You hope to see work in progress like this when you visit a furniture repair and restoration shop. Does it look right to you?
How many times have you been asked “Do you know a good ….?” You can fill in the blank—electrician, carpenter, plumber, mechanic, dentist, lawyer, furniture repair man. We have all had to search for the right person to help us with our daily lives, and finding a good furniture person is perhaps one of the harder tasks in an already difficult environment. Why is as a good furniture person so hard to find? Because just about anybody can say they do it, including Uncle Ed and Cousin Henry. They have been “doing” furniture part-time for years out behind the garage and they know all the tricks. Sure they do. Just ask them.
Or you could conduct a thorough search to find the furniture professional to who you wish to entrust one of your treasured memories. Start by asking the usual questions, including the standard “Do you know…?” inquiry presented to friends, neighbors, relatives, et al. But don’t stop there. Ask antique furniture dealers for names, with the caveat that a dealer may not have the same long term objective as you for a piece of furniture. Then make a list of possible candidates compiled by the survey, but also including a stroll through the Yellow Pages, classified ads, trade publications and Internet searches.
Then what? Here is a list of “DO’s” to aid in your search. Next time, there will be a list of “DON’Ts.”
GO THERE – Make an appointment to interview the prospective craftsman. If you plan to entrust a treasure to someone, go see where that treasure will be once it leaves your possession. If the “professional” does not have or will not give out an address, there probably is a reason. It may be the neighborhood, a zoning problem or a number of other reasons, but there obviously is a reason why they don’t want you coming around. If you go there, does the place look secure? Will you feel comfortable leaving your treasure there? Will it be safe from exposure to rain, wind or sun? Does it have adequate fire protection?
GET REFERENCES – Every business person has some standard references. Get that list—and then check them out! Of course, you don’t expect to be given a poor reference but there are many nuances of “good” and you need to hear some of them. Try to get an idea of how reliable the information given by the craftsman was regarding timing, level of quality and price.
ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS – Relevant questions are welcomed by most professionals. In fact, most good pros, in almost any field, are so involved in their work that they love to talk about it. Let them talk. Ask who actually will be doing the work. Can you meet them or at least see them? Is any of the work contracted out? To whom and why? Will the piece ever leave the possession of the person to whom you are speaking? Will it ever leave the premises? Will it be insured while out of your possession? The best case is if the professional has a blanket “bailee’s” policy that covers other people’s property while in his or her possession or control. A standard homeowner’s or business policy usually doesn’t cover that.
SEE THE WORK – Take a look at work in progress at the business location. Does it look right to you? Does it apply to your case? Does it look like the work that you need to have done? Look at finished work that is not yet delivered or picked up. Would you accept that level of quality?
REACH AN UNDERSTANDING – You need to make sure that the craftsman has an understanding of exactly what you want done and what you expect the results to be. On the other hand, you need to be convinced that he or she is capable of doing that work. You also need to reach an understanding about the timing of the project. No timetable is ever totally guaranteed but you need to know the range of timing. Is it a one-week problem? A one-month problem? A this year problem? Or will it be a “whenever” problem—finished whenever the craftsman gets around to it?
GET IT IN WRITING – If you reach an understanding on the relevant points of the work in question, the next problem is to reduce the understanding to writing. You don’t need a contract per se, but you do need to get the understanding in writing so that everyone understands the deal. Things that need to be included in the written estimate begin of course with the price of the work. The whole and final price. If there is a pick-up and delivery charge, that needs to be included. If there is an extra charge for parts or supplies, it needs to be in writing. If the information on pricing for outsourced parts or supplies is not available at the time of the estimate, the ticket should make it clear when the prices will be determined and whether your approval is needed to proceed. Is there a charge for storage either before or after the project is completed? What are the terms of payment including when and in what form?
Other important items to include in the written agreement are considerations of color if that is relevant to the work and of the type of finish or the exact nature and extent of the repair being considered. Of course, an indication of expected timing should also be included.
PAY ON TIME – If all else is agreed upon and the work is done to your satisfaction, you need to be prepared to fulfill the terms of payment in a timely fashion and work out delivery or pick up details to everyone’s satisfaction.
Fred Taylor is a antique furniture Worthologist who specializes in American furniture from the Late Classicism period (1830-1850).
Send your comments, questions and pictures to me at PO Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit Fred’s website at www.furnituredetective.com. His book “How To Be A Furniture Detective” is now available for $18.95 plus $3 shipping. Send check or money order for $21.95 to Fred Taylor, PO Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423.
Fred and Gail Taylor’s DVD, “Identification of Older & Antique Furniture,” ($17 + $3 S&H) and a bound compilation of the first 60 columns of “Common Sense Antiques,” by Fred Taylor ($25 + $3 S&H) are also available at the same address. For more information call 800-387-6377, fax 352-563-2916, or e-mail email@example.com.
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