10 top tips to help you find a good contractor

Written by

Luke Hilton

Luke Hilton is a Warrington-based email content writer and designer in the financial services industry. He enjoys mixing analytics and creativity and can usually be found with his head buried in stats, piecing together the patterns that make good content. In his spare time, the drive to figure things out continues with what can only be described as a love-hate relationship with DIY. With a keen love of the outdoors, Luke is usually up a mountain somewhere or in his garden growing his own oasis.

Friday 9th February 2024

Finding a reliable and skilled contractor is a key part of any major home improvement project. In this blog, we’re sharing our top tips to help you choose the right tradespeople for the job.

1. Know when to do it yourself… and when to call in the pros

DIY isn’t for everyone, but it can be a rewarding hobby if you have the skills to take on a home improvement project yourself.

It’s always better to instruct a contractor than attempt a potentially dangerous task. Jobs such as removing a wall, repairing a roof, bathroom installations, electrical work or anything to do with gas appliances should usually be left to the pros.

2. Use online tools to find reputable contractors

If you’re just starting your search, trade directories or organisations can help you find reputable contacts.

Think of it a bit like a matchmaking service for contractors – you’ll enter your requirements and the site will match you up with suitable tradespeople.

Depending on the type of project you’re doing, the TrustMark tool, the Federation of Master Builders’ Find a Builder, Rated People or Checkatrade can be good places to start.

3. Ask for recommendations

If a tradesperson has done a good job for friends, family or neighbours in the past, they’ll be happy to provide a recommendation. What better way to find out what it’s like to work with a contractor than by chatting to someone who’s lived the experience?

You might have even spotted a building project happening in your neighbourhood. Tradespeople will often promote their business outside or you’ll spot their van but you could make sure the homeowners were happy with the quality of work before asking the contractor for a quote. Local Facebook groups are a great place to get real opinions on people’s experiences with tradespeople in your area too.

Finally, remember that people in the same profession often connect and network. Your plumber might know a reliable electrician, the contractor who repaired your roof might be able to recommend a landscaper and so on. Those in the trade may be happy to pass on the contact details of their most trusted connections if you ask them.

4. Get multiple quotes

So you’ve got a quote from a contractor you like and trust. It’s very tempting to go right ahead and ask them to get started – particularly if you’re on a tight deadline. But what if they’re charging over the odds?

Get detailed quotes from at least three different contractors. This will give you an accurate cost comparison and help you make the right decision.

As with everything, don’t automatically choose the cheapest quote. Is the contractor planning to use low-quality materials? Are they fully qualified? Do they have poor reviews? Do some digging if you have a suspicion the quote is too good to be true.

5. Check their qualifications

Any contractor you work with should be fully qualified for the work they’re quoting for, with relevant insurance in place. It’s a good idea to ask to see evidence of any certification or accreditations before they commence work on your property.

Ask if they’re affiliated with any professional associations or trade organisations, too, as this is usually a good way to check they’re a respectable, reputable firm.

6. Ask to see their portfolio

You’ll want to see evidence of previously completed projects and make sure they’re in-line with the quality of work you’re expecting. Someone who’s a dab hand at DIY may be able to help with the odd job, but you might not trust them to completely refit your kitchen if they’ve no examples of having done it before.

Don’t be afraid to ask for references either. You might not need to speak to a past customer for a small plumbing job but if you’re hiring a contractor for a large renovation project it’s important to do as much research as you can. Speaking to a past customer about their experience can give you peace of mind.

7. Seek out reviews

Not every contractor will have social media (though many reputable businesses do understand the benefits of having a digital presence). But they should have online reviews, whether they’re displayed on their own website / social channels or on an external reviews site such as TrustPilot.

8. Look out for red flags

There’s no way to 100% know what a contractor will be like to work with. However, their conduct during your first meeting can be a good indication. Did they arrive on time for the appointment? Were they friendly, polite and professional? Were they comfortable showing you evidence of their past projects, and happy to provide testimonials from past customers?

Remember, this person may be welcomed into your home for an extended period. It’s important you trust them to do the job well, but it’s important to have a good working relationship with them too. You don’t have to be best mates, but you will need to get on if you want a hassle-free project.

9. Work it all out in advance

A reputable contractor will be happy to work with you to iron out the finer details before commencing work. They should provide a written quotation which includes payment terms and anticipated timescales so you’re both clear on expectations.

If you’re working with a contractor on a large project you may wish to ask for a legal written contract and a full brief. This will really get into the nitty gritty, detailing exactly what needs to be done and what is or isn’t included in the quote (such as materials, cleaning, disposal of waste, subcontractors etc).

Be very wary if a tradesperson won’t provide a written quote or demands full payment upfront.

10. Treat your tradespeople well

So far, this article has focused entirely on what you should expect from your contractor. But a working relationship is a two-way street and you need to make a good impression too.

Tradespeople are notoriously busy. They’re likely to prioritise customers who pay on time, treat them with respect and listen to their expertise. If you’re looking to build a network of reliable contractors, you’ll need to make sure you’re a customer people want to work with.

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Rates start from just 7.4% APR Representative (£7,500-£25,000). Use our home improvement loan calculator to get a quote and apply online today.