How to Pay a Tradesman (& How Quickly)

A tradesman holding a card payment machine

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August 16, 2023

If you have never engaged a builder, joiner, plumber or any other tradesman then you may be wondering how to pay them.

When it comes to building projects there are usually large sums of money involved. The last thing you want is to find yourself losing out financially. Or paying everything upfront and being unhappy with the end result, meaning you’ve no immediate financial comeback.

So, it’s understandable if you’re a bit confused and anxious about going forward. And that’s why, in this article, we have outlined the steps you should take when paying a tradesman.

When You Will Need to Pay a Tradesmen

When you will need to pay a tradesman depends on the size of the project and how your builder likes to work. Usually though you will be asked to pay a sum of money upfront. This is usually to help pay for the materials involved.

Halfway through the project you may then be asked to make an instalment, this will pay for further materials, as well as the ongoing labour costs of those tradesmen your building project manager will have outsourced jobs to.

A man tiling the floor

The final sum is usually paid once the project is finished and you are happy with the job.

Paying a Deposit

Usually on a large project a deposit will be required. It’s usually around one-third of the cost of the total project.


You will normally receive an invoice for the deposit payment, an instalment payment and the final payment. This is for both you and your builder’s accountancy files.

How to Pay a Tradesperson and Payment Methods

A customer paying a tradesmen by credit card

Paying With Cash

You can, of course, pay your tradesman in cash. This is often easier for both parties. Certainly, if you are paying in cash, then always count the money out together. That way you both know no mistakes are made.

Paying With a Credit or Debit Card

Some tradesmen may have a card machine that will allow you to pay with your credit or debit card. If they have a card matching just double check the amount and enter your pint to pay. Also be sure to ask for a receipt. Some may even have a PayPal account to receive payment, this may require them to send you an invoice which you can pay using your credit or debit card.

Paying Via Bank Transfer

Most people these days prefer to pay by bank transfer (BACS). But always get your tradesperson to write their bank details (sort code and account number) down for you. That way you are less likely to make a mistake or fall victim to a scam.

Paying By Cheque

You can also pay by cheque although this isn’t as common these days and can take up to five days for payment to come through.

How Quickly You Should Pay

Tradespeople will expect the final payment on the job’s completion.

It is common and reasonable to pay within 7 days of completion but once you’re happy, the project has been signed off and it complies with Building Regulations etc, it’s best to pay as soon as possible.

It may be that the builder will offer to come back in a few weeks to sort out any snagging issues anyway.

Getting a Contract Before the Job

It’s always a good idea to get a contract before the job begins. This isn’t always the case when working with a builder, but it’s certainly best for both parties.

A person signing a contract

If anything does go wrong, then you both have the terms of the contract to refer to. It can also be used as a legal document in court should a dispute arise.

The contract doesn’t have to be lengthy, but it does need to contain what the builder is intending to do for you and in what timescales.

It should also have the cost of the overall project – preferably broken down into materials, labour etc – and how the builder is to be paid. If it’s a big project then it’s reasonable to have several stages, with the builder being paid at the completion of each stage.

Make sure you have a Building Regulation sign-off after each stage too.

To ensure the project is finished in a reasonable timescale, there should also be mention of any additional costs if the project overruns etc. However, fair consideration should be taken of the weather – especially if it’s an ‘outdoors’ project being carried out in winter. This can also be made a clause in the contract.

A contract helps the builder too because it means there is less chance of project ‘creep’ ie him or her being asked to do numerous ‘little’ jobs and additions which were not originally agreed upon. And on that note, there should also be a section in the contract on how, if there is a dispute, it should be resolved.


There are two basic types of subcontract – either a ‘labour only’ version or a ‘supply and fix.’ In the case of the former this usually applies to bricklayers and joiners while the latter is often used for plumbers and electricians.

You should pay a ‘labour only’ contractor weekly and a ‘supply and fix, once the job has been completed. If possible, you could divide the wages for an eight-week job by 10, ensuring your tradesman is paid more at the end of the ‘completion’ week – that gives him or her more incentive to finish on time.

‘Supply and fix’ contracts are usually settled in two stages – once the first phase has been completed, and once the job is finished.

Handling Disputes

There are occasions when you may not be happy about work completed by your builder, such as a disagreement about deviating from the plans, badly finished plastering etc. At these times it’s best, of course, to be calm and take your concerns to the builder in a reasonable manner. You can then both discuss it and hopefully come to some sort of compromise.

An angry looking builder

With professional builders though disputes are rare. The real issues arise when you’re dealing with a rogue trader. These individuals usually ask for a huge chunk of the money upfront, don’t deal in contracts and you have difficulty getting in touch with them.

If it’s a reputable builder you are dealing with and you’re unhappy with the work then give them the chance to put it right. If you don’t trust them to do that then let them know that under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 they haven’t met their contractual obligations.

You could get another builder in to assess the work. At the same time take photographs and keep records of communication (ie emails, letters) with yourself and the first builder.

You may be able to recoup your cash if the builder was insured or if you settled the amount via a credit card payment. Otherwise, you may have to go to court. This will involve County Court proceedings if the work is valued at £10,000 or more (although this can prove expensive).

If the builder turned out to be a rogue trader then reporting it to Trading Standards may help other people falling victim to the same scam.

This is a good general guide for a successful project with your tradesperson:

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