How to choose a reputable builder or tradesman

By Katie Anderson on June 11th, 2010

TradesmanFinding a reputable builder or tradesperson can be a difficult task at the best of times, and if you don’t have any referrals or past experience to base your decision upon hiring a rated contractor can be a lottery. You’ll need to source quotes, choose a suitable company and hope everything works out. A lot of  stress can be avoided by following some simple rules and common sense.

Building and construction is made up of hundreds of different trades and specialisms ranging from general building works to specialist roofing contractors, electricians, heating and plumbing engineers, window fitters, plasterers and many many more. You’ll first need to determine which trade is suitable for the job-in-hand which can be advised by a local builder.

Request Quotes

Once you’ve narrowed your search down to the skill required you will need to request quotes for the anticipated work. We would recommend sourcing three quotes which will give you a good feel for the price range you’ll be looking at paying.

When sourcing quotes it’s important to obtain prices from a variety of local and nationwide contractors, they will all offer differing levels of service and after-sales support which again will provide you with a good feel for the type of contractor you’ll be working with. You can source companies to quote by checking your Yellow Pages, asking around locally or use Builder Guide to find rated contractors in your area.

Once you’ve found three suitable companies ask them to visit your property to carry out a full survey of the project site. Use this opportunity to get a feel of their competency and attitude, ask them about past jobs and if they have any local customers you can speak to and visit. Also, make sure they hold Public Liability Insurance (obtain a copy) and if they intend to carry out any gas work such as installing gas central heating they must be Gas Safe Registered.

The tradesperson’s price will only be as accurate as the information they are given so ensure you cover everything in as much detail as possible. Think about what you want included, this can be easy if it’s just boiler service but if you’re considering a loft conversion or house extension then think long and hard about detail. Simple things like finishing touches go unnoticed in the pricing – check whether jobs like decorating are included too. The devil’s in the detail!

Finding a reputable builder

Once you’ve established details of the job ask the contractor to provide a written fixed price quotation including a full specification of what’s included. Compare each quote with each other to make sure you’re comparing like-for-like. Once you’re happy you are then you’re ready to negotiate price. You should be able to knock anything from 5-20% off the original quotation by playing them off against each other, just make sure the details of the job remain consistent.

A local tradesperson may only be able to knock a token 5% off. In contrast a nationwide company will have built the discount into the price and will be able to knock at least 20% off, if not more. Just be patient and never too keen.

Once you’re happy with the price and feel you’re nearly ready to commit then just carry out a few last checks:

  • Do they hold Public Liability Insurance?
  • Are they registered with relevant industry trade bodies?
  • Check with the relevant trade bodies to ensure there registration is current and valid.
  • If they’re trading under a limited company check it is solvent – you can do this at Companies House.
  • Check references are genuine and visit past jobs if possible.
  • Never pay for the complete job upfront. A reasonable payment schedule would include a 10-20% deposit, a second payment at an agreed point in the build progress and a final payment on completion.

Once you have completed all your checks and are ready to choose the contractor you’re most comfortable with then put your agreement to their quote in writing. Make sure you outline any verbal correspondence including agreed time-scales and payment terms.

Remember to use your common sense, never become over-friendly with the contractor and if the price is too good to be true, then stay well clear.

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