It never fails to amaze me when homeowners, even clients, hire ‘cheap’ and potentially unskilled labour to do construction work in their most important investment — their home.
Know When Where To Save
My Scottish grandmother always had a phrase which I think truly applies to this bizarre decision making process. She used to say: “penny wise, pound foolish!”. I think this is a great way of pointing out that people will spend wildly on materials and products and yet they will skimp on the skills (and cost) required to install these expensive items properly. In essence they penny-pinch in the wrong area thinking that they are racking up great savings and yet the potential damage to their new investment can be huge. By not employing people who are not only qualified but care about how a project or job is constructed you risk not really getting a job well done, no matter how little you paid for it.
I know we all want to save money and most of us will search out a bargain where ever possible when decorating or renovating the house but this should not include workers! Let’s face it, these are people who you are allowing into your home to access your utilities, your personal goods and your family, why would you ever allow someone in to your sanctuary if you didn’t completely trust them and feel they were worth this opportunity? When someone is potentially under-paid, why would they care as much about your home as you do as they really have very little to lose if the job doesn’t go well?
In addition, good and qualified workers are your guarantee that a job can be repaired or warrantied in the future. We all assume once the work is finished that its over and we will never need to think about it again. But when you are a homeowner, it’s about long term investment so you never know when you may need assistance in the future. Having a good work crew or small labour team that is qualified means you have someone that supports you when you need home repair help at any future time,but only if you hire (and pay fairly) in the beginning.
The Real Cost of Cheap Labour
Over twenty years of being in my practice I have seen clients hire the cheapest person they could find to do work for them and then have run into a variety of unhelpful and even dangerous situations.
For instance a client I first met when I was just beginning (and who remains a good client and friend today) was just starting out and hired a painter to finish their newly acquired home. They felt this should be a cheap cost and that painting really required no skill so they took the lowest quote by far. Once this painter began he was initially careful with the house but as the job went on he became less interested. When the job was mid-stages and the house upside down with materials and tools everywhere, he asked the client for more money, he explained he had underestimated the work. This client complied but again, the same scenario happened as the job progressed. Although this was clearly not a good situation, the client felt compelled to finish the job as it was more of a disaster to stop midway. So what seemed ‘cheap’ became as much as the other quotes provided by other more professional painters.
Inexpensive General Contractors
I’ve also seen people hire an inexpensive general contractor, who may himself be qualified, but his workers are clearly not. They either aren’t fluent in English or just don’t have the knowledge or training in construction to meet the proper codes.
It’s not to say that the highest quote is the best quote, but that you need to check references and think about whether you really do think a person working within your home is someone you actually want to be there. Long jobs mean you are going to be facing these people constantly so you need people (not just the head worker) who you trust and can deal with daily.
Some guidelines to follow:
- Get recommendations from other people and see who they use for jobs. Ask how much the work was but also ask about the daily process of the work schedule to see if it will work for you. Also get several quotes and meet with each contractor to see is their cost and manner matches you expectations.
- Check the language skills and qualifications of the people who will be within your home if they are the ones you need to explain things to on a daily basis or be sure to set up communication with one person directly who will then handle all your questions and concerns.
- Ask for documentation of insurance to make sure they have their own liability insurance and workers’ compensation.
- Ask for an itemized list of every single thing included in the job. Use this as part of a contract so that you are both clear of the standard and quality of work to be done, by when and the payments required.
- Google the company as you never know what you will find out!
I can honestly say, skills matter if you really want your project to enhance the value of your home. And it is essential to understand that workers with skills deserve to be paid a salary reflective of the work they are doing. You can’t under pay someone what the market will bear and then complain the work wasn’t the best.
We must be fair and accept that physical work done within our homes today is important and is not “less than” other jobs! People must be paid what they are worth and this will ensure good work and happy results in the end.