How to Find Good Tradespeople
Are you planning a house renovation project in the near future and wondering how to find good tradespeople? We hear you! Often finding someone you can trust to do your job can be a hit or a miss.
That’s not to say tradespeople are unreliable. On the contrary, we’re aware of local tradespeople – bricklayers, joiners, plumbers, glaziers etc – who have done a terrific job and bagged clients for life. It’s the odd few cowboy builder stories that can cause the collywobbles amongst homeowners.
And that’s why we’ve written this guide on how to find good tradespeople – to give you top advice on how to find first-class professionals for home renovation or remedial projects.
We will cover how to weed out the bad from the good and find out what your builder etc should be charging. We’ll also show you how to find good tradespeople you can trust. That shouldn’t be too hard though, since most tradespeople are, like the rest of us, out to earn an honest living. Use our checklist and you’re bound to find a tradesperson you’ll come back to time and time again.
Where to Find Tradespeople
Wondering how to find good tradespeople? Well, there are several online sources you can use to help identify one in your area. You can also ask around or phone professional trade associations for a list of members. Here’s a quick run-down of these methods:
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There are a number of directories you can find online which provide tradespeople in particular areas. TrustMark is one of the larger directories. It’s a government-run scheme which assures all members have been carefully vetted for their qualifications and other information, such as their identity and business practices.
Their work has also been physically inspected by a professional in the trade. TrustMark members sign a code of conduct and there is a complaints scheme for issues about work carried out etc.
Managed by Trading Standards and with the back-up of 56 local authorities Buy with Confidence lists professionals who have been in business for at least six months. Members are vetted by a trading standards officer who looks at previous convictions and audits the business. This includes asking for references from previous customers. All members must have an ongoing complaints procedure.
There are various review sites online featuring testimonials from previous customers. However, there is no way to verify whether these reviews are genuine or fabricated – regardless of whether they are good or bad.
There are a number of FB groups where members provide advice on maintenance issues and recommend particular tradesmen. These include The Builders and Tradesmen Advice Group, Find a Tradesman UK and Local Tradespeople UK. These are more like a ‘forum’ in which to chat than a registered and checked site for tradespeople’s work. But you can also use them to post your job.
Ask Other People
Friends and family may have had similar work done themselves. They can give you an honest answer as to how they found the process and whether or not they are happy with the work.
Ask Other Tradespeople
Often the joiner you’ve used in the past can give you the name of a good plumber because he’s worked on a job with him or her in the past. And so, it goes on… Tradespeople, like the rest of us, network and they can be a good judge of character – in addition to work quality.
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB), Gas Safe Register, Glass & Glazing Federation, National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC), the heating industries OFTEC and the Confederation of Roofing Contractors. These are all membership bodies. Any contractor signed up to a trade association has been independently inspected and their work is guaranteed to be of a high standard.
Choosing a Good Tradesperson
Here are several ways you can make sure you hire a reliable tradesperson that will perform a professional, high quality and cost-efficient job.
Check Their Experience and Accreditations
The number of years in the trade, together with qualifications acquired over the length of his or her career, can all indicate how serious a bathroom fitter is about their profession. Are they a member of a trade association such as The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI) Or maybe he or she is a member of the Kitchen Bathroom Bedroom Specialists Association (KBSA) Then again, perhaps they are signed up to TrustMark or a Consumer Codes Approval Scheme etc.
Read Their Reviews
There’s no guarantee that reviews on an individual contractor’s website or a review site are genuine. The best way to find out if a testimony is true is to contact whoever made it and ask them directly how they found the contractor. Did he or she work quickly and efficiently? Were they tidy? Is the work as expected etc?
Check Previous Work
You can get the addresses of previous clients from the contractor him or herself. And, if they agree, go around for their home and take a look at the work for yourself.
Ask People That Have Used Them
It may be that a work colleague has used the contractor you are thinking of hiring. Or it may even be a friend of a friend. These people tend to be more trustworthy than a stranger you have never met before. They’re also more likely to invite you over to take a look at the work.
