Do you have problems with plumbing? Is the heating playing up? Such crises can be tricky to deal with in your home country; coping with them abroad can be even more stressful, particularly if you don’t speak the language. How do you find a good plumber, electrician, handyman, or locksmith in the Czech Republic?
Tradesmen everywhere, not just in the Czech Republic, are often seen as unreliable, poor timekeepers, and lazy, and it’s easy to tar everybody with the same brush if you’ve had one bad experience. On the other hand, there are plenty of workers out there who do sound work and are motivated by professionalism and a good reputation. Choosing the right person isn’t easy, but in this article we’ll offer some tips.
First of all, let’s look at the vocabulary for the professions, as it can be rather confusing. In this article, we’re covering the services provided by an instalatér (plural: instalatéři), as well as locksmiths. The term instalatér can mean both a plumber and a gas fitter. Firms providing such services also offer electrical services (elektřina) or heating (topení). In addition, they may carry out construction work (stavebnická práce) on a small scale. An údržbář is a handyman, and in some cases an instalatér can also do the work of a handyman. A locksmith in Czech is a zámečník (plural: zámečníci; zámečnictví is the profession).
Whether you’ve just moved to the Czech Republic or have been here a long time, it’s a good idea, if you’ve not done so, to make inquiries about plumbers, heating engineers, etc., for future reference. If you live in rented accommodation, the landlord may already deal with certain companies, so when a problem arises, it may be relatively straightforward to deal with. But if you’re an owner-occupier, you’ll have to do a bit more shopping around. When something goes wrong, bear in mind that in some cases it may not just be your problem but an issue that’s affecting the whole neighborhood. For example, in summer you may encounter the highly irritating odstávka teplé vody, when in some locations water companies shut off hot water for a few days for maintenance reasons.
When calling a tradesman, it’s fairly safe to assume that he won’t speak English, but he may not be a Czech native speaker either. Many Ukrainian tradesmen operate in Prague, as well as those of other nationalities. It’s a good idea to ask a Czech friend to help with interpreting, if necessary.
Prices for services are generally lower than what you would expect for similar services at home. The builder/plumber, etc., will often issue a receipt on the spot, or he will send you an invoice. For larger jobs, the workman may ask for a down payment, followed by installments.
Poor work, time delays, etc., can be stressful, time-consuming, and fraught with hassle, like anywhere else, but the relevant professional association should be able to provide advice. You could also ask Czech friends and other expats about their experiences.
SOURCES OF HELP
Perhaps the most reliable source is the tried and tested expat method of word of mouth. Talk to other expats and find out which companies they have used, which are good and which are not. A personal recommendation is not of course foolproof, but it can give you a certain degree of peace of mind.
Although many would argue it’s hard to find a good tradesman, the internet has made the search less of a headache to some extent, thanks to the growth of forums, reviews, and the opportunity for people to share their experiences, including on our own website (see the Directory and Review links below).
A good example of this is the very helpful www.nejremeslnici.cz website, which is essentially an online intermediary and review service. Type in the service you need, e.g. “instalatér“, and then you will receive offers from potential clients email via the site. You can then continue and choose a firm to carry out the work, price, etc. You can also go through lists of tradesmen in the area, and see their ratings.
Before the internet became so popular, the obvious source of information about companies was the Yellow Pages (Zlaté stranky). Companies are listed under instalatérství or instalatéři, which covers a range of services, as well as individual professions, e.g. topení and voda (plumbing).
A listing in the Yellow Pages is obvious not a guarantee of quality. Another source is a web search, which will yield an abundance of contacts (type in the words above). But again, you won’t be able to gauge quality solely using this method. The popular and widely-used Seznam.cz website is a specifically Czech source, and lists professions. See www.seznam.cz/Remesla-a-sluzby/Remesla/ and look up the relevant trade.
Ask a Czech friend/acquaintance/neighbor for help
You should obviously be very careful about whom you ask, but as many Czechs, particularly in the older generation, have at least some basic skills in dealing with heating, electrical and plumbing issues, asking a friend/acquaintance neighbor may be an option.
PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS (from our community)
Note: Expats.cz cannot make any guarantee to the legitimacy of these recommendations and does not take any responsibility for problems or issues that may arise from use of the companies or individuals below.
Jiří Brejník, tel.: 602 345 167, e-mail: Corekta@post.cz
Mr Brejník works for construction firm Corekta, which does a range of building jobs including reconstruction. He speaks English. Recommended by a friend.
Baris Eren, www.erenreality.com/construction.aspx, e-mail: email@example.com
Mr Eren’s company does a range of construction work. He speaks English. Recommended by a friend.
Jan Jekosch, tel.: 603 412 489
He doesn’t speak much English but is learning. Recommended by a journalist.
Zdeněk Brázda, www.brazda-instalaterstvi.cz
Mr Brázda’s firm mainly carries out heating engineering jobs and plumbing work. Recommended by a Czech architect. He doesn’t speak English.
Paklíč (firm), tel. 602 585 585, 220 611 611, www.paklic.cz, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I have had the misfortune to be locked out, with my mobile, wallet and all the other essentials in the flat. Finding a locksmith therefore proved to be somewhat difficult, but the company I contacted sent a locksmith swiftly. Of course, this firm can’t be judged on one occasion, but the company has been around for a fairly long time, and the locksmith was reliable and helpful.
Goldkey (firm), tel. 602 290 290, www.goldkey.cz, e-mail:email@example.com
Locksmith services don’t come cheap – a friend said he was charged CZK 1200 by firm for a weekend call out, and that was 5 years ago, but it was the weekend, and when you’re locked out, you don’t have much choice. Goldkey operates a 24-hour service.
Jiří Pospíšil, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Pospíšil was recommended by an expats.cz user. She said that she found him very reliable. He speaks English and charges CZK 500 per hour.
Jiří Sellner, tel: 606 426 767, e-mail: email@example.com
Although Mr Sellner is based in Roztoky u Prahy, north of Prague, we included him as many expats live in Roztoky and the surrounding villages. His rates are reasonable, although he doesn’t speak English. He was recommended by former colleagues.
RESOURCES ON EXPATS.CZ
Gas technicians: www.expats.cz/prague/directory/gas-techicians/
Building & maintenance: www.expats.cz/prague/reviews/building-maintenance/