Over the years some very skilled and professional tradesmen have worked on the places in which I have lived. (There is no need to say "trades-people"; the ones I have encountered have been men.) Most of the time, I have respected their work and appreciated the improvements they have made.

However I can still tell a few stories. Because the truth is, that in the execution of their jobs, tradesmen can create other problems. While they are focused on doing their particular task to the best of their ability, it seems that they can all too easily trash the work of other home-improvement experts in the process. Tradesmen: keeping their fellow tradies in work since ... well, for as long as I can remember, anyway.

Here are a few examples. None of them are serious enough to inspire you to call in consumer advocates or legal advisers. Most of them are annoying enough to make you take a deep breath, grit your teeth and possibly swear a bit.


Men painting the exterior of our house ruined the lavender beds in the garden. They crushed them with ladders and scaffolding although they could easily have taken care to not ruin them. (This same team of painters also used to drop their cigarette butts where they stood. I'd come home from work each day and collect up the discarded butts. It was disgusting. It was also a long time ago. Now I'd have zero-tolerance for such bad habits.)


Drainage workers

Men working on behalf of a local authority were doing some drainage work in our front garden. They accidentally cut through a gas-pipe. It was the middle of winter, we had a baby and without warning our house had no heating, no hot water and no cooking facilities. We moved out until order was restored.

Footpath layers

Men working on behalf of another local authority were replacing the footpaths. The new footpath outside our place was laid at a level about 20cm lower than the old one. This meant that our picket fence (which had looked fine until then) was suddenly separated from the footpath by a 20cm-high patch of bulging earth. I drove around the neighbourhood to see if other residents had suffered similarly but it seemed that we were the only ones to have a fence hovering in mid-air.


The water-proofing man gaily carried a bucket of liquid across our hallway and into the bathroom. I remember noting that he made no effort to protect our flooring and so I assumed that it must pose no threat to newly laid wool carpet. When spills occurred, I discovered I was wrong. We eventually managed to get the discolouration out but the patches in question looked well worn; the relief diamond patterns within the carpet had far less depth in these places. "I told them to always use drop-cloths," said the boss man afterwards.

Oven installers

Near the completion of a new kitchen, men dragged the heavy oven across the floor to install it. Although it had been placed on some sort of cloth, scrape marks nonetheless appeared in the brand new oak floorboards that had just been stained and finished.

Window film installer

I was getting a window measured to have film fitted in order to protect some fabrics from harsh UV rays. The man's van dripped oil in the driveway which had been stain-free until then. Unimpressed, I decided not to proceed with the installation. If he could make a mark merely by visiting, I wondered what damage he might do in the course of his work.

Now, I'm sure there are many people who would not be perturbed by a mere oil stain but if you consider that this particular gentleman was only invited around because the householder was hoping to minimise the amount of fading the fabric on a chair would undergo, you would have to assume she is likely to be fussy about the small details. In fact, the window film man and most other tradesmen make a living out of customers who take pride in their residence and care about the condition of their home. It's little wonder that such people take a dim view of carelessness combined with nonchalant attitudes.

Do you have any tradesmen stories to share?