How to find a good joiner
If you need someone to make one of your ideas come to life, such as a kitchen makeover, you might be looking for a joiner. And if so, good luck finding the right person! Joiners are rare nowadays and there is a high demand for them. The main reason for this is that it is hard work and requires a lot of skill and experience -- not everyone has what it takes! So, how do you find a good joiner? There are many aspects that determine whether or not someone can become an excellent craftsman. In general bookshelves on the art of woodworking tend to cover these topics more in-depth than our series here will do. But we will try to give some hints on how you can find a good joiner who knows what he or she is doing, or if in any doubt you can call or contact our joiners in Nottingham.
You will probably have to walk a fine line between finding someone who can do the job well, while still staying within your budget. That said, you should not try to get the best deal possible by hiring someone who does shoddy work and ends up having to redo most of his or her handiwork at the end of the project. It is understandable that you want value for your money but it's not worth getting ripped off in hindsight. You would be better off spending a little bit more initially and avoiding wasting time and energy on hiring and firing people later on.
Finding a good joiner
There are some key things to look out for when looking for a skilled joiner:
This should be the first thing you consider. If you are aware of what kind of work the person has done in the past, it will help to tell if he or she would be able to take your project on successfully. The number of jobs undertaken and skills demonstrated is also an indication that this someone knows his or her stuff when it comes to joinery.
Attitudes and traits.
A good attitude and professionalism characterise a good joiner. Someone with experience but lacking in these areas can easily set back your project by delaying progress with his or her various excuses and delays. On the other hand, someone who knows how to do his or her job well yet has a bad attitude can affect client relations and make interactions unpleasant for everyone involved in the project.
Good Joiners and what to look out for
We are often asked by clients what they should look out for when interviewing joiners to do any work on their property. There is a huge range of tradespeople working in this field and many will do a good job but, unfortunately, there are also some cowboys and rogues who can take your money and not complete the work satisfactorily or at all. The following advice has been compiled after helping hundreds of clients find suitable joiners for them over the years. The list below is not exhaustive but it should act as a guide to all who may be hiring someone for this type of work.
1. All joiners carry ID cards and public liability insurance - if they say they don't, go somewhere else.
2. Ask the joiner who will actually do the work required or visit your property when the work will start and see what you think? If he has no one to do the actual fitting then beware - casual labourers are sometimes used for this part of the job so that there is no quality control over their workmanship! Also, ask them how long they have been in business for themselves - if it's less than 2 years then proceed with caution until you are satisfied that they know what they are doing.
3. The joiner should be happy to give you references - ask for these and contact them, if possible with the joiner present so that they can tell their side of the story.
4. Get at least 2 written quotations from different joiners and insist on seeing examples of their work if available - don't just take their word for it!
5. Check the prices carefully as there is a tendency for some joiners to inflate prices when asked for a quotation in case you accept it! Don't forget to check out the materials needed as well as labour costs.
6. Once you have a few quotes, choose carefully taking into account any price differences plus all other factors such as character, reliability etc.
7. When you have made your choice do not allow the joiner to start work until a written contract is drawn up and signed by yourself AND the joiner! In this, check for any unforeseen extras - some joiners have been known to insert these so at this point it is important that you scrutinise any estimates carefully.
8. Form a good working relationship with your chosen joiner as this will encourage him to be more cooperative and reliable. You may well find that you offer him future business if he turns out good quality work for a decent price!
9. On no account must furniture or fittings belonging to the joiner (his tools etc) be left on site overnight by himself as these can easily be 'disposed of'. This is a sign that the joiner intends to do a runner and take your money with him.
10. Always meet your joiner at an appointed time as this shows respect for his time and will encourage him to keep appointments with you too. It also means that he can't avoid speaking to you by hiding from you or pretending not to be in!
11. Never pay a deposit unless it is agreed beforehand, otherwise, the person may refuse to start work on the grounds that they have already been paid for doing so - but never accept being asked for more than 50% deposit either! It's best not to pay anything upfront – always wait until after the job has been completed, then if satisfied, give them the balance of their fee.
12. It is not unusual for joiners to take payment in cash, even though they may be legally required to submit an invoice and account for VAT, so ALWAYS get a receipt for any work carried out. Don't rely on verbal assurances - get everything in writing, especially when it comes to quoting prices or deadlines! If you don't, there's no way of knowing you are being charged correctly - if at all!
13. Some unscrupulous joiners will try to persuade clients that certain types of wood are unsuitable because of existing cracks/checks/splits etc which cannot be repaired (often made worse by the joiner), but this isn't always true; treatment can often arrest further deterioration. Just because a joiner says it can't be done, doesn't mean it can't!
14. Don't assume that because an item is old or valuable, there's no point repairing it. The carpenter's motto should always be "if in doubt - do it!" Anything which is worth repairing will appreciate the attention to detail and TLC it receives, even if only aesthetically. And anything which isn't worth repairing may well have deteriorated to such an extent that making repairs now could actually save you money!
15. A confident attitude towards working with old wood is also important for another reason - not least because there are so many different species of timber out there (for example European oak, American white oak, English elm, American red oak, English sycamore, etc). You don't need to be a wood nerd, but if you want to choose the best timber for your job and get it right the first time then you'll need to be confident enough in your knowledge of different species.
16. Be prepared to pay more for joinery work by professionals than other tradespeople because good joiners are scarce and highly valued.
17. Ask around - who does good joiner work? If possible ask people like architects (who often use craftspeople such as carpenters rather than big contracting firms) or even other craftsmen (such as stoneworkers or metal-workers). Many traditional building skills have died out over recent decades and many people working today are self-taught, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But many tradespeople have learned through an apprenticeship system and historically this has been the best way to learn any skilled trade.
18. Visit the joiners in their workshops or ask for photos of recent projects if they can't come to show you something locally.
19. If you are not sure about the person or their business ask around at your local library, joiners guild, or other people in trades to get feedback on them - simply asking friends won't necessarily give you an accurate answer because they may not know any better. It is important while interviewing a joiner to ask about references of past clients for which they have done similar work so that you can ensure that they are capable of doing the job successfully, on time, and within budget. Also if this person has had complaints levelled against them by previous employers then find out what happened there too! While it might be true that 'no news is good news', when it comes to hiring someone these days, always make sure you have all the information you can get.
20. In addition, if they have a website then find out what they're about and the services that they provide. If nothing comes up on their site or a brief search, call them and ask for more information directly. This means that the person in question doesn't really want to be in business, otherwise they'd make sure that their website was up to date. If possible, also check to see what other clients are saying about them by finding reviews on Google+ or an equivalent website - this should give you a good idea of whether or not someone is realistically the right person for the job before spending time talking with them any further!
Once you've decided upon your best options it's worth getting quotes fom multiple people. This is just a good idea in general as it gives you leverage with your chosen person, allowing you to choose based on value for money or specific criteria that have been important to you.
Just remember that this isn't necessarily the cheapest option; different joiners will offer different services and products that will require varying degrees of labour, which means that the price seems higher than it actually is! If possible find out what each quote covers (building regulation approval, design, etc.) before making your decision.
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