DIY: Getting a little help

Never mind the DIY boom, what about those times when you simply can’t do it yourself?

There’s a tricky little job that’ll make all the difference to your home – and you’ve been meaning to do it for months. But you’re worried about making a mess of it, or maybe you just don’t have time.

The solution is to call in a handyman or woman – but that can be worrying too. How do you find a reliable, competent person and make sure you’re happy with the outcome?

Jobs big and small

And what if you’re contemplating a bigger job, such as having your bathroom extended or kitchen remodelled? Usually you have no choice but to call the experts in.

So what do you need to know? Here are some pointers to hiring help around the house:

Know what you want.
No-one can accept – or quote for – a job unless they are clear what it is you need. Make a list of the jobs involved (a new shower fitted; tiles replaced; carpet laid) as the first thing you do. It will save time and trouble further down the line. And if you need a lot of work done, prioritise it into practical and affordable chunks.
Get informed.
If you know a little about what you want – what kind of wall tiles are on the market and what price range they fall into, what kind of floor coverings you are looking for – it will be much easier to avoid misunderstandings. Do your homework so you are able to talk specifics. But there’s no use hiring a professional then refusing to accept advice – so aim for a dialogue.
Get the facts straight.
Agree how much the job is going to cost, when it will be done and how long it is likely to take. Find out whether you will be expected to provide cash for materials and what guarantees you can expect in return. Think about whether any furniture needs to be moved, dustsheets laid or access to your property kept clear. Don’t be shy about asking about similar jobs, or whether references are available.
Know the difference between builders/contractors and handymen/women.
It’s all down to the scale of the job. If you are having a major piece of work done then you are into the territory of contracts, liability insurance, payment schedules and sub-contractors. This is a different world from someone who spends a few hours taking care of your DIY needs. Make sure you are seeking the right person for your job – and get advice if necessary.
A recommendation is great, but…
…it can only take you so far. There’s nothing like hearing a first-hand account of the person you intend to employ. But just because they did an ideal job on your sister-in-law’s garden doesn’t automatically mean they’re the right person to fix your bathroom woes. Make sure you are satisfied you’re taking on the right person – and still ask questions about experience and references.
Know the law.
These days electrical work can only be carried out by what the government calls a ‘competent’ person – meaning, roughly, a qualified electrician. If you don’t abide by this then you are likely to be in breach of the building regulations.
Don’t let just anyone in.
Be very, very wary of anyone coming to your door offering to do work as there is unfortunately a very good chance that you will be ripped off. Everybody knows somebody who’s been caught by the tarmac drive scam or something similar. Make sure the next victim isn’t you – always get an address and a telephone number, preferably a land line, and check them out beforehand if you feel at all worried.
Remember that good people are usually very busy.
If time is on your side you’re less likely to run into trouble than if you need a rush job. So allow yourself plenty of time for research and shopping around. And be prepared to wait a little while for sought-after workers to become free.
Pay by credit card.
This may not always be possible or even realistic. But, if it is, you can take advantage of the built-in consumer protection that many card providers offer.
Who’s doing the clearing up and the rubbish disposal?
It may seem like a minor point but it causes a lot of arguments – a fact you’ll start to appreciate on your fourth journey to the local dump. Getting this agreed in advance – and checking whether it’s a cost covered in the quote – is strongly recommended.