Choosing the right tradespeople

Sadly after flooding, unscrupulous 'flood protection companies' tend to come out of the woodwork and prey on the already vulnerable. These tips will help you avoid 'cowboy builders' and find contractors you can trust.

Choose the right tradespeople. Many people spend more time planning a holiday than they do considering their options when it comes to building work. Yet the building work may cost ten times as much and involves your most prized asset – your home.

Things you should consider. What’s the point in having work done cheaply if it results in shoddy workmanship using sub-standard materials? The money you ‘save’ will end up being spent, along with a lot more, when you have to get another builder in to put things right. You need a tradesperson who will do a quality job, at a sensible price. After all, you will remember the quality of your building work long after you’ve forgotten how much it cost.

Start with referrals from family or friends. If possible, start by getting a referral from family or friends who have recently had work done. Don’t just rely on a glossy advert in the paper or phone book. But don’t stop there.

Does the tradesperson belong to a respected trade body?  Always try to use tradespeople who are members of trade associations. There are no guarantees about the quality of their work but most should be reputable. These associations carry out checks on the tradesperson before they gain membership status. This will minimise the risk of choosing a “cowboy builder”. All the associations have a code of conduct that members should follow. The most common associations include The Federation of Master Builders the National Federation of Builders and Rated People. You could check the membership criteria and make sure they really are a member. Plumbers should be registered with GASSAFE and electricians should be registered with NICIEC, ECA or NAPIT.

Ask for references….and check them! Ask each trade for two or three references for the type of work you are planning. Contact these people and find out how happy they are with the work and the builder’s conduct. If possible go and view some of the work.

Well established firms. Look out for firms which have been in business for some time and which have permanent premises that you can visit. Beware of trades’ cards which only carry a telephone number, often only a mobile number. If you are undertaking larger works, take up trade references.

How to avoid the 'cowboy builder'. What to look for:

Beware if…

  • They turn up unannounced
  • They insist on cash only
  • They overstress any faults
  • You are not given any paperwork at all
  • They seem reluctant to give a business name and address
  • They are very insistent on getting cash straight away
  • Beware – The VAT free ‘deal’, ask them why and how

What to do. Make sure that…

  • You insist on a seven-day cooling off period, to which the law entitles you, if the visit was not asked for.
  • You request a written quotation and job specification with the company details on it.
  • They have a public liability insurance certificate.

Never pay in advance. Deposits are usually only payable where specific or custom made materials are required. Otherwise, avoid paying deposits and agree any stage payment schedule in writing. Avoid dealing in cash. Don’t pay any of the money until you have carried out a completion inspection. Defects may be identified during the completion inspection and if the contractor has moved on it may be difficult to get him back to your job. Remember, once you have parted with your cash it will be almost impossible to obtain any redress if things should go wrong.

If problems arise, tell the tradesperson straight away. If any problems arise whilst work is in progress, or you are unhappy about anything, talk to your contractor right away. If the contractor is a member of a trade association they may have a mediation or arbitration service. You can, of course, ask your local council for advice but you must remember its comments will be limited to seeing that the work meets the requirements of the Building Regulations which are themselves only minimum standards. Councils cannot provide a quality control service and should not be a substitute for your own clerk of works or other professional advisor.

We have listed some directories and agencies as a guide to what’s available:

  • Blue Pages is an online directory of flood services and products available to help make your home more resilient against future flooding. Website: Tel: 01299 403 055
  • Age UK is a website where the traders and businesses listed have been checked by local Age UK staff to ensure that they are qualified, insured and have a history of reliable and trustworthy trading. Website: Tel: 0800 012 6508
  • Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is the UK’s largest trade association for the construction industry, championing continuous improvement in building standards for over 75 years. Website: Tel: 0330 333 7777
  • National Federation of Builders (NFB) is a UK trade association representing the interests of regional contractors and small and medium sized house builders in England and Wales. Website: Tel: 0345 057 8163
  • Rated People is an online market place that connects homeowners with local tradespeople. Website: This is an online service only; there is no contact telephone number available.
  • Considerate Constructors Scheme is a non-profit making, independent organisation founded in 1997 by the construction industry to improve its image. Website: Tel: 0800 783 142

You may also find the following pages useful: