More often than not there’s a long list of DIY jobs you’d like to get done at home and sometimes you need a professional.
Whatever the size of the project, you want to be confident that you’re hiring the best tradespeople possible for the job and that they’re someone you can trust.
But unless you already know of a good builder, it can be hard to know who will be a good choice. Here are some ways to help you find a reliable, competent builder.
Get recommendations from friends and family
This is a tried and tested way of finding a builder or tradesperson. Simply ask friends, family or neighbours if they’ve used anyone for similar work before and whether they’d recommend them.
You could also keep any eye out locally for homes that have had similar work done to what you’re planning, such as a loft conversion or an extension, probably two of the most common home improvements right now. Knock on the door and ask if they’d recommend their builder.
Use social media (with caution)
More than two thirds (71%) of UK homeowners look for tradespeople on social media, particularly on Facebook, according to a 2018 survey.
However, while using social media is a popular way of finding builders and other tradespeople, it does require a little added care. If you ask for recommendations on social media, then only do so from someone you know and trust, such as a friend or relative.
If you have a company or person in mind, you could also check if they have a facebook profile. These usually feature comments and reviews – another indication of whether to use them.
Buy with Confidence
There are several schemes and registers which have been set up with the aim of helping people find trusted tradespeople, including builders.
Among them is the Buy With Confidence scheme, which lists businesses that have been vetted and monitored by local authority Trading Standards departments to ensure they operate in a legal, honest and fair way.
The system isn’t yet available everywhere, but is currently supported by more than 60 local authorities.
Every business listed has undergone a series of detailed checks by Trading Standards staff before being approved as a member of the scheme.
You can use the Buy with Confidence website to search by business type in your area or by the name of a business, to see if it’s on the register. You’ll see that it isn’t just tradespeople, but all sorts of business types.
TrustMark is a government-endorsed scheme intended to raise standards among tradespeople.
If a firm is TrustMark registered, it is working to a code of practice aimed at giving you greater confidence and protection. The trader must meet a certain level of competence, and have their work regularly inspected to ensure consistent quality. They must also have made a positive commitment to good customer services and trading practices.
A non-profit organisation, TrustMark, has over 14,000 businesses on its books.
One of several commercially run review websites, Checkatrade enables you to search for tradespeople who work near you.
The site says it runs strict background checks on tradespeople before they can become members. Then, members of the scheme give out a feedback card with every job, and the reviews are posted online.
Another way to check a builder’s credentials is to see if they are a member of a trade association, as these often set their own standards for companies that join them.
For example, the Federation of Master Builders has a Find a Builder search tool to find a Master Builder in your local area. It says that FMB members are professionally vetted and independently inspected.
Another organisation to try is the National Federation of Builders (NFB), which has a search function enabling you to check or find a builder in your area or by company name. It warns that some builders fraudulently claim membership of trade associations, so you should call the association and make sure they are a genuine member.
Anyone can put a logo on their website to make them look more professional and legitimate – so it’s best to double check to be on the safe side.
As a final check, it’s always worth a quick search on google, for the company or name your considering, in case you can see any reviews – positive or negative.
Now you have the tools to help you find a good builder, how else can you ensure you’ve got the right person for the job? The National Federation of Builders offers tips including:
- Ask the builder how long they have been trading and their experience in the work you need completing.
- Get references, and even contact previous customers to see if they were happy with the work.
- Obtain quotes in writing, detailing what is covered and what isn’t.
- Avoid a ‘VAT-free’ deal as you won’t have any proof of payment.
- Put details of the job down in writing.
- Agree payment terms clearly in writing.
- Avoid paying upfront or a cash deposit.
- Ask the builder if they have insurance to protect themselves against property damage and personal and public liability.
Finally, be very wary of anyone who approaches you out of the blue, such as cold calling at your door. Finding a builder through recommendations and your own research is a better way to go.
It’s also worth remembering that while you should be as careful as possible, there are many, many reputable builders out there who’ll do a great job for you.