On this page I'll try to answer as many questions as I can, particularly the sort of question I am often asked before starting a job.
I've tried to list these in some sort of logical order on the left - just click on the question and hopefully the answer should appear. Alternatively, just scroll down until all your questions have been answered. If you have a specific question which is not covered here, please do get in touch.
The reason is simply financial. What a lot of people don't realise is that most of the so-called "trusted recommendation" web sites are basically another form of paid advertising. It's not at all unusual for them to charge in the region of £700 per year for your name to appear in their directory. If I put my business in three or four of those, I'd be spending close to a month's income each year. That's fine for the bigger firms who have budgets for that sort of thing, but for me it simply isn't viable.Additionally, while they position themselves as "independent trustworthy guides" for people, once you realise that all the listings are paid for I question just how independent and trustworthy they really are. To get a great profile on one of those sites all I need is £700 and a few recommendation letters I get my friends to email in...
As a result, I get most of my business from real recommendations - either from peole who have used my services recommending me to their friends and neighbours, or simply from the same people booking me again and again over time.
If you want to read some quotes from genuine customers, please feel free to have a look at my references.
Generally I take on what you might think of as "cosmetic" work. What I do doesn't alter the structure of your home (like a builder might), or how things funtion (like a plumber or electrician might). What I mostly do is to do with how your home looks.
Typically, the things I spend most of my time doing are painting and decorating. That might be a whole house or flat, or it might just be one room. Equally, it's not at all unusual for me to be asked to wallpaper a single wall after a customer has already painted the rest of the room.
In addition to painting and wallpapering, I'm happy to take on small tiling projects, and have built up quite a lot of experience with carpentry work such as replacing skirting boards and architraves, hanging/replacing doors, and laying laminate flooring.
Occasionally, when it is part of a "total room makeover", I am also asked to include putting up shelves, blinds, curtains, pictures, mirrors, light fittings, etc. I'm happy to do this as part of a bigger project, but not as "stand alone" jobs.
I'm more than happy to take on exterior painting, as long as it is easily and safely accessible from a ladder. However, the challenge with exterior work is the British weather. While the work itself may be straightforward, planning it into a diary can be a real challenge. Because the weather is so unreliable, it's very hard to plan this type of work more than a day or two in advance, so if you have an exterior project, please understand that I may need to move the project around in our diaries if the weather is being uncooperative!
If your project doesn't fall under the general heading of painting and decorating, there's a pretty good chance that I'm not going to be able to help you out. By all means get in touch and ask the question. If I can help I will, if not I will try to point you towards somebody else who might be able to.
Both of these are a big "NO" for me. It's not that I don't understand how to do the work, as I have done my fair share in the past. Firstly I'm not insured for this type of work. Secondly I lie awake for weks afterwards worrying about whether I've left a customer with a problem, and frankly I don't need that type of stress. And thirdly I have plenty of work of the type that I am good at and enjoy, so why would I want to spend my time doing something that I'm not great at and hate doing?!
Having said that, if plumbing or electrical work (or for that matter plastering, kitchen fitting or more major building work) are needed as part of a project, I have a list of trustworthy, reliable and experienced local tradespeople that I can call on to help us out, so if it's needed for a project, I can make it happen.
And if it's only a question of changing a light fitting or an electric socket plate (i.e. a "like-for-like" replacement) as part of a room makeover, then of course it's not worth calling an electrician out, and I'm happy to help out in this way.
I always like to provide customers with a written estimate in advance, particularly on larger jobs. This is made up of the amount of time invloved and my hourly rate, plus the cost of any materials needed to complete the job. These are all broken out separately, so you can see in advance not only what the job will cost, but also how I arrived at the figure. On larger jobs I quote room by room, so if customers decide to spread the work over several months they can budget accordingly.
I can source all the materials necessary for the job, and as stated above, show you in advance what they will cost. I add a small mark-up to materials I supply, to reflect the time spent finding and selecting the right materials for the job. On the estimate, I detail all major items separately so you can see the cost of each, and add a small charge for "sundries", to cover the cost of sandpaper, brushes, masking tape etc. Again, this is clearly shown on the estimate.
Alternatively, if you prefer, I can use materials you have sourced.
An estimate is just that; an estimate. The final cost may vary slightly from the estimate, but I've been doing this for long enough now that my estimating has become pretty accurate. If however, during the course of a project it becomes apparent that it is going to take significantly longer than originally anticipated, or that additional materials will be needed, I will advise you straight away. It is then your decision as to whether you wish to continue or not. "Significantly" means an increase to the overall cost of more than 15%.
This will always depend on how much work I have on. I will usually try to get out to look at a job, discuss with you what it is you want to achieve, and measure up for an estimate within a week of you contacting me, assuming we can find a mutually convenient time to do this.
In terms of actually starting the work, this really is totally dependent on how many other projects I have on. As stated above, an indication of when my next available time is can be found on the Home page. Once you have approved my estimate, I will agree a firm start date with you and put it in my diary. If for any reason (such as illness or another job taking longer than anticipated) I am unable to start on the agreed date, I will always try to advise you as soon as possible.
In order to put together an estimate for you, I will have worked out a rough day-by-day plan for the project, so I can advise you before I start how long the job will take. Obviously this will vary depending on the size and the scope of the project, but I should always be able to give you a pretty good idea in advance.
No, I will always agree a convenient start time with you in advance, and try to be flexible to fit around your other commitments. If for some reason I am delayed, I will always try to 'phone you to let you know. If you don't want to take time off work, or you want the job completed while you are away, I can arrange to collect your keys from you, do the work and then return your keys to you later if you wish.
Yes, I have a full £1 million public liability insurance as required for the type of work I do. I am happy to show you my insurance certificate if you feel this is necessary.
On the majority of jobs, there is only me - I'm a sole trader. There are therefore usually no sub-contractors, and the only person on your property will be me, and you will have my full contact details. I've added some references (or quotes from reference letters) to the web-site, and I am CRB checked ("police checked"), as I am a youth football coach in my spare time. I am happy to show you the original references and the police check document if you wish. On a large job, if I need to bring in extra help, I will personally introduce you to everyone first, and let you know what they will be doing on-site.