When DIY just won’t cut it, you’ve got to bring in the professionals. But with tradespeople having such poor reputations, and horror stories abounding of property nightmares that never end, it can be daunting to even think about, let alone begin, the search. But sooner or later you’ll have to bite the bullet and push on. Here are our starter tips for finding a good tradesman.
Always ask for references and names of previous clients. You’ll need to do your research here and we recommend you find a few you can visit to speak with in person. Ask if you can check out the quality of work done previously.
Deal with established firms
Make sure they operate as a limited company, with an office address and telephone number listed on headed paper and a website. You can do a check on the health of their business at Companies House. You’ll want to make sure you are dealing with professionals who aren’t just taking on your project to plug holes in a failing venture. But also understand that younger and smaller businesses will not necessarily have extensive or impressive financial results. So look deeper into who is involved, and what their experience is.
Trade association membership
Not necessarily a guarantee of quality, but membership and engagement with trade bodies often entails having to sign up for and abide by certain standards and accreditation. Look for these badges and do your own research about whether this is valuable to your needs.
A clear specification
You need to be crystal clear about what you want. Remove as many variables as possible when requesting a quote, so that you can get an estimate and schedule that is based as much in reality as possible. You’ll want to see a staged process so that milestones can be tracked and payment structured against this to keep both parties motivated throughout. Always get more than one quote for your work to be able to compare and contrast, and be prepared to negotiate at every level with the tradespeople you want to use.
Consistent and clear communication
Project plans should leave nothing to the imagination, and you should have answers to all of your lingering questions before you agree to contract any work out. Your job doesn’t finish here though, as things will naturally change and might even go wrong during the process. Resolve issues quickly, and understand any lasting implications of new decisions on timeframes and costs.
Advance payments should be avoided. But be pragmatic – many businesses will not be swimming in cash-flow, so if they are a younger or smaller enterprise that you have confidence in and know will be “hungry” for the job, try and build in a shorter, incremental phases of work that can be completed and invoiced for instead. Ask for insurance-backed warranties for the work to mitigate any risks.
Keep records of everything
Your tradespeople may have their own project plans, but you need to keep your own records in parallel and in addition to their paperwork. Keep copies of receipts, invoices, and particularly all correspondence. Any oral conversations or agreements should be put into writing and be confirmed at every step of the process. You’ll need this if things go wrong and you need to take action.
You should always understand everything in writingL do not sign anything you have not read or do not understand or have doubts about. Make sure you can distinguish between specialists and high-pressure sales people. Do not agree to cash payments: your transactions must go through the proper channels.
If you have any problems or doubts, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Do your research and depending on the issue at hand, consult a solicitor, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, Trading Standards, Building Control or a trade association.
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