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Home improvements and major works

When you need major work that may be beyond your DIY capabilities and confidence, even the most seasoned at DIY will not be able to do everything or indeed have time to do everything, there will come a time when you need to find a tradesman or employ a good builder.







When work needs doing around your home, finding reliable and reputable tradesmen can sometimes prove difficult. How do you know you they can be trusted? There are websites that claim to check a trade and vet their trade members.  Yet unsurprisingly, they do not give any warranty or guarantee that the tradesmen on their database will meet your expectations regarding the quality of work and service provided. Indeed one website even offers to assist with complaints against their member trades, giving advice on how to complain to Trading Standards, seeking redress and even going to court!





Be aware these websites only exist to profit by charging tradsmen for membership and to be listed on their database - how else can they afford to sponsor those TV programmes? Be aware they also advertise their websites to potential trade members as:

"a marketing platform that brings credibility causing your phone to ring with quality customers"





How do you find reliable tradesman?

By all means make use of the vetting sites as part of your own enquiries to check a trade, but do not rely on the information being up to date or even accurate. The best recommendation will always be word of mouth. Has a friend, relative or neighbour recently had any work done.  


It is recommended you look for a tradesperson registered with a Government approved membership scheme provider, that ensure tradesmen meet strict qualification requirements and are regularly assessed to ensure their ongoing competence. For example, Trustmark registered trades include electricians, plumbers, renewable technology installers and 'Green Deal' installers and advisors.


Always check the credentials of the people you are considering using. Sometimes rogue traders make false claims about being a member of a trusted organisation. To check a registered installer, ask to see their ID badge and search for the company on the website:

www.trustmark.org.uk


When choosing a builder or tradesman:


  1. Beware of handyman types that are immediately available. Ask yourself why they don't have any work?
  2. It is better to employ an individual builder or pay slightly more for specific tradesmen a plumber, electrician or carpenters for example, rather than a "no job too small" - jack-of-all-trades.
  3. Never employ a tradesmen or builder without checking their reputation.
  4. Never employ anyone who cold calls at your door.  Good reliable tradesmen are always busy and don’t need to knock on doors to get work. Be extra careful using anyone who has put a leaflet through your letterbox or advertised in small ads in local papers too.
  5. Always get references from recent customers and take them up. Try to speak to people who have had similar work done to what you are planning.
  6. Fully explain exactly what work you want doing and any specifications you require. It is a good idea to have a written brief to ensure all contractors are pricing on the same information. Keep a written note of conversations.
  7. Always get at least three written fixed price quotations for the work. Remember an estimate is just that and the final price is not fixed.
  8. Does the price include vat? If it does not then the builder or tradesmen total turnover (labour and materials) in the last 12 months was less than £70,000 or they are breaking the law!
  9. If the cheapest quotation is 25% or more cheaper than the next lowest, be very suspicious. What corners will they cut to make it pay.
  10. Get a firm start date and an informed estimated finish date. A late completion will delay the start of any following works you may have planned. Again, avoid anyone who can start right away. Good tradesmen are usually busy and booked up weeks in advance.
  11. Before any work starts draw up a simple contract detailing what work will be done, the cost and the time period(s) and ask the tradesman or builder to sign it.
  12. Is the builder fully insured against third party liability.  Ask to see a copy of his public liability insurance certificate and policy schedule.
  13. Is their work covered by any independent warranty or guarantee.
  14. Does the builder or individual have a website. Research the company online. Visit their website and forums.
  15. Do they arrive in a clean new sign written van or truck.
  16. Do they belong to any trade or professional organisations such as the Federation of Master Builders. Remember their stickers on vans do not necessarily guarantee quality work or good value but it is a start. It is always a good idea to check they actually belong to the organisation, using the registration body’s online search facility.
  17. Do they give a realistic time of how long the work will take.
  18. Have they any history with trading standards.
  19. Are they credit worthy.
  20. Always visit their premises or trading address. Does it look professional. Avoid contractors whose only point of contact is a mobile telephone number.  He can easily vanish leaving the job half done
  21. Have they been recently vetted by an independent organisation such as www.trustmark.org.
  22. Use a payment protection scheme such as BondPay for peace of mind home improvements.
  23. Avoid any contractor who asks for payment in advance "for materials". A reputable contractor will have monthly credit accounts with builder’s merchants.
  24. Only pay when you are happy to do so or when the work is fully completed. Pay for the work by credit card if you can as this can give you added protection from the credit card company if anything went wrong. Never pay in cash and always ask for a receipt and proper invoice.  Then if something does go wrong later on you have a written record.


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Finding a good tradesman