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Top tips on selecting a tradesman

Top tips on selecting a tradesman

With fewer young people becoming plumbers, builders, electricians and carpenters, and demand for such tradesmen high, it can be tricky to find the right person if you need work carrying out.

So how do you go about it without ending up with some unskilled cowboy who causes you no end of trouble? Here are a number of golden rules to bear in mind:


Cheapest isn’t always a good sign

The first golden rule is not to always go for the cheapest option. Don’t forget, the tradesman might be cheap for a reason.


Be wary of online ‘reviews’ and listings

The second is not to necessarily trust someone just because they’re listed online and have ‘good’ reviews.

Many find-a-tradesman websites are simply listings directories which people pay to be on, and while review sites are helpful to an extent, it’s not always obvious if some reviews are faked.


Show and tell

If you can, ask to speak to someone the tradesman has previously worked for, and, especially in the case of builders or carpenters, try to arrange to see some of their work.

Recommendations from family and friends is nearly always the best approach, if that’s possible for you, but still stick to the golden rules.


Shop around

It goes without saying, but don’t just rely on one quote. While the cheapest certainly might not be the way to go, it might also be the case that even a good builder is going over the top with a quote, so get at least three.


Get quotes and details in writing

Tradesmen are notorious for not being great at writing things down – although not all of course! So always get quotes in writing, and agree stage payments, if necessary, and in detail, so there can be no argument.

Be careful to check if it’s a fixed price, or just an estimate. And if it is an estimate, ask what the possible percentage margin for error might be.


NEVER pay in full up front

Whoever the tradesman, even if it’s family member, never pay in full up front.

With builders, payment should be made at the end of the job and when any potentially snags have been ironed out. You can then see the work is complete.

Pay in stages for bigger jobs. For smaller jobs, such as having a new boiler fitted or piece of furniture made, an upfront payment might be needed for materials, but don’t pay for the labour until the job is done.



If you’re looking for a Gas-Safe registered plumber, qualified electrician or Master Builder, for example, you can check with the governing body that the tradesmen is on their books, and has the qualifications they say they do.

Websites such as can help, or (Federation of Master Builders).


Check insurance, or face the financial consequences

Water damage, fires, collapsed walls, incomplete work – all these problems can be hugely costly to remedy if either you or the tradesman you’ve employed doesn’t have the right insurance in place.

Check with your home insurance provider that you’re covered for any major work well before it begins. Additionally, ask to see proof the tradesman you’ve hired is covered for the work they’re doing – ask for documentation, and contact their insurer directly to check.


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Published 21 January 2019