Rushing into hiring a tradesperson could lead to problems you'll regret later. Here are the essential things to think about before hiring a contractor
Work needing done in the house? Don’t panic! Calling the first contractor you find after a quick google search often results in "cowboy" workers who aren’t up to the job.
So, how should you go about hiring a contractor?
Does this work really require a highly skilled professional?
Before you hire a contractor, first find out whether the job is something you could reasonably do yourself
First things first, do some research. Whether or not to hire a contractor in the first place has been covered here before, but it never hurts to go through the steps again.
Could I fix this myself? There are tons of resources available online for almost every domestic install and repair, and whilst a professional is often needed to complete the job, there are times when the solution to the problem does not require years of experience.
"There are tons of resources available online for almost every domestic install and repair"
Even if the work is definitely too complicated, learning about what needs to be done will help you understand the quote you will soon receive.
Whilst online forums will be brimming with unverified answers, YouTube is usually the best port of call. This is because you can see a professional explaining the works that need to be done, and how to do it.
How to find a good tradesman you can trust
Use websites like Trustmark to find experienced tradesmen that are registered with professional bodies
If the work is definitely beyond the homeowner, it’s worth going through a directory to find someone who is qualified.
There are official bodies and schemes which experienced tradespeople have paid to be a part of, and workers have to be qualified to enter these databases.
There are also competent persons schemes (CPS), which recognise good workers and have different organisations for different trades.
When finding a tradesperson, ensure they are qualified and accredited by a recognised body. This is the only way of verifying their experience in the industry.
In the worst-case scenario of a dispute over poor quality work and customer experience, the customer can get advice from the CPS representing the worker.
"When finding a tradesperson, ensure they are qualified and accredited by a recognised body"
Trustmark is a government scheme that works as an umbrella organisation for scheme providers across all building service trades. On their website, you can search for accredited professionals in your area, from landscapers to plasterers.
Databases like Checkatrade also thoroughly vet their members and offer guarantees on the quality of work.
Some traders are not affiliated with databases but with more specified schemes. See NICEIC or NAPIT for electricians, the Federation of Master Builders for small and medium-sized building companies or the APHC for plumbing and heating contractors. Try the NFRC for roofers or the Gas Safe Register for heating and gas services.
How to make sure the price quoted is fair
If you understand the job at hand, you will understand the quote. By doing thorough research into what needs to be done, you will know if a quote is unfair. Don’t be afraid to ask the tradesperson for details of the job, and how long it will take them.
If a worker is unwilling to break down their quote and explain how they’ve arrived at their price, it’s usually because they are hiding something.
"If you understand the job at hand, you will understand the quote"
Good quality work does cost money, and prices can be high, but it’s important to remember that qualified contractors are highly skilled and that experience does cost a premium.
It is worth making sure a job gets done once and done well as opposed to a neverending cycle of deficient work and neverending costs. Try to get multiple quotes. But be warned, cheaper is not always better!
How to evaluate whether the tradesperson is up to the job
Note the contractor's manner when they explain the job to you—openness and willingness to explain details of the job are usually good signs
Are they friendly and clearly explaining the job at hand, or using technical jargon to confuse you? Did they turn up on time? Polite and professional, or aloof and clandestine?
As a customer usually has no knowledge of the work at hand, you can’t really know the standard of their craft. Try to look at pictures on their website, or online reviews. Ask other contractors if they know someone qualified who can help you out. Experienced tradespeople know good quality work when they see it.
How to help the tradesperson cut costs
Once you’ve found a contractor, ask them what they need from you. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way.
Clarify what times there will be noise, or when the water or power will need to go off. Should I clear the room or property of furniture to make access easier? Is it cheaper if I provide the materials to complete the job?
Anything the customer can do to make the job easier or faster will be appreciated by the tradesperson, and in turn, make for a better price.
If your job requires skip hire to discard the building materials, always offer to book the skip yourself in your name. Sometimes tradespeople can add a service charge for booking the skip on your behalf, so it will be cheaper if you book yourself and you can shop around first. You’ll also have a less stressful time arranging the skip to be collected if it is in your name.
Read more: DIY errors to avoid at all costs
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