Don’t pay the cost of employing cowboys

While it’s true that most people are honest, there are those who are less scrupulous. You need to ensure that any builder or tradesperson you employ doesn’t fall into this category. Even if they are reputable they may not necessarily be up to the job – just because your brother was pleased with the garden wall they built for him, doesn’t mean they are the right people to build your extension.

Find out if the firm you use belongs to the government supported TrustMark-registered scheme or are registered with the National Federation of Builders.

In an emergency

If you need a tradesperson in a hurry and are only able to do initial checks over the phone, make sure you know what the call-out charge will be, as well as the hourly rate (and if it includes VAT). Find out if they will have an adequate stock of spare parts and materials in their van. If not, will you be charged for extra time and materials if they have to go and buy the necessary items. Can they give you an estimate of how long the job will take and how much a typical task of this sort costs? It’s also a good idea to find out what insurance the company has and what other warranty and guarantees they can offer you.

Prove yourself

In most situations, you won’t have to hurry your choice. Any decent tradesperson will understand that they need to provide evidence that shows they can carry out the work to the required standard. Maybe you could look at other work they’ve done in your area? When looking at estimates, make sure that you are comparing like for like, and if one is much cheaper than the others find out why.

Decision time

Once you’ve made your mind up about who to employ, you need to agree on a written work specification that details what you want to have done, as well as stating things such as who is responsible for removing any rubbish and ‘making good’ after the work has been completed.

If what needs to be done changes at any point during the process, the work specification should be amended, so that everyone is clear about what’s happening. The builder should also state that they will ensure the site will conform to any necessary Building Regulations. Legally, you may be held responsible if they don’t as you are the owner of the building.

Show me the money

Have a clear payment schedule drawn up from the outset, so that everyone knows where they stand. As a general rule, the payments should reflect the amount of work already completed. While you may have to pay for custom-built goods before a job starts, advance payments aren’t usual and wouldn’t really be in your best interests. Ideally, you should try to include a ‘retention’ (part of the total cost) that is paid a month, for example, after everything is completed. This would give you time to uncover any small defects after the builders have left and give them an incentive to fix them quickly.

For home and contents insurance go to Home insurance.