There are times when it feels as if a good, reliable tradesman is more elusive than a unicorn. You know the feeling: you want a new stainless steel radiator or a towel radiator fitting in your home, but finding a plumber to do the job is impossible. None of the people you contact are interested in such a small job, and most don’t even bother replying to your voicemail message. So what are your options?
You could have a go at doing the job yourself, but there is only so much you can learn from a YouTube video and besides, you don’t have the right tools for the job anyway.
Asking a DIY enthusiast friend to help you out is a better option, but that will leave you indebted to them and do you really want “Big Mike” asking you to baby-sit his Rottweiler for a weekend?
Word of Mouth
The best way to track down a reputable tradesman who isn’t going to rip you off and leave your home looking like a building site is to use personal recommendations. Using word of mouth will ensure you only hire tradesmen who have a good reputation. If you have some work that needs doing, ask friends and family if they can recommend a plumber, heating engineer, electrician, etc. It isn’t foolproof, but it will weed out the worst offenders.
Another way to find someone reliable is to task another tradesman in a different niche. For example, if you need a plasterer, ask a builder or plumber as they usually work with plasterers and will therefore have lots of contacts. You might even be able to score a discount in the process.
TrustMark is a government-backed scheme. Tradesmen listed on the website have to be approved, which means they are more trustworthy. In order to be able to display the TrustMark logo, a tradesman must sign up for a code of practice, submit to checks on his financial and trading history, plus allow on-site inspections. There is no guarantee that a TrustMark approved contractor won’t go out of business and leave you high and dry, but you are more protected than if you hire a random person from the Yellow Pages.
There are plenty of online recommendation websites purporting to offer reviews and ratings of tradesman. Think of them as a kind of ‘Trip Advisor’ for tradesmen. How they work is pretty simple: Fred the Plumber can register on an online recommendation website, which provides a convenient platform for him to tout for business. Once he has done a job, his customer is invited to rate his services and the more positive reviews he has, the more work he will get. In theory it sounds good, but in practice sites have been accused of removing negative reviews. There is also nothing to stop tradesmen asking friends and family to leave glowing feedback in order to boost their online profile.
There are several big recommendation websites to choose from, including:
Practice Due Diligence
Once you have drawn up a shortlist of potential tradesmen, check them and their work out thoroughly. Make sure they carry the correct licenses for the type of work they are quoting for. Ask if they can provide references and if they use social networking, look at how they interact with customers.
Always obtain detailed quotes and if there is anything you are not sure about, ask for clarification. Do not pay in advance for work to be carried out, although you may be asked to pay a percentage of the cost of materials in advance. Lastly, make sure you get everything in writing, including the scope of the job and the amount agreed upon. That way you are protected if it all goes wrong at a later stage.