When you come to tackle your renovation project you will need to call upon the services of builders, plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen. If you are planning to undertake a large project, and / or have enough spare cash, it may be worth employing a project manager to oversee them. If not, you will need to source them yourself.

You may have heard the phrase "cowboy builders". These are unfortunately a reality, and there are many builders who make dishonest livings exploiting the relative ignorance of their clients by charging large sums of money for poor / substandard work. Some will leave the site mid-job never to return.

It is possible to minimize the risk of this by following a few simple guidelines:
  • Ask friends and family for recommendations
  • Avoid tradesmen who are able to start the next day - good tradesmen are invariably busy
  • Ask tradesmen for references from their previous jobs, and preferably go and see the standard of work they have done if appropriate
  • Source at least 3 quotations for the work to be done. Don't always go for the cheapest
  • Don't agree to pay them all the cash up front. Pay them in installments. Keep at least 10% in reserve for snagging
  • Consider a written contract for larger jobs. Also seek an insurance indemnity / warranty
  • You should avoid paying them in cash (they will be cheating the VAT man so you will be an accessory to fraud)
  • Use trade association members. They are more expensive, but then you always have the trade association to fall back on if things go wrong
  • Keep the lines of communication open. If things start going awry, address the issues as soon as possible rather than hoping for the best
  • Be reasonable. Keep a close eye on the work on a daily basis, but don't stand over them as they are working, they will find that very off-putting.
  • By all means make them cups of tea every now and then, but do not pander to their every request or they may take advantage
  • Remember that this is a business relationship. Be civil to them, but you are unlikely to end up being their best mate

There are lots of websites offering reliable tradesmen, for example: