Things to look for in a good tradesman

Paint brushes Guest blogger Iain Aitch of highlights the things you should look for when selecting a tradesman.

With the housing market still in a slump, more and more homeowners are looking to improve or expand their current homes instead of moving on.

But how do you ensure that your hard-earned money is not going towards decreasing rather than increasing the value and our enjoyment of your home? After all, hiring a shoddy tradesman can have a major negative impact on the price of your property. And poor work can often be very painful and very expensive to rectify.

With 63,000 trade professionals on our books, we at like to think we have a good idea of what makes a good tradesman. So here is our guide to finding a top tradesman and not ending up with one who arrives wearing spurs and leaves with most of your bank balance.

Read the signs
That builder who arrives in a white van to quote for your job may be trustworthy and do a good job. But think how much more comfortable you will feel if you choose the one who arrives in a sign-written van. It shows they have been in business for a while and are proud to display their business name and contact details.

Some materials manufacturers (such as Dulux) insist that tradesmen have sign-written vans before they are allowed to be recognised users and suppliers of their products.

Treading on toes
Don't be afraid to tread on toes when hiring a builder, literally if you are hiring someone to do work that involves demolition or heaving construction work.

A painter or a plasterer may be okay in trainers or even flip-flops, but anyone turning up to knock down walls in plimsolls is showing themselves up as an amateur.

Trust your eyes
A good tradesman should always be happy for you to physically go and see examples of his work in your local area. This may be irrelevant when hiring a plumber to fit a new washer in your tap, but it is vital when getting an extension built or a loft conversion completed.

If your tradesman stalls on letting you see previous work then walk away.

Pop round for a cuppa
A building firm of any size should have a business address and premises. Sole traders may operate from their home address, but they should still be willing to provide you with that and a landline telephone number.

If all you have is a mobile number then expect to get stung and for the builder to spend your money on a new sim card and new number if he bodges your job. If in doubt, then pop around to the address you have been given.

Read the reviews
Our users can review any tradesman they hire. We check details like liability insurance and their contact details, so you can be sure of who you are dealing with and their reliability. The phone book and small ads in the newspaper don't offer this reassurance.

Feel the quality
Good materials cost more for a reason and this reason is quality. If your tradesman turns up with a bag-full of paint from the local discount shop or the bricks are delivered in a ten-year-old Ford Fiesta then you should start to ask serious questions.

If you want a particular type of paint, carpet or central heating system then always tell your tradesmen.

Can I quote you on that?
Don't hire a tradesman who says he can quote for a large job on the phone. Expect a tradesman to turn up, ask a lot of questions and provide you with a detailed, itemised quote for your job.

Rummage in the toolbag
A good tradesman should look after his tools and should also have the sort of kit you can only salivate over at Wickes or online. If his power tools look more like something your four-year-old got last Christmas then take a closer look.

The industry standard is for 110-volt tools, rather than the 240-volt screwdriver you may use to put your Ikea furniture together.

Don't pay up front
It is fine to pay a tradesman a small deposit, especially if they are hiring equipment such as cranes, diggers or skips, but never pay for labour up-front.

Make sure that any materials you pay for are delivered to the site and that you check you have all you paid for. If it is a large job then agree to pay the builders at set stages.

Check the qualifications
For electrical and most gas work it is essential to check that your tradesman is qualified, as you may end up with dangerous work if you don't. An electrician should be Part-P qualified and a heating engineer or gas fitter should be on the Gas Safe Register. If a gas fitter assures you he is CORGI-registered then he is behind the times and may not be qualified to complete any gas work.

If you have any doubts at all then trust your instincts. There are always plenty of trustworthy, qualified tradesmen who are willing to complete your work competently and on time. Most tradesmen are good at what they do. Just follow our guide and make sure the bad guys don't end up working on your home.

Iain Aitch is content manager at

What do you look for when picking a tradesman? Or do you try to do it all yourself? Tell us about your experiences in the comment box below.

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