Now I'm not trying to sound bitter, but as someone who has now spent almost a year on a renovation project, I am all too aware of the curse of the dodgy tradesperson.
I have now had not one, not two, but FIVE plasterers let me down, either by not turning up to quote in the first place, visit but never bother quoting, quote but then not follow up with when they're going to do the work, or do half of the plastering and then disappear, leaving us with unfinished walls that can't be painted.
Mark Bailey of Haverhill building firm, P.G. Bailey & Son Ltd sympathises wholeheartedly with consumers such as me who have been 'lassooed' by cowboys, and is angry that dodgy builders and tradespeople out there are giving credible builders such as him a bad name.
Having been in business since 1968, P.G. Bailey & Son has established an exceptional reputation amongst its customers, but is all too aware that one wrong move can result in that reputation crumbling to the ground. Therefore, Mark is committed to ensuring that each and every client knows their rights when it comes to spending their hard-earned money on repairs, renovations and maintenance.
“You have the right to ask questions,” he explains. “Reputable tradesmen will always recognise your rights and concerns as the employer.”
Here are his hints and tips to ensure peace of mind, no matter how large or small the job:
DO produce a “works specification” – even if it’s just a list – this helps both parties understand the size of the job to be quoted and sets the parameters i.e. site clearance, material supply
DO use your architect to recommend builders if you are using an architect DO ask people you trust if they can recommend a local builder
DO ask for quotations from three different builders and give them all the same works specification and make sure they have all seen the site or house to be worked on
DO ask each builder for three references so you can compare and contrast their work. It may help that you see similar examples of work to what you are having done. Some builders are more skilled at certain types of work
DO ask a builder regards a quote if it is a lot higher than other quotes; cheaper quotes may just reflect a standard of workmanship or it may just be because that builder has a drop in workload and is comfortable dropping his price to gain more work
DO ask what guarantees are offered, most builders are members of a trade association and you may need to check these references as it is easy to state an affiliation. New builds will need a NHBC or similar warranty cover, and during work they may need public liability insurance to protect you and the general public
DO make a choice based on quality of workmanship, cost and timescales, and builder/customer relationship. You may have to weigh up each factor individually and relative to the other two. Ultimately you do not have to accept any of the first three quotes
DO draw up a written agreement when you have decided on a builder to include the work to be carried out, start and end dates, the cost of the work and how it is to be paid (instalments). Try and also include a “retention” (small part of the price held back to ensure any small fixes that arise after the work is finished are then completed by the builder), and any “local agreements” (toilet facilities, disposal of waste)
DO record the progress of work once work has started and feel free to ask any questions regards what the builder is doing because the customer’s interpretation of a work specification may be different to the builders
DO maintain an “overall” view of the job; no matter how planned a project may be, you can never take into account any unforeseen circumstances such as weather or unreliable contractors