Choosing the right tradesman or organisation to carry out any significant building or repair work in your home is a major decision and not to be taken lightly! It also shouldn’t come down to just the price they’re charging, you need to do your homework, carefully!
In fairness, the majority of tradesmen are honest, competent, and hard-working. But if you unfortunately end-up choosing one who isn’t, it can mean living in a building site for months or even years, cost you thousands of pounds to fix the poor quality of work undertaken, or leave you with a botched job that causes problems for years to come.
If you are planning a new bathroom, kitchen or looking to replace all of the doors and windows in your home, these are decisions that can affect the value of your home, so you need to research potential suppliers. This guide will offer you advice on what to look for and what to be aware of when choosing a supplier to work with.
To make sure that you find the right tradesman or company to carry out your project, these are some of the main topics that you may want to undertake:
- References from previous work
- Professional accreditations
- Insurance and warranties
- Pricing and payment terms
Let's dive into these topics in a little more detail to help you choose a tradesman:
- Look for references of previous work undertaken
Last year, the Federation for Master Builders (FMB) said that the most common complaints they received were about poor quality workmanship and a lack of professionalism by the tradesmen when carrying out the work.
Use personal recommendations where possible. One of the best ways to make sure of quality service is to choose somebody who has been recommended to you by a good friend or family member, especially if you have seen their work first hand.
Another good source of references is to search online for referrals on websites, social media sites and review sites etc. See if you can find an existing customer who has had similar work undertaken and drop them a message directly to ask for further information on how the project went. Ask for their feedback on timekeeping, how helpful they were before, during and after the project and also the quality of their work.
By doing this homework, you will be able to get a feel for the quality of their finished work, as well as gaining an understanding of their work ethics.
There are also a number of online trade directories which potentially can be a useful resource. They list individual tradesmen as well as companies with customer references. Each of these websites operates differently but generally, both individuals and companies have to meet certain criteria as part of their registration process.
- Check they have the appropriate qualifications
When choosing a tradesman, ensure they are reputable. When choosing your tradesman, remember that all builders should be members of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). The organisation offers its own dispute service for both builders and clients.
If there is any gas or boiler work included in the project, the tradesman must be registered with the industry body GasSafe. Likewise, any plumbers involved in the work should be registered with WaterSafe. Last but not least, electricians should be approved by either NICEIC, NAPIT or ECA.
Roofers do not have their own trade body to register with, but they should be able to prove they are health and safety certified.
- Do they have insurance? What warranties are offered?
When choosing a tradesman or company, it is very important that whoever is going to carry out the work is insured. That way, if any materials get stolen from the site, accidental damage is caused to the property, or if the work has to be redone by another person, you will be covered for the extra cost.
Ask about what guarantees or warranties are included in the quote? Are the materials and products supplied guaranteed in the event that anything goes wrong after the project has been finished? Warranties should also be offered on the labour provided, the fitting of the products and materials. Make sure you have a clear understanding as there can be differences between products and services.
- Pricing and payment terms
The Federation of Master Builders reported that almost 2 million British homeowners say a tradesman had disappeared after they have been paid, without completing the work.
Don’t get fooled by low quotes, it is very easy for untrustworthy tradesmen to give a low estimate initially in order to secure your business and then put the price up at a later stage. Even if theis does not happen, low prices often result in lower quality products and labour too. Go with a tradesman or company that you trust to do a good quality job for a fair price, rather than one that offers you low prices.
After you’ve found your tradesman, checked their references and accreditation and received a quotation for the work to be carried out, before you give them the go-ahead to start the work, always insist on a contract. A professional tradesman or company should also insist on this.
The contract should include these components at a minimum; the scope of work to be carried out and details of the individual costs of materials, products and labour involved. Make sure you also clarify whether the final figure includes or excludes VAT.
If it’s a large project then milestone payments can be agreed, along with how much these should be and deadline dates are written in. It’s also fair to set in a penalty clause if the work runs over.
Never, ever agree to pay for the whole project upfront.
The above sounds like simple common sense – but you’d be surprised. According to recent figures from the FMB they get up to 1.5 million complaints a year about cowboy builders. Don’t let one of their victims be you!
- Sign up a person who knocks on your door and points out a small problem. Reputable tradesmen will not cold call.
- Hire someone who says they can start work straight away. Also tread carefully if a quote seems too low.
- Choose workmen who only have a mobile number, and who can’t – or won’t – provide references.