If you have to undertake a renovation or refurbishment project on a building you have taken out a bridging loan for your key to success will be to find a tradesman, or team of tradespeople, you can trust. Bridging loans operate over a fixed period, so completing a project on time is imperative, and the results you achieve will affect the future financing of the property.
Find a tradesman you can trust
There are a number of steps you can take to ensure you find a tradesman you can trust, and whilst the horror stories of exposé television programmes can add a useful note of caution, do bear in mind that there is also a wealth of professional tradespeople in the industry that can be relied upon to do a great job.
Below we have outlined our common-sense approach to finding tradesmen, with a few handy tips and hints that you may not have thought of yourself:
There is nothing like word-of-mouth to find a recommended tradesman. Check with friends and family, neighbours or associates you trust to see if they can identify tradespeople whom you might approach for a quote. Social media can also help you find personal recommendations – the wide circle of contacts on your Facebook page can be handy, as is your Twitter feed if you have geographically local followers. Alternatively, you can try reaching out to your local community via local social network Streetlife.
If you don’t have these resources available to you, or you wish to double-check word of mouth recommendations, use the search facilities or advice channels available via each trade’s regulatory body (see below).
Find a builder
In the UK the Civil Engineering Contractors Association founded the Construction Alliance, which comprises the following three federations who offer various services when it comes to finding a builder in your local area:
The National Federation of Builders has been in operation since 1896 and is a not-for-profit organisation serving England and Wales. The NFB supports small- to medium-sized building contractors and you can search their member database to find a builder in your local area.
The Federation of Master Builders has been in operation since 1941, is not-for-profit and serves the entire UK. The FMB also supports small- to medium-sized building firms. You can find a builder amongst their member database in your local area or search for a particular company to confirm their membership with the FMB.
The Scottish Building Federation has a 'find a builder' tool on their website. Simply fill in your postcode and the tool will find you a local builder.
Find a plumber
The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) was founded in 1906 and serves the entire UK, although some of their members are also based overseas. Their search facility allows you to look up member companies by postcode or verify a specific company’s membership by searching with their membership number.
The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors was founded in 1925 (known then as the National Federation of Plumbers and Domestic Engineers) and serves England and Wales. The APHC supports sole traders and individuals working for large companies. You can find a plumber via their database online.
The Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers Federation (SNIPEF) was founded in 1923 and serves (yes, you guessed it) Northern Ireland and Scotland. If you want to find a plumber in these areas, use their dedicated website www.needaplumber.org.
Find a carpenter
The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) was founded in 1904, under the name The British Woodworking Manufacturers Association. Since then it became The English Joinery Manufacturer Association before it held its current title. The BWF serves England and Wales, and if you want to find a carpenter who is one of their members you can use the search function in their website.
The Institute of Carpenters (IOC) was founded in 1890 and serves the entire UK. To find a carpenter who is a member of the IOC use their search functionality.
Find an electrician
The Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) has been in operation since 1901, and it is a not-for-profit organisation serving the entire UK. You can find an electrician who is an ECA member via their search page here.
Select is Scotland’s trade association for the electrical industry and their members can be found using their interactive map or postcode look-up functionality.
The Electrical Safety Register allows you to find an electrician in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. All contractors on their database are certified by NICEIC (National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting) or ELECSA (sounds like an acronym but isn’t).
Find a Plasterer
The Federation of Plastering and Drywall Contractors serves the entire UK. You can undertake a search of their database to find a local plasterer who is FPDC registered.
Get a range of quotes
Once you have found the details for a few tradespeople who seem eligible for the work you need to get done, get in contact with each of them to arrange for a quote. An initial conversation will give you a feel for the level of service you are likely to receive, and the professionalism of the company. Are they easy to contact, polite and helpful?
When each tradesperson visits you to discuss a quote you should expect that they will want a clear outline of the brief – e.g. if it is building work being done a builder should be asking to see architectural plans from which they are to work and you can expect that they will want to discuss with you exactly what you want to achieve with the finished project. If you are supplied with a quote without having provided this level of detail err on the side of caution and go with a tradesman who displays a better level of professionalism.
A quote should be supplied in written format, with a clear outline of costs for materials, labour and any contracted-out work to be supplied by complimentary trades (e.g. if your project is the fitting of a bathroom you may need a plumber, electrician and plasterer to do elements of the work).
The cheapest does not always mean the best; make sure that if price is a critical issue for you that all other checks you make show the tradesperson in question in a positive light. Fixing mistakes can be a lot more costly than opting for the company with a better reputation at the outset.
Find local tradesmen recommended by their clients
If the companies you approach are worth their weight in gold they should be more than happy to put you in touch with customers they have done similar work for by way of reference – don’t miss the opportunity to do so. Similarly if they have a portfolio of work you can see this will also help to ensure you are getting a competent tradesperson. If any of these requests are met with reluctance you might consider looking elsewhere.
Are the tradespeople you have found in demand?
Good tradespeople are unlikely to be able to undertake work at the drop of a hat as their reputation should mean they are being kept busy, so whilst you don’t want to wait for months for a project to get underway (especially with the timescales associated with a bridging loan in mind) you may be ill-advised to select a contractor who can start work immediately, unless all other references and checks prove they are a company you can trust.
Settling invoices with your tradesmen
When you are discussing your project with the various tradesmen you are getting quotes from, check with them at which point invoices will need to be paid. Covering the cost of materials through the period of the work being done is fairly standard (check that the bills are realistic and in keeping with the job) but the cost for labour should fall at the end of the job, or at least be staggered over the time it takes to complete the work.
Anyone asking for full payment up front should be guarded against; if you have paid up front and the end result of the work is not satisfactory you have no leverage to ensure this will be addressed. It is also worth allowing a contingency budget for bigger projects, as it is often the case that something unforeseen will crop up with even the very best of tradespeople on the job.
In summary, make sure that when you are trying to find tradesmen you find customers who would recommend their work, or at least ensure they are members of recognised industry bodies and have a portfolio of previous jobs that you can refer to. Get a range of quotes, but weigh up both cost and quality of workmanship when appointing your chosen contractors.