My 3 Pieces of advice for handling trades: How fussy should I be?

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This past week I was called to a client’s home to give my opinion on work that was being done by a specific trade.  I wish to point out right away that the trade in question is not one of my trades that I use.  My clients are managing their own renovation and they have a guy that is working on their kitchen cabinets who may or may not be their General Contractor.  I am not sure if this ‘guy’ is acting as their General Contractor or if my clients are in fact, the GC.

I have been assisting them with the design of their upstairs (master ensuite and master closet) as well as helping them choose their fixed elements to go along with their renovation for the main floor.   I could tell there was some stress that was being felt by my clients and I was asked for my advice.

What I Walked Into

When I got to my clients’ home, the Mrs. took me on a walk to show me what was done while they were away on holidays.  First of all, let me say that in my honest opinion, there was minimal work that was done while they were away.  I really was stunned at the lack of progress of their home.  The Mrs. took me to the family room where all of the honey oak was being painted a beautiful cream that I had chosen for them.  If you know anything about painting/spraying over honey oak, you will know that there will still be able to slightly see some grains that will show through.  What I saw (and I wish I had taken pictures) was what I thought was the first coat.  We proceeded to go into the kitchen where the outer cabinets were also being sprayed this beautiful cream colour as well.  We then walked into the formal dining room/living room where all of the interior doors were being sprayed.  All I can say is holy shit – what I thought was a first coat was the final coat!

My 3 Pieces of Advice:Handling Trades

Whether you have a General Contractor or are hiring the trades independently, here are my 3 pieces of advice:

  • Ensure the trades are qualified to do the work.
    • If you have a General Contractor who will hire the sub-trades, prior to work starting and if necessary, ask for references.
      • My clients first step is to discuss this situation with their ‘guy’ (as it was one of his recommendations).
      • They need to formulate a plan so that everyone is in the loop as to the plan moving forward.
  • Do not accept ‘good enough’.  
    • I say this with all the respect in the world:  you can be fussy and you can expect the work to be perfect or damn near close to perfect.
      • This painter had told my clients he would not be doing another coat.  Um….no – wrong answer buddy.
      • Images below are when my painters were called in to finish the job.  All of the red is the patching that was required prior to spraying their first coat.
handling trades

All the red patching that my painters were fixing prior to them starting to paint.

handling trades

This wall, entering the kitchen, looks like a crime scene! All the patching that needed to be done prior to my painters spraying.

handling trades

The formal dining room with more, extensive patching that needed to be done prior to spraying.

  • Handle all situations with authority and respect.
    • Maria Killam just published her blog about exteriors and she used the following phrasing:

      “If you DON’T KNOW the right answer, on every single decision, you won’t be bossy with your trades like a designer will be.”

    • I actually hate this wording as I believe it gives designers a bad name.  To me, the word bossy carries a negative connotation.  The word I would like to replace bossy with is: authoritative.  By handling any situation with a trade in a respectful and an authoritative manor, you are displaying and communicating what you wish and what you are expecting to be done.  This does not have to be negative in any way, shape or form.
    • Ensure you have checks in place to monitor the work being done as well as progress.

Handling Trades

Do you know the saying, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”?   I believe that.  While I may privately curse, there is no point in doing that in public.  The best way is to take the bull by the horn, come up with an action plan, and move the project forward.

When I stopped by my clients home to see how things were, she asked me if I could see her smiling from ear to ear.  Although there was a ton of patching that needed to happen, there were steps being taken to do this job right and my clients felt very comfortable with what they were seeing.  And that….that makes me happy!


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