Tradespeople can be tricky.
Case in point: the very first job we had done – moving a castiron soilpipe from going through our conservatory and replacing it with plastic one around the side of the house. There was no way husband was able to do this job – even if he could heft an 100kg pipe around by himself, the prospect of getting close to 70-year-old remnants of waste didn’t really turn him on. So, we hit the council’s website of approved tradesmen and got three through for a quote. It’s pretty hard to get a feel for someone’s skills during a 10-minute walkaround, but Jeff narrowly won us over with his attention to detail and loudly self-lauded years of experience.
Warning bells rang when Jeff started tutting almost immediately on day one. They started to peal when we came round the back of house to see he’d cut away the bottom of the pipe first. They deafened us when he started to panic and say that the top wasn’t connected to the wall and nothing was stopping a giant pipe from falling off and smashing our sunroom, or even worse our neighbour’s kitchen extension. Cue Andy and I racing to throw a toe rope through one window and into another, lashing the pipe to the house while we (not the guy we’re paying £600 to!) continues to moan and say there’s nothing he can do and why don’t we have scaffolding? Because you said you didn’t need scaffolding, numnut! Literally 27 phone calls later, I’ve begged and wheedled my way into some scaffolding, and work can continue. At which point he accidentally breaks apart a pipe join with asbestos in it.
The nicest touch was when he handed it to his 16-year old-apprentice to deal with while he backed away, breathing out the side of his mouth. Nightmare. But we did learn some lessons (and hopefully only got minor asbestosis):
1. Ask for references
2. Check they have insurance and ask to see their certificates
3. Be clear with what you want – and give them a typed quote request with specific instructions – don’t be scared to state the obvious!
4. Don’t be scared to send them home if it’s not working with an ”it’s not me, it’s you”