Finding a trade – Is cheapest REALLY the best?

My eyebrows raised this morning (slowly obviously as it was pre 9am on a Monday) but raised nonetheless as a BBC presenter chatted animatedly about the difficulties of finding a tradesperson for those jobs around the house and mentioned words along the lines of we’re always told cheapest is best. 

Eh? Are we? And is it? In 18yrs in the building and property game, that is never a phrase that I’ve heard anyone say. Sorry, I’ll correct myself, anyone with half a brain. I have heard it said and then six months later the person saying it has been shopping around for a new trade to correct the work that was done by the cowboy in the first place.

Cheapest is never best. Not in property maintenance, building works, gardening, food, clothes or anywhere else you might  imagine. That’s not to say the least costly isn’t sometimes the most appropriate. Due to budget constraints or personal choice, cheapest might be the only option. I’ve taken the stingiest option sometimes entirely due to the fact that I couldn’t afford to pay more, but the difference is I know what I’m talking about when it comes to a lot of property work and have the confidence to ensure I get a decent job done to the standard I want it. Many people don’t, which is why they come unstuck when they go for the cheapest.

When choosing trades, the personal recommendation is always the best. With social media, I’m seeing more and more shout outs for help being answered by others in local areas, on Facebook it’s ‘does anyone know a good…’ and let’s face it, it takes a brave and decent trade to be on Twitter, communicating with clients and contacts where any bad feedback is there for all to see. Ask family, ask friends. Do you know anyone as a local rugby club or fire station, brilliant places to find skilled, enthusiastic and trustworthy trades. And if you know an elderly person living alone, make sure they get help when trying to find workmen, the explosion of fraud in this area makes my blood boil!

The cheapest is never the best. The cheapest plumbing job will be done by someone not time served, maybe using cheap push fittings, poor soldering and a lack of understanding about how to do a job that won’t leak in six months. The cheapest roofing job will be a patch up special lasting over one winter but failing you next autumn. The cheapest kitchen job will have shoddy carcassing, gaps in the worktop and wonky doors splitting in no time. The cheapest joinery job will have poor joins, uneven levels and rough edges. The cheapest electrical job might kill you.

The winding down of our technical colleges, closing of practical courses, dismissing of apprenticeships as undesirable/unsexy/unambitious and to be anyone in life, you  *must* go to Uni, has appalled me for years. City centre technical colleges turned into flash apartments, small local building yards redeveloped into shoddy housing, joinery and specialist workshops all over the country closed down in an explosion of buy-to-let. Houses and homes than we now struggle to maintain,  how ironic.

I went to Uni, got myself a law degree, came out, got some practical training and started a building company. Best choice I ever made. Since the 70s we’ve been undermining and belittling trades and hands on skills to our detriment, killing off small businesses with red tape, high rates, cheap labour and a lack of investment. Now no-one can find decent trained, reliable, competent, trustworthy and well priced tradesmen. I wonder why.


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