Portuguese vs British Builders

“I’m a big believer of daylight in the studio”. Geddy Lee

I am sat here listening to the builders working away downstairs in our ‘cave’ (garage) on what will become my art studio, and vowing never to use a British builder or worker again here in Portugal.

The only experiences we have of British builders out here have been awful – whereas every single one of the Portuguese builders we have had working on our house have all been brilliant.

When we first  bought the house, we were apprehensive about using Portuguese workers – mainly because of the language barrier. We resorted to using a Portuguese friend to translate, and for emergencies we asked our neighbour to make calls for us.

Then we decided that we wanted to organise work ourselves and of course it seemed easier to use a British workman. So our satellite system and fake grass (don’t ask!) were fitted … and re-fitted! “We’ll be there tomorrow… sometime…or maybe the next day…” was a favourite phrase we heard over and over again… and the standard of work was pretty poor. Our satellite dish I think faced towards the Americas… and the best freesat reception came from the Scottish highlands…but only until about 8pm… It took two return trips by the company and a South African lad to come out who eventually knew what he was doing.. and I’m still not convinced it’s working as it should be.

Compare that to the attentive and high standard of work by our Portuguese workers… well actually there’s no comparison. We’ve found a lovely plumber who drops everything if we need him and turns up within the hour if we have an emergency… and the most amazing painter Joaquim who has done a fab job painting inside and outside our house.. 7 coats of paint on our inside walls… and he is the tidiest and most conscientious worker, with a liking for ice tea limão at 11am and a beer at 5pm! 

We arrived at the house this time to find our basic and tired boiler had given up the ghost, so we dropped in at the little electrical shop in the village which is run by a Portuguese father and son. Papa speaks no English but can do that fantastic Portuguese ‘shrug’ which can mean so many different phrases! Son David speaks great English (phew!) but wasn’t there.. so Papa said come back in an hour… fine, off we go to sit in the square with a coffee… by the time we have ordered our coffees Papa and David are driving past us to go up to our house to sort out the boiler! Half an hour later, boiler back in action and they refuse to charge us anything. We decided to go for a better model anyway and they were back fitting it the next day. All tidied up and finished in an hour, with free servicing thrown in for good measure. Somehow I doubt we’d get that service back in the UK?

Being brave enough to try to speak Portuguese probably helps us now, the builder we have working here this week was recommended locally and I can now manage a phone call which goes along the lines of ‘my name is… I live at.. and I have work for you..” in Portuguese – which seems to suffice!

We have come out this time mainly to sort out work and the jobs we want to have done but it has not been all work and we had a lovely day out on the West Coast, rabbit stew at a little restaurant at Odeceixe is such a treat! This was the beach there this week:

And so back to the housework! We shall continue to use local workers when we can, and keep trying to learn the language. And if all else fails, we can always draw lots of pictures of what we want and wave our arms around a lot! And keep providing the beer at 5pm!

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22 Responses to Portuguese vs British Builders

  1. Carole says:

    Sounds good to me!!

  2. Pingback: 2011 in review | Algarve Blog

  3. Helen says:

    please am trying to get a team of builders i.e bricklayer,plasterer, carpenter, roofer, electrician, plumber etc from Portugal to work in London. Will provide accommodation. How much does their worker charge a day and can you introduce good builders that is interested to come and work in London. Trying to safe money on building

  4. Sami Veloso says:

    Great that you found workers that do the job on time and with a smile Alyson! I didn’t have much trouble with Portuguese workmen either, apart from the fact that they didn’t always come at the time they said they would come….busy guys I suppose!!
    We try not to call anyone to do any jobs around the house if we can avoid, as workmen cost an arm and a leg here. Luckily both hubby and son are quite the handymen and have done from tiling to putting up a new kitchen, renovating the bathrooms….with just a tiny help from a plumber.

    And of course I am the paint master by now, having already painted the inside of our house twice, first all in white and a couple of years later with colour when I decided it was time to decorate.

