Guide to hiring tradespeople

Not sure how to pick the right tradesperson for the job? Below we talk you through some useful tips that’ll help guide you through the process. Perhaps not all of the points below will be relevant to your scenario (particularly if it is only a small job), but nonetheless they’ll provide some inspiration on how to approach hiring a tradesperson.

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Planning and preparation

Be organised – when you speak to tradespeople they’ll be pleased if you’re organised. Changing your mind halfway through a project will cause frustration on both sides and likely be costly. Think ahead and plan properly to prevent this.

Building regulations and planning permission – check if you need these. They’re not just required for large projects. Some smaller projects like replacing windows or electrical work can fall under building regulations. Hiring tradespeople that are registered with a competent persons scheme can make dealing with this more straightforward.

Write a brief – write a clear description of what you want a tradesperson to do. Include as much detail as you can think of and be as concise as you can. Think about measurements, architect plans, materials, finishes, fixtures and fittings.

Communicate clearly – if you communicate your requirements clearly up front it makes it easier for tradespeople to provide an accurate quote and reduce the likelihood of surprises popping up later.

Keep a written trail – put things in writing. Put what you’ve discussed down on paper, well most likely email or text message – so long as it is recorded it’ll help maintain clear communication and could be useful if things go wrong.

Assessing their experience

Ask for references – good tradespeople will happily introduce you to previous clients particularly for larger, more expensive projects.

Ask how long they’ve been in the trade – most tradespeople learn their skills on the job. Time served is a good indicator of how much experience they have.

Explanation of their approach – ask them to explain in detail how they will do the work. If they can’t do this clearly (and on the spot) it’s a sign they may not have the experience you require.

Similar previous projects – tradespeople that specialise in the kind of work you want doing is a plus. Don’t hire a handyman to fit a kitchen – you want a kitchen fitter or carpenter.

Pictures of previous work – ask them to send you pictures of their previous work to help you get a feel for their quality. You can do an image search on the photos they send to check they are not stock photographs, if they are – ditch them!

Check their reviews – Google them and look for reviews (or other information about them) about them.

Check their credentials

Gas Safe Register – if a tradesperson does any gas work then by law they must be Gas Safe registered. They should carry an ID card which you can use to look them up on the Gas Safe Register yourself and verify that they are registered. In order to be registered a gas engineer must undergo training and assessment in matters relating to gas safety.

Part P (electrical work) – Part P of the Building Regulations refers to most electrical work around the home. All electrical work under Part P must either be reported to your local authority’s building control or be carried out by an electrician that is registered with a government approved Part P scheme (such as NICEIC or NAPIT).

Public Liability Insurance – technically it is not a legal requirement for tradespeople to have public liability insurance. But common sense tells us you should insist on it. Good quality tradespeople will be happy to show you their insurance documents, particularly if you’re working on a large project together. It’ll help cover you if you’re injured or your property is damaged as a result of their work.

Trade associations – although there’s no requirement for tradespeople to be a member of a trade association, it is a positive sign of their professionalism and ongoing commitment to standards for their work.

Registered business details – ask for their business details. You should obtain as a minimum their name, telephone, email and address. If they’re a limited company, check the company number on Companies House. This is to help protect you – honest tradespeople will be happy to provide you with it. If they refuse or provide a patchy response you have to wonder why?

Reviewing quotes

Get multiple quotes – always get multiple quotes. This will help you get a feel for what it should cost. If any seem ridiculously expensive relative to the others it may be a sign they’re trying to overcharge you. If any seem too cheap then it’s possible they’ve not understood your requirements or will rush the job and you’ll end up with substandard work.

Quotes vs estimates – beware of estimates, they are exactly that; an estimate of the final cost (and likely to change, upwards). A quote is an agreed (fixed) price for the work in question (assuming the scope of work does not change). Although there are some legitimate scenarios where estimates are a reasonable way forward (e.g. projects for which there are unknown variables until the work commences), in the vast majority of situations insist on a quote.

VAT – clarify if VAT is payable. You should be clear on the final price you pay (which should include VAT, if applicable).

Cash – cash payments can be tempting. But you open yourself up to more risk if you pay by cash. If you pay by card, you may be able to get some of it back if something goes wrong.

Cheap – if a quote is significantly cheaper than all other quotes that you’ve received it may be too good to be true.

Materials – are they included and what to what specification?

Additional costs – discuss additional costs with tradespeople. Are there other costs you’ll incur asides their costs? Think about things like building regulations, waste removal and clearing up afterwards.

Sub contractors – ask if they will use any subcontractors. You may want to conduct some research about them as well if they do use them.

Choosing which tradesperson to hire

Cost – don’t automatically go for the cheapest quote. Take into account the other factors discussed here plus any factors that are relevant to your scenario. Remember that high quality, experienced tradespeople may charge more, but that’s usually because they’re good at what they do and have spent many years learning their trade.

Suitability for the job – consider their experience and if it is a good fit for your project.

Trust, rapport and gut feel – do you get along well with them? Do you trust them? If not, do you really want to work with them? Don’t ignore gut feelings.

Contracts and agreements

Keep a record – put things in writing (an email or even a text message will do). This helps to keep things clear for both parties.

Timescales – this should be taken into account. How long will it take, when will it be started and completed?

Payment schedule – agree on a payment schedule.

Payment method – agree on a payment method.

Deposits – avoid paying too much of a deposit. Never pay in full upfront. For some projects particularly larger ones it is reasonable that you’re asked to pay a deposit but never pay more than 25%. If you’re asked to pay a deposit, always ensure you have a written agreement in place first, that you’ve verified their business details and don’t pay a cash deposit. Ask for a receipt after you’ve paid.

Receipts for payments – get receipts for every payment you make.

Registered business details – confirm their business details like their trading name, address and so on. For limited companies you should be able to find them on Companies House website.

Materials – be clear on what materials are included in the quote.

Guarantees – if you’re offered a guarantee, make sure this is in writing before you agree to the work.

Certificates – if appropriate discuss what certificates you’ll receive and when. This is usually applicable to things like gas installations, electrical work, window replacement or anything to do with building regulations. Talk about this before agreeing to the work – and put it in writing what certificates you’ll receive and when.