How to Find the Right Home Improvements Contractor

Finding the right home improvements contractor

Whether you’re looking for a decorator for your living room or a builder for a large-scale extension - or any plumber, plasterer or electrician in between – finding the right tradesmen or contractor for your job is key.

Thanks to the telly we’ve all heard a lot about ‘rogue’ traders, but the truth is that most contractors are good at what they do. So how do you find them, and how do you avoid the bodgers and botchers that could cost you time, money, and peace of mind?

How to find the best home improvements tradesmen – 12 easy steps

1. Define your job

If you want to get the right person for the job, the first step is to be really clear about what the job actually is. If you’ve done your research and know exactly what you want done, your budget and your timescales, you’re off to a flying start.

2. Go on recommendations

The very best way to get the very best tradesmen is to go on personal recommendations from people you trust, and preferably from jobs you’ve seen completed. If your friend has a great new bathroom or fantastic loft extension, ask them who they used.

3. Get several quotes

The general rule of thumb for whatever work you’re having done is to get at least three different quotes. Meeting different tradespeople will give you a feel for who you want in your house and what they can do for you, and give you a basis for comparison.

4. Don’t go on price

Your budget is obviously very important, but be wary of comparing contractors only on price. The cheapest quote isn’t necessarily the best one, and in fact most reputable builders and tradesmen will put quality first, and won’t come in super-cheap. This is one area where you definitely pay for what you get.

5. Look for quality

Instead of price, look for quality.

How long have they been trading?

It’s worth checking out how long your contractor has been in business – if it’s only been a few weeks or months you’ll need to tread carefully. Look to see if they’re registered at Companies House, and how long they’ve been going.

Have they got a place of business?

Check to see if they have business premises. Be wary of anyone with only a website and phone number – both can be easily changed and the business can disappear quickly.

Are they a member of a trade association?

Most trades have a professional body or trade association which will have codes of conduct, complaints procedures, and will require members to reach certain standards to join, for instance the National Federation of Builders, or the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors.

Do they have another trust mark?

Just as gas engineers can have an official Gas Safe mark, other trades will have their own quality markers. You can also look for the TrustMark itself, a scheme introduced by the Government to cover all building trades.

There are also other top traders lists to check out  – for instance from Which?, Checkatrade and Rated People.

Do they have customer reviews?

Always check online for independent customer reviews – nothing the contractor could edit themselves. Look on their website, on social media, and on review sites like Trustpilot.

6. Get references

Ask to see case studies, pictures of previous work, and even if you can talk to previous clients who will act as references for the contractor’s work.

7. Be flexible

Good contractors get booked up. If you’ve got a big job you want doing right, you might not be able to get it done right now. If you can be flexible and wait in line for your contractor to finish other jobs, you’re more likely to get the right people for yours.

8. Get it written down

Always get things down in writing. At a minimum you need to know:

  • Exactly what’s included in the estimate, costed out by item, including labour
  • When work will start and an estimated completion date
  • Full price, VAT and a payment schedule, if needed
  • Any subcontractors being used
  • Health and safety information, including what will be done with waste materials.
  • For bigger and more complicated jobs you may need a proper JCT (Joint Contracts Tribunal) – a sort of building contract.

9.  Be prepared

Any sort of work on your home is likely to cause some level of disruption and mess, so be prepared. Make sure you’ve cleared the space your contractor will need to work in, and protected carpets/furnishings. Make it as easy as possible for your tradesmen to get in and get going, and do your part to keep things on track.

10. Be realistic

However prepared you are, things can go wrong with any kind of work you have done on your home. Make sure you’re realistic about this. Factor in a contingency budget of at least 10% to deal with any mishaps or unexpected issues, and at least 10-15% contingency on the timeline.

11. Communicate well

Make sure you communicate well with your contractors from the get go. Expectations have been set in writing, and that gives you something to refer to when asking if the job is keeping to time and budget. Provide tea and snacks, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s your job, and your property.

12. Go by the book

Make sure you’re following all the rules. That includes:

  • Checking your insurance so you know you’re covered for renovation work – particularly if your property is going to have lots of materials on site, or if it’s going to be unoccupied
  • Checking your contractor has the right insurance – including public liability insurance.
  • Making sure you’ve got the right paperwork and approvals in place from your Local Authority – including any planning permission – before work starts.
  • Ensuring you’ve got sign off for your work from a building inspector, and any completion certificates and appliance guarantees.

Home renovations insurance from Towergate

If you are carrying out major improvements to your property, you may want extra protection while you renovate. From repairs to extensions, we are able to provide cover for your property.

For more information on our home renovation insurance, visit our dedicated page or call us on 0344 892 1750 to speak to a specialist adviser.