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How to Choose a Tradesman

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Choosing the right tradesman to build or repair something in your home doesn’t just come down to the quality of their work or the price they’re charging.

Before you stick your neck out and hire an individual or company to build that back extension you’ve always fancied, or knock down that big wall between the kitchen and dining room – do your research.

That way if things do go wrong (although we hope they don’t) you’ll have financial protection.

To find the right tradesman, the type of research you want to undertake involves checking out:

  • References
  • Qualifications/accreditation
  • Registration
  • Insurance
  • Invoicing/payment

Here are our tips on how to choose a tradesman.

Ask for references of current/previous jobs

Use your sources

The best referral for a tradesman is from someone you yourself trust, such as a family member or friend. This is why local tradesmen are often a good choice!

Another good source is a tradesman you know who can recommend an industry contact, for instance, a roofer who can recommend a good boiler installer, etc.

Sample their work

It’s not unreasonable to ask to see examples of a potential tradesman’s work.

But don’t just settle for their word or a handful of images on their website they direct you to.

Instead, ask for a telephone number or address of any recent projects that they’ve finished, preferably similar to what you’re looking for.

Once armed with this information, contact the homeowners and ask for their feedback on time keeping, attitude and quality of work.

This way you’ll be able to tell the quality of their finished work, as well as gaining an understanding of their work ethics.

Shop around a little

When choosing your tradesman, don’t just settle for the first one that seems to tick all the boxes.

Get at least three quotes.

That way you’ll get a better idea of how much your job should cost – both in terms of materials and labour.

It also guards against a super busy contractor putting in a disproportionately high quote. Remember to ask if the figures you are quoted include VAT.

Don’t just take their word for it

Online trade directories can be a useful resource as they list individuals and companies with references. Each of these website operates differently but individuals have to meet certain criteria as part of their registration process.

Check they have the appropriate qualifications

It’s easy enough for anyone these days to ‘copy’ the logo of a respected trade body and ‘paste’ it onto their website.

When choosing a tradesman, ensure they are reputable.

If they claim they are a member of a particular organisation, then visit the website or call or email that particular body to check that ‘x’ is a member.

It’ll only take five minutes, but could save you thousands of pounds if it turns out that this so-called tradesman was actually a professional con-artist.

Who should your tradesman be accredited to/registered with?

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’s any gas or boiler work being done, your tradesman must be registered with the industry body GasSafe.

Plumbers should be registered with WaterSafe.

Electricians should be Part P-approved by either NICEIC, NAPIT or ECA.

Roofers and landscapers don’t have a trade body to register with, but they should be able to prove they are health and safety certified.

This is why every tradesman who works on your project should also be accredited to

This government approved scheme involves on-site inspections and has a recognised alternative dispute resolution side.

Do they have insurance?

When choosing a tradesman, it’s crucial that whoever is doing the work is insured.

That way, if materials get stolen, damage is caused, or the work simply has to be redone, you’ll be covered for the extra cost.

Don’t just take their word that they have insurance – ask to see the proof.

Are the materials and work guaranteed in the event anything goes wrong after the project has been officially completed?

Again, ask for proof. In the case of guarantees check that it is underwritten by an insurance company rather than the company themselves.

Invoicing and payment

After you’ve found your tradesman, but before you give the green light for the work to start, always insist on a contract. A professional tradesman should also insist on this.

The contract should include the scope of work and details of the individual costs of materials and labour involved as well as a final figure, including VAT.

If it’s a large project then milestone payments can be agreed, along with how much these should be and deadline dates 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 commonsense – 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!

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Last Updated: August 22nd, 2023

Phil Spencer

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