How do you find good tradesmen? Follow 3 simple rules.


How do you find good tradesmen, and how much do you need them? Well, even if you are a keen DIY enthusiast, there will always be some jobs where you need professional assistance. For example, you may need a builder for something large scale like constructing your new extension or on a much smaller scale you might need an electrician to move a few sockets. In all cases, the rules of engagement should always be the same.

It may sound harsh but I’m one of those people who have little sympathy for someone who has been the victim of a cowboy builder or tradesman because in most cases it is completely avoidable. There are exceptions here as a good con artist can take us all in, and like everyone I’m particularly disgusted when a predatory tradesman takes advantage of someone elderly or vulnerable. Situations like this aside, it always astounds me when I see on television, read about in the paper, or here from an acquaintance, that such and such has been ripped off by a ‘builder’, especially since the person in question generally seems reasonably intelligent. I don’t mean to upset past victims but at the most basic level……

1. If you let someone do some work in your home without giving you at least some kind of written estimate/price you’re effectively handing them a signed check, and allowing them to fill it in with a figure they want.

2.  If a tradesman gives you a price for a job and it seems very cheap in comparison to other prices you have received, this should alert you to the fact that there is going to be a potential problem. If the price seems too good to be true then, trust me, it is too good to be true.

3. If you pick a tradesman from a random advertisement, wherever it may be, and do not do any further research on the credentials of that tradesman, and you just go ahead and get him to do the job, you may as well open your front door, throw a load of cash in the street and hope that someone qualified will pick it up and miraculously carry out the job you wanted.

You may be lucky and get away with one or all three of the above. In all three situations you may find a perfectly qualified tradesman for the job, but why take the risk when it’s so unnecessary. The vast majority of those nightmare stories we all hear and read about would disappear if people avoided these three situations, as they are exactly the scenarios that the unscrupulous operator will look to exploit. We’ve all been taken in by a smiling face that promises the best, or a price that seems like a bargain, or a beautifully crafted advert that exudes confidence and professionalism, but you must always have a healthy scepticism about what is promised.

I would therefore suggest following 3 simple rules.

1. Only use tradesmen that have been recommended by a friend. This way you know they are capable, you know what they charge, and you know they can finish. If you really have no friends that have used tradesmen, or none that were any good, try acquaintances, and if you still have no luck, find tradesmen working near by, knock on the homeowner’s door at an appropriate moment and see if they’re happy with the work being carried out. Having any sort of personal recommendation is priceless.

2. Always get a written price for the job. This should contain plenty of detail about what the tradesman has agreed to do. Be much more vigilant if you are only supplied with a quote or estimate. So what’s the difference between prices, estimates and quotes? Well, a price is just like buying something from a shop – the figure is fixed – there’s no question of the price going up between picking the item up and getting to the till. However a quote or estimate is exactly as it suggests – it’s an estimate and therefore the final figure could go up. This is why it is always best to get a price so you know what you are going to spend.

3. Once you decide to employ the tradesman, don’t pay them until the job is finished and you’re happy. For a small job this is always the case. For a large job, it is acceptable to make stage payments throughout the contract, but at all times you need to see something for your money. Always, leave the largest stage payment till the end of the job.

The subject of tradesmen is definitely an area I want to comment on further – How much should they charge? Should you always get several prices? Do you need a written contract? Can you do your own project management? – are all examples of where I want to take this subject, but for the moment, stick to the rules and you just cannot go far wrong.




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