Five tips for choosing a contractor
1. It's no secret that one of the best ways to find someone who'll do a good job is to get a recommendation from a friend, family member, neighbour or colleague. However, it doesn't necessarily work well when it's a recommendation from another tradesperson. While your plumber may know a good electrician they've worked with before, for example, if it's a case of trying to get a mate some work, be cautious. It's also the case that some tradespeople do a good job the first few times you use them and then become unreliable, perhaps because they have too much work - they're only as good as their last job.
2. If you don’t have a recommendation from a fellow customer, where can you turn? An architect, if you’re using one, may have contractors they use regularly and can get quotations from. Depending on how much you want the architect to do (and how much you want to pay them), they may also be able to manage the project and contractors for you, saving time and energy.
3. A trade body, such as the Federation of Master Builders (www.fmb.org.uk), can be a good place to start. Most trade bodies have a section on their website where you can search for members and check membership. There should also be an explanation of what qualifications members have and the code of practice they’ve signed up to or the undertakings they make, etc, so you know what to expect.
4. For some jobs, it’s essential to check the tradesperson you’re employing belongs to the professional body they claim to. For example, if you need someone to work on a gas appliance, by law they have to be a member of Gas Safe Register. You can check someone’s credentials at www.gassaferegister.co.uk, and search for members near you.
5. Gas Safe Register members can self-certify that their work complies with building regulations, and this is useful with other trades too. It means you don’t need to employ a building control or approved inspector (unless it’s a job only they can sign off on) to confirm that the work complies with building regs, as the contractor can do it themselves - and issue a certificate to confirm this, which you may need when you sell your home. While this isn’t necessary for all jobs, it is for some, including a lot of electrical work. Many electricians who can self-certify their work belong to NICEIC. The NICEIC website - www.niceic.com - is particularly useful because it has a Wall of Shame page, which lists electricians trying to pass themselves off as NICEIC members when they’re not. Always check your contractor’s credentials!