Now being a plumber myself, I’m not trying to be sexist using the term ‘tradesmen’. I’m a female plumber myself, so I know for an absolute fact that they are not.
I understand the anxiety that some mums (and single women) feel when dealing with tradesmen, because it was one of the drawcards that gave me steady work. Stay-at-home mums preferred a female plumber over a male one simply because they felt safer with a woman in their home.
The thing is, the construction industry isn’t going to be dominated by female tradies anytime soon, and chances are our toilet-training toddler is bound to block the toilet with a whole roll of toilet paper (or worse), so at some point most of us are going to have to deal with being alone with a tradesman in our house.
For some mums this can be very daunting.
What if I don’t understand what he’s talking about?
What if he rips me off and I have no clue?
What if he gets really in my face and I can’t tell him to leave?
I know I had to pull my head in when I started working with tradesmen on a construction site. The mind can run away with what ifs because tradies don’t have the best reputation and if you’re like me, I always remember the worst case scenarios, rather than the best. So what can you do to build your confidence?
1. Find a reputable tradie via word of mouth. Talk to other mums to get recommendations of tradesmen they have used in their own home. If your friend was happy and at ease with a particular tradie in their home, chances are you will feel the same when they are at yours. This is the time to check the tradie’s licenses and ensure they are insured. Tradies can supply these on arrival or have the license numbers on their website and business card.
2. Remember you are the queen of your castle and you know more than you think when it comes to the running of your home. If you don’t, educate yourself on how to turn off the water to your home and where the power box located? Where is your hot water unit located? Make notes of when problems occur. Get as knowledgeable as you can about your house and its appliances.
3. Judge on first appearances. I know we get told not to judge people on their appearance, but I’m going to let you off the hook on this one. If you ring a tradesman and they ring your husband back and not you who originally made the call, know that they aren’t going to be the right tradesman for your job. You want to deal with a tradesman that takes you seriously and if you are committing to a long term project like a bathroom renovation, it is paramount that the tradesman communicates with you.
4. Do your research. Get knowledgeable about what you want if you are looking to renovate. Take charge of explaining your ideas and requirements to the tradesman. A good tradesman will listen and tell you what will and won’t work. A great one will offer an alternative that will give a similar result. Be mindful that if a tradesman says something can’t be done, trust that they are telling you the truth as they understand it, but always get a 2nd and 3rd opinion. Even a 4th wouldn’t hurt.
5. Remember that you are the one employing the tradie. If you don’t like their tone, or they are doing something you don’t understand or doesn’t look right, ask them to explain what they are doing. If they can’t give a reasonable explanation or you still feel uneasy, you can ask them to leave. Just know that if you do this, you may have to pay a call out fee for their time. Advise the tradie you will do this so they don’t leave on bad terms. If it’s a quote, usually these are free, and you can strike that particular tradie off your list of possible candidates for the job. Hopefully it won’t come to this if you have engaged with a reputable tradie and followed my first 4 tips.
6. Create a loyal business relationship with your tradies. Once you have found a reliable electrician and plumber (and group of tradies), have their phone numbers on speed dial for life when you need them. Once you have experience with a good tradesman, there will be no anxiety when they come around to your home. It’s great for the tradie because they have a loyal customer, and it’s great for you because you have someone you know and trust looking after your property.
I understand the anxiety and the frustration of dealing with a tradesman who may treat you as if you are the invisible housewife in your own home, but remember your rights as a property owner. With a bit of experience, you will never have to feel uncomfortable dealing with a tradesman again. Unless you get a bad gut feeling and in those moments, I believe you need to listen to your gut and follow through on tip 5. .
Tell me, have you ever felt uncomfortable with a tradesman in your home? What did you do or what have you done to overcome the uneasiness?