1. Beware of the rogue
  2. Know a dodgy builder when you see one
  3. The right way to find a contractor
  4. Managing your tradesman
  5. Could you spot a rogue trader?
  6. Where next?

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Beware of the rogue

The chances are you've heard some horror stories about builders or you may even have a few of your own.

The Office of Fair trading and Citizens Advice get over 125,000 complaints about dodgy maintenance or repair work every year.

There are plenty of good tradespeople but it's fair to say you need to be careful. Choosing the wrong one (whether it's an electrician, bricklayer, carpenter or anything else) can be expensive. Working out the total cost to UK householders is tricky but one study estimates it's close to £2bn a year. Spending a little time finding the right builder could save you some serious cash.

Know a dodgy builder when you see one

Rogue traders who turn up on your doorstep can be pretty convincing. The good news is there are clear warning signs the trader is in fact a total scamster.

Remember, good builders don't have time to cold call. They're far too busy getting on with other work!

The right way to find a contractor

Here's what you should do to give yourself the best possible chance of finding a good builder.

1. Be clear

Decide exactly what you want done. It sounds obvious but if you're not 100% clear it's all going to get messy.

2. Seek wisely

Ask around for recommendations from people you know. Trading Standards website 'Buy with confidence' can help you find local, approved contractors. Your local authority may have its own scheme.

3. Get quotes

Ask at least three builders to give you a price. Make sure they don't give estimates which can get bigger as the job goes on. Check everything is included like materials, clearing waste and disposing of it responsibly.

4. Be nice

Builders don't want to work for awkward clients. If you seem like trouble, you could end up with a more expensive quote.

5. Ask for references

Speak to former customers or go to see past work. A builder who isn’t keen on this is a worry!

6. Check the diary

Ask when the builder would be able to start. Bear in mind that good ones may well have a long waiting list.

7. Listen to your gut

If a builder seems difficult to get along with at the start, it's going to be a whole lot worse when you're complaining about their grouting.

Managing your tradesman

Finding the right builder is only half the battle. You still have work to do to make sure everything gets done properly.

It's important that you and your builder communicate right the way through the job. There are always going to be misunderstandings and the sooner they can be corrected the better.

Could you spot a rogue trader?

Which of these may be an early sign a builder may not be trustworthy?

Wants payment upfront

Is it worrying?

Yes

Wants payment upfront

A professional business should be able to cover materials. If it's a large job it may be acceptable to make some staged, agreed payments.

Can't start for 6 months

Is it worrying?

No

Can't start for 6 months

The best builders are busy so having to wait for them is normal.

Gives a very cheap quote

Is it worrying?

Maybe

Gives a very cheap quote

Remember if it seems too good to be true it probably is. Check references and ask to see past work.