Under regular circumstances, whether you’re planning a full renovation or just need to unclog your sink, finding a good tradesman can often feel like a job in itself. There are thousands of contractors working in the UK and, unfortunately, it’s not always easy to separate reputable tradesmen from the cowboys. In fact, a third of Brits delay home improvements because they’re scared of putting their property in the wrong hands.
But things are even more complicated as we are not living under normal conditions but dealing with the global pandemic, COVID-19. At this time, it’s not recommended to hire a contractor for inside work unless absolutely necessary, but this does not mean that you should not hire tradesman for some of your outside projects.
If you do have an emergency and need to bring a tradesman inside, there are some precautions you can take to help ensure you and your family remain safe.
When you first call to schedule your tradesman, verify on the phone that the person does not have any COVID-19 symptoms and hasn’t travelled recently. When your tradesman arrives, verify these details with him or her again.
While it is very common for the tradesman to wear gloves when working during COVID-19, you should have facemasks on hand for the contractor, as well as protective shoe covers (if available), for added extra protection.
Social Distancing and Disinfecting
Once the tradesman enters your home, make sure to practice social distancing by staying at least two metres away to avoid COVID-19. If you need to pay the tradesman in person, pass your credit card from a distance; do not touch the tradesman directly. Clean your credit card afterwards with a disinfectant wipe or spray. Thoroughly disinfect all surfaces and wash your hands and save yourself from COVID-19.
While hiring a tradesman for indoor work should only be in case of an emergency, hiring one for outside jobs is much safer to avoid COVID-19. It is again important to ensure social distancing during this time. There are plenty of top tradesmen who are committed to doing brilliant work — you just need to know how to spot them. Follow these tips to help you find the best professional for your outside jobs.
Referrals from Loved Ones
It’s promising when a tradesman has been specifically recommended by their former customers, and the best referrals will come from your family and friends. Since your loved ones have your best interests at heart, you know you can trust them when they give their tradesman a glowing review. If nobody springs to mind when you ask around, you could always ask a tradesman you’ve previously worked with to recommend somebody for the job. For example, your electrician may be able to suggest a capable industry contact like a roofer or plasterer.
Verify their Credentials
Although there are plenty of websites listing quality contractors, it’s best to take them with a grain of salt. Many of these platforms use paid-for listings or base them on customer reviews that can be easily manipulated. The two resources you should always consult are TrustMark.org.uk, a Government-endorsed quality scheme, and the Federation of Master Builders. The Federation is the largest trade association in the UK in which every member has been independently inspected and vetted to prove their calibre. You should also ask to see evidence of your tradesman’s qualifications and ensure they are registered with relevant industry bodies. For example, contractors dealing with gas must be registered with GasSafe, and plumbers with WaterSafe.
Check for Insurance
Never hire a tradesman who doesn’t have adequate insurance cover. Citizens Advice Bureau states that: “If a contractor doesn’t have the right insurance, and things go wrong or someone’s hurt, you could be forced to pay to fix things, or go to court and pay damages and legal fees.”
The two types of insurance that are absolutely non-negotiable are public liability and employer’s liability. The former covers the costs if construction work causes property damage or injures someone, while the latter is designed for when an employee makes a claim against the contractor’s business itself. It is also a legal requirement for all tradesmen working with a team, so you must make sure that any potential hires are able to produce certificates which prove they have these policies in place.
Ask for Examples of Previous Work
You can get a better idea of what to expect from a prospective tradesman by looking at the jobs they’ve done in the past. Though there will probably be plenty of photographs available on their website, you should still ask for more, so you have a broader selection. Be sure that they include images from similar projects to the one they’ll be undertaking at your home. And make sure you also see recent pictures of older jobs. This allows you to check whether the quality of their work has been long-lasting.
A reputable tradesman will put into writing every cost associated with the project. Never accept a verbal estimate of the price. Because there will be nothing to stop them from changing this figure later on. Even a written estimate isn’t always sufficient, as it doesn’t count as a binding agreement. A written quotation is the only acceptable format, as it will detail all charges, the duration of the job. And highlight anything that is subject to change. This means you shouldn’t be hit with any nasty surprises once the project is underway. And if there are any disputes down the line. You can fall back on this document to prove what you had agreed to with your tradesman.
Even if your tradesman appears to tick all the boxes, don’t be afraid to explore your options. It’s a good idea to get at least three separate quotes so you can compare. How much the project will cost in terms of both labour and materials. And therefore improve your chances of getting the best deal. If one person is charging significantly less. Think about why that may be — are they using lower-quality materials or cutting corners when it comes to certain tasks? Also question any quote which seems extortionate. Shockingly, 75% of construction workers have admitted to charging more to customers with ‘posh’ names. Similarly, around 80% up their prices when working in fancy looking houses or upmarket areas. Once you have weighed up your options. You’ll feel all the more confident that you’ve chosen the most suitable tradesman for the job.
About Darragh Timlin
Darragh Timlin has more than 20 years of experience in the insurance industry. He is currently the Underwriting Director for Tradesman Saver. A trusted insurance company specialising in providing all forms of insurance to British Tradesmen for over 30 years. In this position, Darragh manages the relationships with the insurers and has overall control of binding authorities.