How do I pick the right tradie for my job?

Without doubt you will need the services of a tradie at some point, whether you just need the services of a plumber, tiler, painter, or electrician for a simple one off job, or a crew of tradies to build or renovate your home or a section of your house.

Due to Australia's rigorous training and qualification standards, and the requirement to work and provide services under some of the most stringent quality standards and regulations in the world, you are more likely to find a tradie that will satisfactorily deliver your job, while providing you with an exceptionally good level of service in a cost effective manner.

However, in order to avoid a few bad apples, it is imperative that you have a clear description of what you need done, and in turn, a clear picture of the type and quality of the tradie that you need to complete the task cost effectively.

If you do not already have contact details of at least three tradies that are a good match for the type and quality that you are after for your job, which you would have come across through the old-fashioned word-of-mouth from family members, friends or colleagues, an online tradie services marketplace is a good place to find the right tradie for you.

What makes a good tradie?

The main characteristics you should look for in a tradie include, but are not limited to:

  • Skills, qualifications, and licences – there are no substitutes for experience and training if you are after a high standard of service and workmanship.
  • Punctuality and commitment – the best tradies will keep disruption to a minimum by always turning up on time and finishing the job as soon as possible.
  • Attitude and professionalism – respect and personal responsibility are as important for tradies as they are in any other professional field.
  • References and reputation - a proven track record is a strong assurance that the tradie is likely to complete your job to your standards and requirements.

How do I find the right tradie for my job?

Below is a comprehensive list of things you can do, details you should check, and questions you should ask to make sure you are hiring the right tradie for the job.

  • Obtain at least three quotes – the more quotes you obtain the better. Be sure to define your job requirements as much as you can and ensure that you outline the details that tradies should include in their quotes including thorough descriptions and cost breakdown as part of your job description.
  • Ask for qualifications details – be sure to ask for the tradie’s qualifications to ascertain that they are indeed qualified for the task at hand and ensure a high standard of service and workmanship.
  • Check licence details – you can check a tradie's licence online, e.g. through the below listed national, state and territory licensing regulatory bodies, to make sure it has not expired. It is imperative that you use licensed tradies for all electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, refrigeration, drainage, gas fitting and other high-risk tasks to ensure safe and successful completion.
  • Review their experience – there are no substitutes for experience and training if you are after a high standard of quality and workmanship. An experienced tradie will work faster and more competently than a tradie who is new on the job. Also look for tradies who have been working in your area for a number of years.
  • Check their reputation – a good tradie will be able to provide you with proof that they have a reputation for providing quality work. If you are trusting a tradie with your life savings, be sure to get genuine references from past clients who are willing to vouch for the tradie in writing. Get genuine recommendations from people you trust. Ask them about punctuality, commitment, attitude, professionalism, and details of any cost overruns.
  • Get some samples of past work – If you are getting a bathroom remodel, a kitchen makeover, or something similar, ask to see some examples of the tradie’s past work and insist on seeing their work firsthand.
  • Check Business licences and ABN Numbers – will give you access to many of a tradie's business details, such as how long they have been in operation, in which state or territory, which further enables you to check on their licences with the licensing bodies.
  • Check Public Liability Insurance – a tradie that takes a professional approach to their business should carry Public Liability, Business, Commercial Vehicle, Personal Accident and Illness, and Tool and Portable Equipment Insurances. At least they should carry Public Liability to protect you in case of an accidents or mishaps on your job. Ensuring that the tradie that you hire has public liability insurance means that they will be adequately covered in case they cause any damage to your property or injure someone.
  • Negotiable the quote – You have nothing to lose by asking if the quote is negotiable. And if you are searching for a tradie through a tradie service marketplace, bear in mind that tradies often have to quote a price to initiate contact with you, but the price could be up for negotiation.
  • Check whether they charge call-out fees – Ask the tradie whether they charge a call-out fees and whether they have a minimum charge for their time. Find out exactly what their fee includes – materials, labour, other.
  • Check what the quote includes – It is imperative that you are as specific as possible about what you need done so that tradies can submit accurate quotes. Make sure you ask that the tradies disclose all costs upfront, in an itemised manner, to ensure that there are no nasty surprises.
  • Ensure you get it in writing – be sure to ask for a written quote before any work starts to avoid any nasty surprises. Be sure to require detailed descriptions and cost breakdown as part of your job description. Make sure you get a written quote outlining what you need done, how completion will be verified and when the payment will be due. Different states and territories have different legal requirements relating to project value thresholds necessitating execution of formal contracts, but there is no reason you cannot insist on it. As a rule of thumb, you generally need a contract for any work costing more than $5000, but it is best practice to enter into a contract for all work. Make sure you get a formal tax invoice and receipt for the job, particularly if you are paying in cash. This is helpful in case of disputes relating to product quality or quality of workmanship.
  • Choose a local tradie – for smaller jobs, it makes sense to look for tradies who normally service your geographical area. This will save you travel costs. You will also benefit from their knowledge of local supply chain and they will also know all the local council rules and regulations.
  • Get the right tradie for the brand – If you have a piece of gear to be installed or serviced (for instance an air conditioning unit or solar system), you are better off choosing a tradie that is officially authorised to install and or service the piece of gear by the original equipment manufacturer or supplier. This not only guarantees you quality install or service workmanship, but also ensure that you do not void warranty on the gear.

