say, "oh, I don't know, that's a big job" & hard to quote. Two adults who advertise a free quote can't quote a job that my mother would have sent me to do at 12 yrs old. They say it'll be an 8 hour job (!) and about $250. I just wanted it done, so agreed. I left the house at 1:30 & my daughter arrived back at 4:30 and they'd been and gone. Dirt from the front of the area was weeded with the excess tossed towards the house to cover the rest of the weeds. Lumps & piles of dirt all the way along, no raking, leveling, etc. Again, the woman knows I'm in business so I have to let it slide. My daughter & I went back out and finished it up. That night, turn on the retic— they'd broken a pipe (hard plastic) that ran between two retic heads! It took three days for them to return to fix it— no apologies at all.

    Roof is next. I notice water coming into the laundry room area through the vent (square pattern which you can see up to the tiles). Find a rec'd/good review roofer who says he can start in two weeks after 50% down. This is for gutters & pointing. I show him the spot where it seems like water is increasing during storms. He goes up and says, "I siliconed it so it'll last until the job starts". They take money and now say it'll be 4 weeks to start. Meanwhile the leak, after the “fix”, is far worse, to the point it needs a bucket. He comes out, days later, and says he'll change out the vent. I come home and he's got the tiles down. I can clearly see that his "fix" actually guided the water into the house! Then he says, "no charge" for the vent. I'm sure he knows what he did because he made very sure to take those tiles with him, replaced with our spares. It will take a sanding/priming/repainting of that ceiling now.

    Meanwhile, his workers made a mistake on the gutter/downspout. They had run out, so it took another week for that to be installed. Meanwhile they also break our retic. At the end of it all, we have gutters not pitched to drain and the roofer saying it's not something that can be fixed. There was also a small soakwell installed when it was supposed to be a large one to take two downspouts. They're coming back to do that job as written in the description. Should also say that the communication was horrible. I let my son handle it and he has the list of what he emailed/texted/was told by the different people at this place and it always = him contacting multiple times after not hearing back for a day or more.

    We now want our back patio screened in and we're honestly thinking of trying to do it ourselves because we don't want anything else broken or a terrible job done. We're actually pretty reasonable and don't expect perfection, because sh!t happens, but this has just been a nightmare. My son works from home (as do I some days), otherwise, can you imagine what this would have been like trying to arrange time off from work to be around in case of issues? He was here and was not called out by anyone to double-check the various things that cropped up. That's on the tradies 100% because we are the customer. We shouldn't be expected to know what they are supposed to know- which is why they are hired in the first place.

    I know there are people with piss-poor work ethics out there, because I'm hired fairly often to fix what other people have screwed up, but this has been utterly ridiculous. I don't know which is worse: the poor work ethics or the apologists who show up to support it.

    • -1

      Cool TLDR :)

      • Lol like you know how to read

    • +1

      The apologists are worse. I think the tradies honestly don't know how shitty they are because they themselves live in shitty homes and have never been inside a nice home abroad.

      The apologists appear to know and seek to gaslight, victim blame, and obfuscate.

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