By Peter Taylor-Whiffen

How to find good tradespeople

From plumbers to plasterers, carpenters to electricians – how do you go about finding the best tradesperson to do the job?

If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth getting in a professional to do it properly. As a homeowner or landlord, it’s vital to have your own network of top tradespeople.

But accessing reliable help quickly can be tricky. So how can you find tradespeople you can trust – who turn up when they say they will and do a first-class job for an excellent price?

“The key message is to seek them out before you need them,” says Kat Black, landlord and executive at online consultancy Landlord Vision. “If something goes wrong, you don’t want to be panicking and rushing around to get just anybody. You need a bank of numbers you can call, of tried, tested and trusted professionals.”

But it can be a crowded and confusing field, especially for first-time homeowners. Here are some tips on how to find the best tradespeople – and how to check they’re as good as they claim they are.

Which trades do you need?

It’s always helpful to know a handyman (or woman) who can carry out basic DIY jobs. But some jobs require specialists – so get a decent Gas Safe-registered plumber and a properly qualified Part P-registered electrician. It’s worth also finding a good carpenter, builder and roofer to add to your little black book.

How to find them

“Personal recommendations are the best place to start,” says Black. “Positive references from people you know, from other traders, or verifiable good feedback on local websites and databases will point you in the right direction.”

Social media is useful, too. “Ask around your local Facebook groups,” advises Dawn Clarke, head of residential lettings and block management at Nock Deighton in Shropshire. “Many people are happy to talk about their experiences with local tradespeople. You’ll soon pick up on who are the most trusted.”

Trade directories are also useful for sourcing reliable contractors. Websites such as Checkatrade, MyBuilder, Rated People, and TrustMark all use postcode searches to help you find reliable tradespeople in your area.

How to vet them

“Finding a contact number of a local tradesperson is the easy bit,” warns Mike Edwards, founder of online consultancy diydoctor.org.uk. “The challenge is getting them to quote and work for you and build a trusting relationship to give you the best job at the best price.”

Clarke concurs. “Do your homework,” she says. “Personal recommendations are useful, but don’t stop there. You still need to back this up with comprehensive checks – ask to see their work and their qualifications. A lot of people ‘dabble’ or do bits and pieces almost as a side line, so you need a genuinely, appropriately qualified tradesman or woman. Genuine, honest tradespeople will be only too happy for you to double check. And of course you can also check to ensure their names don’t appear on rogue traders’ lists.”

The process of elimination

Get at least three quotes, advises Malcom Stretton from advice website landlordsandletting.co.uk, adding: “Understand what that covers and ensure the estimates you receive are exactly like for like. If there’s a big discrepancy, there’s a good chance one tradesperson has quoted for a higher level of work. For instance, it can be easy to think a quote to fix a leak is really cheap, only to find the reason other quotes are more expensive is because they’ve found the original source of the problem and have quoted to solve that, too.”

Even if the first quote offers good value and is from a seemingly trustworthy trader, continue shopping around, says Edwards. “You can validate their price against the market rate, and the more experts you speak to, the more you’ll learn about the processes of the job that needs doing.”

Of course, you’re not just judging on price but the standard of work and the tradesperson’s reliability – does your electrician turn up when he or she say they will?

And, adds Black, make sure you take their advice. “If they come recommended and you’ve checked them out, they know what they’re doing. So if three separate builders tell you a wall needs drying out, it needs drying out.”

Build a relationship

“It’s essential to be on really good terms with your tradespeople,” says Black. “When you first contact them, let them know if you’re likely to have regular work for them – especially if you’ve got more than one property. If they prove to be reliable, pay them promptly – this encourages them to continue working for you.

“If you can build up a working friendship, it makes them much more willing to come out to you at short notice, to put you at the top of their list, especially if it’s a quick job they can fit in at the beginning or end of the day.

“Not only that, but if you get on really well, they’re also likely to recommend other good tradespeople to step in when they can’t do the job themselves – which will also expand your network and ensure that if a problem arises, you will always find someone reliable to call on.”