Get Multiple Quotes
Once you’ve received a quote you think sounds decent, don’t just snap the contractor’s hand off and sign on the dotted line as soon as possible. Rather, play it cool and say you will get back to him or her. Then, call in another couple of contractors so that you get at least three quotes. You can then compare them to find out which you believe is ultimately the best value. You may find a large variation in cost, or a difference in the type of services each contractor is prepared to include in the price.
Finding the Right Tradesperson – Questions & Considerations
Be sure to ask these questions when first speaking to a tradesperson or when they come round to give you a quote.
It’s perfectly acceptable to add a contractor for references from previous clients. You are paying him or her a large amount of money, after all, so it makes sense to ensure you get what you want. Ask to see the previous work carried out for at least two clients.
What is Included in the Quote
The quote should contain a division of the costs ie between materials and labour. It should also list whether or not there are any outsourced contractors such as an electrician or plumber – and what their costs are. Also ask if there will be a charge for transporting materials from the depot to your home and there will be parking charges etc (these can add up). Also, is VAT included in the final price? Again, don’t just agree to the first quote you receive – get at least three.
Building Regulations Compliance Certificate
Your local authority Building Regulations section (usually part of Planning), will issue a building regulations compliance certificate saying your extension, loft refurbishment etc has been approved. This means your builder, joiner, plumber etc can go ahead and get started.
It may be though that you can bypass the council visit. If your tradesperson is already a member of a Competent Persons Scheme run by the government, then he or she can confirm that the work has been done to the standard required.
How Many Years Trading?
The reason you want to find out how long the company has been trading is to check that they are not a ‘fly by night.’ In other words, they don’t start a company, run up bad debts, and declare themselves bankrupt. The longer the company has been in business, the more reliable it will be in this sense.
Companies House is an excellent research source in this regard. You can find out basic details, such as who owns the company, how long it has been registered and how much revenue they took in the previous year, by going online for free. Pay £1 and you can download the company’s entire annual accounts, along with any reports. It’s an inexpensive way to reassure yourself that you are not dealing with a cowboy.
Are they Registered with a Trade Body and Trading Standards?
Buy with Confidence and TrustMark are both government schemes in England that verify a business is practising in a “legal, honest, and fair way”. Every now and again at Buy with Confidence, they will inspect member organisations and carry out ‘mystery shopping’ assignments to ensure that both the work and service are of the level the tradesperson claims. TrustMark members are inspected on a less frequent basis ie every three years but both are a recommended way to find tradespeople.
If it’s a big job you need, such as a conservatory built, then it’s reasonable to pay a deposit upfront (usually one-third), then another third halfway through and then the final payment once the work has been entirely completed. Otherwise, pay once the work has been completed. Never pay upfront.
Don’t make advance payments
Only pay for home improvement work that’s been done. Where materials need to be bought in advance, it’s reasonable for the trader to ask you to pay a fair percentage of these costs as the job progresses.
Follow Up Visits
For an extension, loft conversion etc then it’s acceptable to ask for a follow-up visit from the tradesperson (they may offer this themselves). That way any snagging which comes to light can be fixed.
Getting the Quote in Writing
Always ask for a quote for the job in writing – even if it’s just a small job of a morning or afternoon’s work. That way you won’t find any ‘nasty surprises’ when you are presented with the bill.
A contract is essential when you have a large – or even fairly big – piece of work carried out. That means written details outlining a schedule ie when the work is to start, along with a completion date. There should be penalties written in for if the work exceeds the deadline or budget.
Write a Detailed Brief for the Job
Your brief should include:
- What work you want the contractor to accomplish e.g. fitting new bathroom cabinets, shower and tiling etc.
- What type of materials you’re looking for
- What you will supply i.e. tiles, lighting fixtures etc
- Whether the tradesperson should clean up and dispose of waste once finished
In order to get work, tradespeople have to be competitive with their pricing (unless their reputation is such that they have a waiting list of clients). On the whole though you can expect to pay the following day rates:
- Painter and decorator: £250 – £400
- Builder: £240 – £300
- Electrician: £400
- Plumber: £350
- Carpenter: £300
When hiring a tradesperson always check they have a physical office address and a landline number. That way they are more likely to be registered and you can contact them when you need to. Homeowners should always be extremely cautious of someone who turns up at the door offering to re-roof a house, clean the gutters etc.