The Challenge of Working with Tradespeople

August 28, 2023

After owning a condo for three years one of the most eye opening experiences has been consulting and working with tradespeople. It’s not that there are not good or skilled tradespeople, but that there is a pretty large spectrum of them in in regard to to skill and care. Additionally the incentive for tradespeople can sometimes be to oversell services or phone in their work.

Things that have happened to me:

  • My home inspector noted some settlement cracks on a 100+ year masonry foundation. I thought I had a bad foundation and had to deal with it so called some foundation contractors that tried to sell me on a $2000 “crack seal” system. It really needed some masonry repointing.
  • Reported AC not working intermittently to an HVAC contractor that cut a hole in drywall to “assess” the situation. They made no repairs and charged me $350. My father (smart, but not a licensed professional) determined it was the relay and replaced it himself for $60.
  • The person a neighbor hired to restore the stoop stairs removed the waterproofing/caulking to prep them and sprayed water at them, flooding my basement crawlspace where my HVAC is.
  • Homeworks, a MassSave insulation partner came by to assess my home for an energy audit. They generated a bill/invoice for gap/crack sealing along with insulation, but performed none of that work. The person who made the initial inspection drilled a small hole in upstairs drywall and said he assessed we had insulation and didn’t need any work.
  • Went through a multi-month war with Comcast before they managed to determine a wire before our junction/distribution box had been eaten by squirrels impacting our speeds. We switched to Verizon FiOS.

The advice given on government websites with regards to tradespeople is junk. There is a licensing and insurance regime which is probably relevant and important for large jobs, but for small jobs it’s junk. In Boston, in many cases, you are lucky if a tradesperson will pick up the phone. They definitely won’t email you. The idea of getting two or three written quotes and ensuring they’re specifically licensed for the work is not realistic for anything under $1000.

Trade Groups, Magazines, and Manufacturers Are Your Best Resource

In order to better understand issues around the home I have found that trade magazines and groups are the best resource. Product manufacturers also tend to be helpful. Some of my favorites:

Want to get posts like this in your email?

This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.