SIGNpost : A Guide to Tradesmen
Trying to find an appropriate tradesman that you can rely on is
often difficult. We have put together this brief guide to try and help
you be more aware of some of the issues.
The Knock on the Door
If you are not reacting to an emergency repair need in your home you
should take your time and plan the work that needs doing. Do not
respond to 'professionals' who knock on your door or send you a note
suggesting that you need work carrying out. Key things to be wary of
about such approaches to obtain work this way are:
- A phone call or a knock on the door from someone doing work in your
area - it is only advisable to consider such an approach if you can
talk to, and see the work done for a satisfied customer in your area.
Also, beware that these tradesmen can exert a great deal of pressure
and can often sound very convincing - avoid agreeing to anything
immediately and always check out what they are suggesting with other
- Flyers through the door - these may be from reputable
tradesmen, but check out the details first. For example, if you can
only contact them by telephone, especially if only a mobile, beware -
not necessarily that they may be rogue but consider how difficult it
may be for you to contact them if things go wrong. And, of course, the
same thing applies to those who knock on the door.
Often it is some form of urgent situation for which you need a
professional. Try and build up a list of contacts that you can keep
handy for when the need arises, so avoiding the need to just stick a
pin in the Yellow Pages. A little bit of research now could save time
and money later.
Finding Someone Reliable
- The most important aspect is to do your homework, take your time
(if you can), and never just give the work to the first person that
- Recommendations from neighbours, friends or relations are always very useful.
- Look for long established locally based outfits wherever possible.
- Look at trade association lists of members or tradesmen
schemes in your area - try local branches of organisations such as Age
Concern, or Help The Aged who may have lists available. You could also
try your local Council - a few may be able to provide you with lists of
approved contractors or contact details of local consumer groups who
may also have lists.
- You may be able to get advice from your household insurer.
- Some larger companies rely on sub-contractors to carry out
their work. Always ask who will be carrying out the work if they are
not employees, what is their experience, how much has the company used
them in the past, and always obtain a telephone number in case of
- Whatever the source ALWAYS check them out by asking to see
examples of work and by talking to some of their satisfied customers.
If they are not prepared to give you a contact then do not proceed.
Doing the deal
- Prepare a 'specification' - this just needs to be a list in writing
(keeping a copy yourself with a date on it) of your requirements and
expectations. Also, if it is a large job, state on the list how you
would like the price broken down - this will make it easy for you to
make comparisons with other companies.
- Always obtain at least three estimates. If they are
reluctant to supply written estimates do not proceed. Make sure you
understand the detail of the estimate - if not, ask.
- Obtain a time scale, again in writing for large jobs (i.e. anything over a day), for the work.
- If it is a large job with significant amounts of materials
check the prices - variances may demonstrate where there is
overcharging or skimping on quality.
- Where there are measurements - double check, it's always
difficult to argue the point afterwards when you can't fit your car in
- If they belong to a trade association check with the
association that they really are members. Also, not all Associations
expect or enforce high standards so check what the Association expects
of members and also what they can do to help you if things go wrong.
- You should look for value for money - the cheapest is almost
always not the best - and always try and negotiate on price with your
chosen organisation. You could try for a fixed price where appropriate
(remember a fixed price gives you added security but the company is
going to build a contingency into the cost of the job).
- Agree payment terms before they start - do not ever pay the
entire amount up front - though you may have to make stage payments on
big jobs. Keep at least 10% back until you are completely satisfied
with the work including clearing up all the little snags you find after
the work is complete. If it is a large job consider early completion
bonuses or penalties for delays.
- When you have selected your contractor confirm the estimate
in writing listing all the critical details such as dates, payment
terms, quality specifications etc.
- Take an interest in the work as it proceeds - don't forget a little praise goes a long way. Keep a good supply of tea to hand!
Tradesmen Association Contacts
Listed below are trade associations you are most likely to need to
contact. A more detailed list of a dozen or so trade associations is
available from SIGNpost.
Most of these associations provide lists of members and also guides
to finding appropriate individuals/organisations. A large number of
associations have regional branches that deal with enquiries locally;
we have just listed the main contact telephone number and address. For
those of you with access to the Internet the associations listed all
Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors
The APHC is a trade organisation that promotes professional and
reputable heating and plumbing contractors. The APHC encourages good
working practises, professionalism and fair play for the consumer.
Their members should be fully trained, competent, plumbers and heating
engineers who are required to abide by a strict Customer Charter,
thereby 'ensuring quality installations and maintenance'.
APHC, Ensign House, Ensign Business Centre, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JA
Tel: 020 7647 0626 www.aphc.co.uk
Institute of Plumbing
Founded in 1906, the Institute of Plumbing is the UK's professional
body for plumbers and others in the plumbing industry. It has a
membership of 11,000, some 3500 of whom are listed in the Member
Directory on their website, where a local Registered Plumber can be
found by simply entering a postcode.
The Institute of Plumbing, 64 Station Lane, Hornchurch, Essex RM12 6NB
Tel: 01708 472791 www.plumbers.org.uk
The Electrical Contractors' Association
The ECA was founded in 1901. Its member firms range from local
employers with only a few employees to national multi-service companies
with many branches employing thousands of personnel - many operating
worldwide. The ECA website contains members lists and guides to
choosing an electrical contractor.
ECA, ESCA House, 34 Palace Court, London, W2 4HY
Tel: 020 7313 4800 www.eca.co.uk
National Federation of Roofing Contractors
The NFRC is the UK's leading trade association for the roofing
industry. Its Mission Statement is "to promote trade members to gain
more work and through this achievement to help associate members to
sell more products and collectively to achieve quality installations."
Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) are
small, not for profit, locally based organisations that provide advice,
support and assistance to elderly, disabled and vulnerable people (HIAs
are sometimes referred to as 'Staying Put' or 'Care and Repair'
NFRC, 24 Weymouth Street, London W1G 4LX
Tel: 020 7436 0387 www.nfrc.co.uk