  5. Admin says:

    well we had an interesting comment posted on here yesterday from an British builder out here who complained that I was unfair on British builders and that not all of them are bad – fair point – so happy to set the record straight – but as I said above – the experience we have had of them has always been rubbish!
    Oh and the reason that I couldn’t post his comment is because the attitude and language was appalling – and hey this is my blog – I choose what gets posted on here – offensive language will never make it through the filters mate – and – oh yeah – thanks for making me even more determined to use Portuguese builders in the future……

    • terri says:

      HAHAHAHA….that is so funny…didnt he realise he would be dirtying the english guys even more…what a contridiction
      hi,,me and my hubby have read your blog and find it so funny,,you have certainly got a good sense of humor…ill introduce ourselves…me who is..terri and mac and my 2 yr old tinker have recently up lifted from the uk to portugal,faro,benafim..to look after and work for an aquintance after he bought a 9 bed villa in the algarve…well,,what an experience it as been so far,,haha we so understand the drinking part,we have a portuguese guy work for us on the pool,tanks and electrics his name is Josie like 70% of portuguese men ..very good worker,like 70% of Portuguese men .(when hes here haha)…my hubby is a time served joiner,he run his own sawmill previous to this job but as you can gather he as no experience on swimming pools haha…not much call for them in england…so i dare say that both are just as bad and just as good because my hubby is english and he is a good quality worker which is the reason for the villas owner to upload all my family to portugal just for him to work here,,,so his work got me here which im very gratefull for as im at peace here…….we came across this funnily enough because we was going to get some quotes off english guys who work here for a pool cover etc..ready for the next guests as it wont be here on time josie said but cant blame him really as he has recently had a baby boy.anyway..early start as got models hiring the villa for photo shoots and got walls to render and paint etc etc etc..never ending but all good fun it keeps ya heart ticking…end a day we are all human eh,we all make mistakes somewhere along the line like the guy who over acted eh…nice reading ya blog..good bedtime reading,well b4 we borrow bosses spa bath with champagne haha…. oh and iv shared this with my friends as i think it somes up our experiences here,,oh and boss as a copy..as i think it gives him an insight as we are a uk based companey..thanks terri x

      • Admin says:

        ah thank you for your kind comments and interest in the blog – glad we made you smile! you can only tell it how it is!!
        you sound like you are busy and having fun over here – a good combination!
        pleasure to ‘meet’ you too!

  6. Mark Chambers says:

    I have just bought a house in alte, loule would you care to share your builders details with me if you are close to the area so I can try them out? I am stuck for any trades at this stage (haven’t even moved to Portugal yet!)

    Regards Mark

  7. Susan Bayley says:

    I have been browsing the web to find builders in the Algarve area as I have also been struggling with getting building work done, mainly due to my builder’s rather lax attitude to paperwork thus holding up an insurance claim. I am looking for alternative people to use. If you are near Praia da Luz I would love to hear of any skilled tradesmen you know. If you could also e-mail me any possible contacts I would be very grateful.

    • The guy we used most recently was excellent – but doesn’t speak any English – he’s very professional – I can dig out his name and number for you if you would like it? He is based in Lagoa – not sure how far he travels but would have thought you would be ok? If you want his details just e-mail us at a3art@live.co.uk

  8. Fboy Pog says:

    Regrettably, my wife and I have had a somewhat different experience of Portuguese builders and our problems continue. If you require such services in Central Portugal please email me and I wiil advise the name of our bad builders who we believe should be shut down.. We are currently compiling a complaint to InCI.

  9. Marlene says:

    We are looking for a builder to build our house in a lot we bought in Mexilhoeira Grande, Algarve. Can anyone recommend a good company?

  10. tom b says:

    Hi all, does anybody know a good place to place an ad for Portuguese labourers?

    Im English but speak enough Portuguese to get by, just need day labourers for works around the house

  11. Chris says:

    I think you have been very lucky I’ve only had poor workers everyone of them….. Many seem nice but the work has been terrible… Many builders do not rely on trades, I don’t know if a skilled plasterer exists in the country. The electricians don’t understand the regulations probably why they have to have an engineer associated. The plumbers learn from their dads. No one trains professionally. The Faso bartolo rep for the Algarve runs free training weekends at the University and often only has20% turnout as no one wants even free education… Just look at the housing stock to see the quality of the work…… It’s terrible

  12. Thhank you for sharing

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