How to Recognise a Shonky Tradesman

Electrical work is a serious matter, as are many trades such as electrical, plumbing or tiling.  Whilst it may be tempting to DIY (do it yourself) or get a ‘mate’ to help you out, this comes with risk.  Particularly for electrical and plumbing, or gas fitting, these are licensed trades.  If you do not use a licensed contractor your insurance may be voided and, of course, they may not do a good or safe job.  Rectification can cost 10 or more times the original cost.

Finding someone to hire for electrical works might be an effortless thing to think of because there are so many skilled workers out there only waiting for your call.  However, the conflict arises on whether they are bonafide or shonky.


To avoid getting “lucky”, here are a few tips on how to properly recognize a shonky tradesman.


Check If They Are Legit

Make sure that they are aptly accredited.  All contractors need licensing and particularly electrical contractors must be licensed with the local electrical board.  We have a ‘card’ which is our ‘license to trade’ with a license number.  We just carry it in our wallet or work truck all the time; ask to see it.  Again, part of that licensing is insurance to protect the consumer; again feel free to ask to see that.   Not everyone carries that on them, so if you require, mention that when you organise your quote.


The licensed professional contractor will appear professional as well.   He (or she) will not just turn up in thongs and a singlet.   He (or she) will have business cards, hopefully, a website, and likely wear a uniform or branded work shirt.   Often the shonky operator doesn’t worry about safety gear (hence thongs), they cut corners everywhere and will use cheap equipment.   Because they are in and out and will be virtually impossible to track down if you have an issue, they don’t care if their materials are cheap and unreliable.   I only use quality and well-known materials and equipment from trusted suppliers.   I know these materials will stand up as reliable, safe and long-standing; so I know my reputation will stay in-tact, and the need for rectification work will be non-existent.   In fact, if a client wants to supply their own products, I will be checking where you are getting those materials; if they are known to me as untrusted, I will be passing on the job.   A very professional operator will have a website with testimonials on it.   These days, websites are inexpensive to set up and maintain, it’s not the mark of an expensive operator, but rather the mark of a contractor who is professional and is running a business they are proud to promote, is up with the times, and has good business acumen.

Never Pay Them In Advance

Paying in advance is not a good option especially with trade businesses.  Absolutely they will require a deposit.  From the contractor’s perspective, they are often purchasing materials and need to know the buyer is serious and will be paying.  However, full payment up front is not normal and should not be requested.  I strongly recommend you do not participate in that; you take a good chance of losing your money.

Ask For Proper Quotations

Because there are many available electrical trade companies out there, it is best to compare prices before deciding to hire the rightful one.  Asking and acquiring a quotation will help you determine the cost of the whole job.  It should be detailed enough that you can clearly see what is included or not.  If you discussed something but it’s not included, do not assume it’s included.   Clarify with the contractor and have the quote amended, or an email stating (ie in writing) that it is included.   A good contractor will also quote variations up front, so there are no nasty surprises.

Do Not Trust Door to Door Visit or Cold Calls

Flourishing trade companies will not bother cold calling or doing door to door visits. Those starting in the business might do extra advertising and marketing but cold calling and visiting door to door is not an indicator of a good operation.   Certainly, a contractor may leave their card in your letterbox after working for your neighbour, but the good ones are too busy to be partaking in door to door sales.

Be Wary If They Can Start the Job Immediately

Successful and legit contractors are understandably busy and have many clients at once.  If the company can start the job immediately then why are they not so busy?   Of course, if your job is small and they are working around the corner, they may select to slot it in whilst in the area as that is time efficiency.  For a large job, “I can start today” is a worry and may flag a concern.

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Read this Electrical Safety in Schools.