There are so many plumbers, builders, contractors, home maintenance companies (the list goes on) that it can be hard to know who to hire and who to trust. Searching trusted sites such as CheckATrade.com can help, but there are also other things you can do to make sure you have found the right company and ensure that you have done everything you need in preparation for picking the right contractor. So before you get any work done to your home, make sure to follow these top tips.
It’s important to make sure that you have all the permissions or approvals you need before commencing with any work, especially if it’s a small job. You may need to speak to building regulations if you are in an apartment block, even if it’s replacing a door, although if you are using a contractor that’s part of the competent person scheme you don’t need approval yourself. If you are looking to make a major change to your home, usually structural changes, then you need to get planning permission.
If you do have to get approval or permission, you may need to hire a surveyor or architect to help with the process. If you are a leaseholder then you may need to get permission from the freeholder before work begins.
How to find your contractor
You can use sites such as Check a Trade to find a contractor. Every company will be rated for their services, so you can get a rough idea of what their service is like. Alternatively – ask around. It’s rare that a friend will recommend someone who did a bad job!
Once you have found two or three who you think could do the work you can ask for examples of work that they’ve done (especially if it’s any form of modification or renovation).
It’s also important to check that whoever is doing your work is qualified and registered with the appropriate bodies. You can ask them for all the relevant paperwork or ID cards to prove their accreditations.
It’s also good to meet your contractors, especially if the job is going to be big, requires specific measurements, involves other factors that could affect the job or tricky. By meeting them you can communicate easier. Write everything down that is discussed – you can even send a copy to them by email and ask for confirmation from them to agree what was discussed.
ALWAYS ask for a written quote from each contractor you speak to and make sure you go through each point, ensuring the total is correct. It’s vital that when you agree on a job you are given a final quote and not an estimation. Of course, there will be times when working on a job there may be additional costs that may have to be added from extra work not in the quote, but always make sure your quote is as final as it can be. Also, sometimes mistakes can be made when making calculations and they do have the legal right to charge what you should have been, which is why it’s vital you study your final quote before committing.
What should my quote include?
Make sure when briefing the contractor you include everything needed for them to make the quote – be as clear as you can.
This can include:
- Architectural drawings
- A sketch by yourself indicating where changes need to be made
- Floor plans
- Structural plans
- Photos of examples
- Notes about any brands/items/suppliers you would like to use as part of the job
When you receive your quote it should include:
- A fixed price, not a daily rate (yes, the contractor may have a daily rate, but they will indicate how long a job will take, this is how the fixed price is calculated)
- A breakdown of the work and materials needed plus the costs for each
- How long the quote is valid for
- If the price includes VAT
- There must be a note if the price may go up or down (this could be based on variables that can’t be factored in until work commences, but a guide should always be provided with a note stating if changes may occur with the agreement of the client)
- How long the work will take
- How much notice is needed by you to work extra days
Before commencing with a job make sure the contractor is covered with the correct insurance.
There are a few different ones that the contractor may have, but the two main ones are:
- Public liability insurance: this covers you and them if someone is hurt. If they don’t then possibly investigate getting your own cover.
- Employers’ liability insurance: if a contractor is working through a company they will be covered, as will the company, if someone is hurt.
It’s also worth checking with your home or contents insurer if you are covered during the work.
Get that contract
Make sure that you have a written contract from the contractor. A verbal agreement is still a contract, so it’s vital that it is in writing and that you get that contract before giving the go-ahead.