Fri 03 Feb 2017
Whether you have problems with your central heating or you're about to build a loft extension, spotting the difference between reliable tradesmen over cowboy builders or plumbers can be tricky. Most of us have come across dodgy workmen, and even suffered at their hands. But how many of us have failed to spot the warning signs?
If you follow our 10 top tips, you should be able to invite tradespeople into your home without living to regret it:
1. GO WITH PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION
It goes without saying, a personal recommendation is always preferable to a written reference. If you're considering a new loft extension and one of your neighbours has had a similar extension built, and to their satisfaction, that is the best possible start. A friendly neighbour might be so proud of their loft extension that they will show you around their home to let you take a closer inspection of the work.
2. GET MORE THAN JUST ONE QUOTE
It is just common sense to get three different estimates/quotes for all but the most basic building or plumbing works. The estimates should be for a job which you have specified in detail, not in vague or ambiguous terms. But you should not necessarily choose the lowest estimate, particularly if you entertain doubts about the competency of the company. And if none of the estimates inspire you with confidence, be prepared to widen your search. Always trust your instincts.
3. ASK FOR ESTIMATES IN WRITING
Make sure that estimates are submitted in writing from bona fide companies with a proper business address. Some cowboys like to hide their traces, whereas reputable tradespeople are open and above board.
4. FOR LARGE SCALE PROJECTS CHOOSE AN EXPERIENCED CONTRACTOR
In the case of large-scale building work, you should put a premium on experience when choosing your contractor. A company that has been trading for 15 years trumps an enthusiastic newcomer. You should also double-check that they have the relevant safety qualifications to install gas and electricity etc.
5. FIND ONE WHO HAS DONE WORK ON HOMES SIMILAR TO YOURS
Depending on the complexity of the building work you want done, you need to satisfy yourself that the company you are employing has done work on homes similar to yours. For instance, if relevant, do they have experience with period properties, listed buildings or working in a Conservation Area? Find out before you give them the go ahead.
6. LOCAL TRADESPEOPLE
This is not a hard-and-fast rule, but local tradespeople are generally preferable to ones who live miles away. If building companies are having to factor in travel time, it may inflate their estimates.
7. SPEND WISELY
Be very wary of tradespeople offering a discount if you pay in cash. They may take short-cuts with guarantees and insurance clauses.
8. AGREE A START AND FINSIH DATE
It is critical, particularly with large-scale building works, that the contract you sign with your builders includes not just a full description of the work, but a start and finish date. Unforeseen delays can lead to particularly acrimonious disputes. Penalty clauses for late completion of the job are sometimes advisable, but may be difficult or expensive to enforce. It is also worth agreeing in writing that the property will be left in mint condition, and that you will not be expected to clear up after the builders.
9. NEVER PAY UP FRONT
Contractual clarity about how payments for the work should be staged is also essential. You may be asked to pay a deposit, but you should never, for obvious reasons, make final payment until the job has been completed. Hold some of the money back until the work is carried out to your satisfaction. It is worth going around your home with the tradesperson, snagging the job and agreeing the areas that need improving. Then put this in writing on an email.
10. CHECK YOU'RE INSURED FOR BUILDING WORKS
The best way to avoid sleepless nights is to insure yourself against things going wrong. You should not only check your own insurance policy before starting major building works, but ask for proof that the company you are using has its own insurance against unforeseen problems in the course of the work.
"Hi Stuart I wanted to thank you and all at the office for all the help you've given me with 10 W* G*. Not being local, the service both you and your staff have given has been outstanding - above and beyond - and I don't know how I would have managed without you."