Is a tradie licence necessary for my job?

Tradie licences are required for most specialised technical jobs. As such, be sure to check this in the first instance when you receive quotes from tradies, especially if a tradie licence is required for your job. Licence requirements and regulations vary from state to state and territory to territory. It is therefore imperative to check the requirements with the respective licensing regulatory bodies:

It is imperative to note that tradies can have a variety of tradie licences. Some tradies carry unrestricted licences while other tradies might carry licences that restrict them to certain types of work. Others might carry a [scope of work] licence that allows them to do limited work connected with their specific trade. For example, a plumber may or may not have a plumber / gas fitter licence. If they do hold a plumber / gas fitter licence, they are legally qualified to work on your gas hot water system or gas cooker. An air conditioning specialist may have a restricted or scope of work licence that allows them to do a limited amount of electrical work specific to the air conditioning system.

It is imperative that your tradie is licensed for the specific type of job or scope of work, but you might want to take it a step further. For instance, a painter might be qualified to paint your interior or exterior, but a specialist painter might give you better service for a specific job. Do you need an interior painter, an exterior painter, a colour consultant, or a special finishes painter? Do you need an air conditioning technician, a refrigeration mechanic or an air conditioning and refrigeration mechanic? If you narrow your search down to the specific type of tradie service you need, you can find a specialist who will be able to give you exactly what you need.

How do I contract with my tradie?

Be sure to ask for a written quote before any work starts to avoid any nasty surprises. Be sure to require detailed descriptions and cost breakdown as part of your job description. Make sure you get a written quote outlining what you need done, how completion will be verified and when the payment will be due. Different states and territories have different legal requirements relating to project value thresholds necessitating execution of formal contracts, but there is no reason you cannot insist on it.

As a rule of thumb, you generally need a contract for any work costing more than $5000, but it is best practice to enter into a contract for all work. Make sure you get a formal tax invoice and receipt for the job, particularly if you are paying in cash. This is helpful in case of disputes relating to product quality or quality of workmanship.

How to I identify dodgy tradies?

Dodgy tradies will generally:

  • not turn up when they say they would,
  • be reluctant to give you names of past clients when you ask for references,
  • decline to produce proof of the necessary insurances or licences,
  • not be on the government website of registered tradies, and
  • pressure you to pay in cash or pay upfront for work.

How do I protect myself?

  • Check your insurance – do not just assume you are covered if things go wrong. A licensed tradie should have insurance such as construction insurance and public liability insurance, but this generally will only cover the part of the structure they are working on. Find out exactly what your tradie’s insurance covers. You might be able to pay extra to get coverage for the whole home in case anything goes wrong. Make sure you contact your insurer before work starts.
  • Do not finalise payment until they have finished the job – with the threat of withholding payment, the tradie is more than likely to satisfactorily complete your job while maintaining a high standard of service and workmanship.
  • What if something does go wrong – if you are unhappy with any part of the work that the tradie has done for you, it is always advisable to first try and resolve the problem with the tradie. If you are dealing with a larger company, ask to talk to the manager or owner of the business. Or the complaints handling department for even larger businesses. If you are not able to resolve the matter and want to pursue it further with the relevant bodies in your state or territory, it is important you document everything. Keep time-stamped photos of the job and a diary and retain copies of all letters and emails sent to your tradie. These will be vital to have if your complaint progresses to Consumer Protection or your local Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

How can I be a good customer?

It is imperative that you have a clear description of what you need done. Do all the necessary research and planning before you get quotes, so it is crystal clear in your mind what you want. If you are not properly prepared, it will cost you much more than planned, frustrate the tradies you are hiring, and may unnecessarily derail the whole job. Make sure you effectively communicate with your tradie to ensure that all requirements are clear and that all risks are properly identified and mitigated.

In the same way that you expect that your tradie holds their end of the bargain, it is imperative that you hold your end of the bargain too as the client. Client-tradie relationships are a two-way street and your job will not be successfully completed and closed out if you do not deliver what you promised to deliver as part of the contract. Always pay your tradie promptly. Be firm, but fair, in all your dealings with the tradie and refrain from constantly changing your mind, as this will not only drive your tradie mad, but also end up costing you dearly in terms of money and time.

Disclaimer

Information provided in the text above is general in nature and does not consider your specific tradie services needs and requirements. The information is not professional advice and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information in the text above as an alternative to professional advice. If you have specific questions relating to this subject, we strongly recommend that you seek independent professional tradie services and contracting advice.