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Win the tradie lotto

tradies lottoOh to be a tradie before Christmas. The property market may have slowed, but the business of renovation is in full swing with the lead-up to Santa’s arrival.

Many of the home buyers who bought at the opening of the spring market are touching up their new acquisitions, and families are keen to get all niggling little jobs done in time for the outlaws to converge.

They’re keeping tradies busy – which means finding one right now is like striking lotto. That could explain why we’ve not heard from Len, the seemingly nice window man who came to measure up for us three weeks ago. Three weeks? It’s a long time for a quote.

Len’s disappearance reminds me of a friend’s troubles in finding a decent painter to spruce up her Federation home. A couple of men in splattered overalls managed to arrive and give the place a look over. Another drove into the street at his allotted time, momentarily slowed his white van at the front of her house and after an up and down, promptly drove off. Never to be heard from again.

We get the keys on Monday to the new three-bedder family pad, and the first thing to go will be the old bathroom. It’s a ’50s turquoise number with an impressive terrazzo floor – all blue and pink specks. I know those old style colourful bathrooms are much maligned in this era of white, white, white. (Try finding a coloured vanity or anything bathroom-related in Australia – it’s a sea devoid of tint.) Not that that’s the trend everywhere, check out some of these amazing units coming out of Italy. But personally I love the colour and if it wasn’t leaking like a sieve into the adjoining room, it’d be just getting a spruce up with a modern vanity and tapware, and a fresh shower screen.)

Not everything will be going though. I’ve asked the tradies to rescue what they can, and if we can’t reuse it, we’ll gift it to the nearest secondhand building centre. Hopefully that way it gets a second life, and will also save us on tipping fees.

We’ll be storing the enamel bath in the shed in case we want to have it resprayed for a future bathroom project (it’s now too big for this rejigged bathroom), and some of the existing wall tiles will be saved, cut down and used as mosaic tiles on the back of alcoves in the new shower and bath.

An ode to the old, that speaks of 60 years of history. As will the recessed mirrored cabinet, which is staying in place too. It’s a decent size and in great nick, so there’s no reason to throw it away.

Finding a tiler this close to Christmas proved a challenge. If there was one available – we were told – they wouldn’t be any good. My feeling is, you might hook one, but they probably won’t be cheap.

We seem to have lucked on someone who, without yet seeing his finished work, looks like he’ll do a good job. And the added bonus is he knows how to communicate and has mastered email, so we can send detailed explanations of what we would like done. So hopefully, requests won’t get lost in translation, as often happens in renovations.

And no, the tiler is not cheap. But then bathrooms never are, and unfortunately we don’t have a bunch of quotes to compare as he was the only fellow who was free. Admittedly we could have been smarter about it and got quotes for getting the work done post-Christmas – even if we wanted to do it now. But it’s hard enough getting access to a house for a measure up before you take possession as it is.

At first estimate, the overall damage bill is looking like about $16,000 for a 6 square metre bathroom. That’s a shower, bath and wall hung basin. It includes some luxuries – a heated floor, heated towel rail, a nice-looking (and many of them are butt ugly) exhaust fan that is activated by a separate steam sensor, and a German enamel bath (chosen for its 30-year warranty and the fact it can be recycled at end of life).

We’re also getting a movement sensor so the ankle biters don’t need to ask an adult to turn the light on every time they want to wash their hands. At three and two, it’s a while before they can reach the switch.

But the tiles and taps are mid-priced, and as mentioned above, we’re reusing what we can. Apparently bathrooms are changed every 17 years, so if we were going to do one, we wanted to select things that could go the distance and also provide a little luxury.

Yes it could have been done more cheaply if we have downgraded some of the items. But who knows, done well maybe it will still be standing in 60 years, like the bathroom we are about to pull out.

Either way, it’ll be great to get it finished and be freed from the triviality of choosing taps! At least with the internet, it’s easy to do the research, read up on specs, compare prices and even seek out other users opinions on the products.

The downside is that it becomes all-consuming and I think I’ve spent more time choosing a tap than I did my children’s names (Jamie Oliver obviously had the same problem, and that’s why his kids have ended up being called Buddy Bear, Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo, and Petal Blossom). Sorry Jamie, love your food. But seriously?

I suppose it’s just lucky we aren’t adding a third to the brood right now, chances are they would end up being called Caroma, Dorf or Hansa.

Carolyn Boyd is a property journalist and keen follower of Australia’s housing market. www.domain.com.au

Tags: buying, housing, news, property, renovations, research, selling

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