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Choosing A Contractor

Finding a quality contractor can seem very difficult at times. Even knowing all the information at hand, it can seem quite daunting as contractors are very much dependent on the team they have. For examples, you could have one quality contractor who has built numerous driveways to a very high quality for years.

Imagine that same contractor now lost 2 of his men who normally are the ones who install that driveway. The next guys he has might not be of the same standard. This is why its vital to take your time and always insist upon seeing the people who will actually be doing the work.

Finding a Contractor You Can Trust

‘If a builder is free to start work tomorrow, alarm bells should ring. Demand for building work is incredibly high at the moment.’ Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, suggested approaching builders in plenty of time, ‘otherwise, [we] risk disappointment delaying [in] projects or worse still, working with a dodgy builder.’

In recent years, several online sites have popped up claiming to list reputable contractors, but you need to proceed with caution. Some websites are no more than commercial directories featuring paid-for-listings. Others list contractors based on previous customer ratings and user experiences, which can be open to manipulation and abuse through fake reviews.

It does not really matter if you are looking for an electrician or if you need block paving in Durham. The same procedure always applies to finding the right contractor for you job.


1. Get at least three quotes with a fixed price, and clarify the position on VAT.

2. Use a written contract to get an agreement on cost, as well as issues such as timescale, materials and clearing up.

3. Make sure the builder has insurance, and check for warranties and guarantees.

4. Agree a payment schedule, and release payments based on targets for specific deadlines being met. Never pay in full upfront.

While lots of listings sites will apply working standards that members must adhere to, it’s important to understand exactly how each one operates.

Directory-style sites can lead to very positive experiences but always make sure to vet your contractor using multiple sources. It is very easy to fake reviews on one directory site. By viewing multiple sources, you can build a more precise picture on your potential contractor.

Always Do:

Ask to see evidence of qualifications and training. Check, for example, that anyone taking on a job involving gas is registered with Gas Safe.
Request references and follow them up.

Look for accreditation’s with trade associations, and see if the person is approved by Trading Standards or registered with an ombudsman.
Ask for proof of insurance. ‘These protections really are essential to helping clients weed out the cowboys and mitigate against any issues that could crop up during the build.’ says Brian Berry, ‘a quality builder will insist on these things and if they don’t, consumers ought to question why.’

Don’t Do:

Sign up a person who knocks on your door and points out a small problem. Reputable tradesmen will not cold call.
Hire someone who says they can start work straight away. Also tread carefully if a quote seems too low.
Choose workmen who only have a mobile number, and who can’t – or won’t – provide references.

When You Have A Problem

Contact the tradesperson directly and see if you can reach an amicable solution. Follow this up in writing. If this doesn’t work, one option is a dispute resolution service, such as those offered by Trustmark and the Federation of Master Builders. Provided you have given the company eight weeks to resolve your problem, you can escalate a complaint to the Ombudsman.

There is also the option to take action via the small claims court, but this should only be used a last resort. You could try engaging them on social media first like which normally helps to speed up the process as they do not want to put other potential customers off.

If you think a tradesman has broken the law or acted unfairly, you could report them to Trading Standards. Officials operating from local councils can look into problems and issue penalties.