/ Home & Energy

Do you have concerns when hiring a trader?

Plenty of us have had the experience of wasted hours being stuck waiting for someone who never shows up. Do you have concerns when getting a trader in for a job?

Life is busy – none of us want to hang around. Particularly not in these days of instant communication – after all, how difficult is it really to send a text or make a call with an updated ETA?

In fact, not turning up when they said they would, was listed as the number one worry about employing traders by almost two-thirds (62%) of people in our recent survey.

Other issues that bothered the survey respondents were the traders doing a bad job (55%) and the possibility of being ripped off (46%), because of a lack of understanding of the job the trader was doing.

Knowledge is power

I’m always painfully aware of any gaps in knowledge when I have traders round to my home – particularly as I write for Which? Trusted Traders.

However, the second-hand learning I’ve picked up from interviews doesn’t always come in handy. One plumber suggested that I must’ve ‘been on Google’ when I asked him about the possibility of a silted-up heat-exchanger being the cause of my shower running cold!

Being taken for a ride and/or ripped off were also among Which? members’ concerns, so whether anyone thinks you may have been Googling or not, it can still pay to be clued up on the issues you’re having.

Planning ahead

Forewarned is definitely forearmed. Aside from finding out as much as possible about the technical issues you need a trader for, the internet is also a great place to check up on how their business has delivered for others.

It can take a lot of trust to welcome a trader into your home, especially if they’ve never worked for you before. That’s why we’ve written advice on everything from hiring a trader, to contracting and making complaints to guide you through the process.

Personally, I like to read as many reviews as I can these days before employing someone to start work in my home. But of course, sometimes the old-fashioned ways are the best! It’s even better if I can get a recommendation from a friend or neighbour.

Do you share the concerns from our survey when hiring a tradesperson? Do you make the most of online reviews before going ahead? Whether they were positive or negative experiences, we’d like to hear your stories.

Have you had problems with builders and other tradespeople?

No problems. (43%, 188 Votes)

Yes – they did a bad job. (26%, 115 Votes)

Yes – they ripped me off. (18%, 78 Votes)

Yes – they didn't turn up on time. (13%, 57 Votes)

Total Voters: 371

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Finding a good trader is a nightmare.

There are so many cowboys around, that I would like to see every one of the ones listed in the recent survey assessed and licensed.

It took 6 different lots of traders to complete our new kitchen with 2 of them walking off the job when they screwed it up or it was too much for them.

We have recently had 2 fantastic carpenters, one reinstalled a new door and frame that another trader had screwed up, and the other finished the last bit of our kitchen and made some furniture that I designed.

We also know a good electrician and car mechanic, but the rest……… absolute nightmare.

The graph in the recent survey mentioned above is wrong.

It says 11% of people trust carpenters when employing them for the first time and 38% of people trust builders.

We bought carpets from Carpetright which meets the criteria and pays for its Which? Trusted Trader accolade. I am curious as it is a large chain how much a year it pays Which? Ltd and how can large firms that subcontract work can be monitored. I would be delighted if Which? employed mystery shoppers etc to make sure that the firms deserve to keep the accolade.

We were very unhappy with the number of visits required to complete the laying of three carpets and two toilet floors. Part of the problem is that Carpetright subs the fitting out – that is non-Carpetright staff who I assume are employed because they are cheap – and there was no continuity between the crews visiting.

@alfa, well spotted! The bottom bar chart simply makes no sense. I do wish Which? would check what it publishes.

I wonder how this (corrected) chart would work with Which? Trusted Traders? Would the results be better?

Many of us will only employ a builder, roofer, kitchen fitter and the like once so will have no experience of selecting and managing them. And so much may depend upon the person(s) the firm sends round to do your job. Plus a lot of money is usually involved. Some scheme of regulation and proper (independent) rating,mediation/compensation if things go wrong is needed, in my view. Maybe Which? should back up its Trusted Trader scheme with this.

Mind you, I guess many builders/roofers/kitchen fitters might like a similar scheme for some of the clients they have to deal with.

I am contemplating some building work, and, as yet, have no clue who to employ. I wonder whether an architect’s expense might be worthwhile if they recommend tradesmen to carry out their plans. Does Which have any research on these inter-connections and their efficacy?

Some architects will manage a project, so might use people they know and hopefully trust.

First step would be finding an architect you can trust….. If you look around your area for extensions that look particularly good, then look on your local council planning website, you can find the plans and see who created them. GOOD LUCK, you will need it.

Have you any trust in Which? Trusted Traders? If so, you could but in “builders” and your town to see what comes up.

Vynor – what type of project, size and budget would be useful before advising. !! : )

Architects – To be honest the only time we employed one he was widely off on the pricing [around 100%] for the project so we dispensed with his services. A good general builder , preferably local, is to be treasured.

If you have to wait for him to come available then do so. Never rush into getting things done and looking at the cheapest price. Obviously if you are flipping houses, much shown on TV , then that is probably what you do do and you will have contacts in place.

My experience over the last two decade is based on seven new bathrooms, three kitchens, multiple bedrooms, three small roofs, one large extension, in four houses whilst we lived in them. Also I have a friend who is a builder and groundworks contractor who fills me in on the horrors he has to correct.

We also the hellish clients who are unreasonable in many ways. Which? should perhaps highlight what not to do before we decide builders are bad.

Which? should also discuss the ways other countries deal with the problem. Like licensing contractors [NSW] or being a member of a mandatory scheme to put matters right after if needed for up to a decade [France]. How do they manage in Germany, Holland ….

In the UK there is a big unregulated area, often cash in hand, and so many people just buy cheap and then complain when they get what they paid for.

An elderly acquaintance who is a traditional architect tells me of the difficulties he has employing new graduates with architectural qualifications. All concept, no practicality apparently. You need, in my view, someone who understands structures, spaces, drains, and suchlike unless you wish to live in some fantasy house.

When planning our extension years ago I drew up some plans of what I was looking for before employing anyone to convert my thoughts in practical drawings that also satisfied building regulations.

I’m a professional tradesman and I’m astonished at the level of incompetence I find many fellow tradesman have and their lack of sincerity and punctuality towards members of the public.

My top tips: People should never pay for a job up front or disproportionately during the job. Large builds and extensions (builders) should have staged payments agreed in advance. Employ a quantity surveyor to have that reassurance. Politely check they are qualified and insured and it’s related to their work. Ask for local referrals you can contact for yourself and see THEIR work done already. Never pay cash (you’ll have no warranty! If you pay cash to non UK workers do you think they respect Building Regs, taxation and your warranty? Photograph the before & after. Swap mobile numbers and inform them of your expectations and punctuality, they should do like wise, (ie. access, use of power, water, clear work areas etc..) If the job is per hour.. time them, if the job is for a price don’t get hung up on them not being there, but they should be courteous to you ie… for getting access, timing, mess, tidying up, blocking you car in…
Simply, I treat my customers like valued supporters, and potential repeat business and I phone ahead of our arrival, at their house and treat it like my very own, we lay drop cloths, and sweep up. I also know my limits and don’t take on things like CORGI registered work, as I’m not CORGI registered. If you find a good workman or woman hold on to them and look after them! Then you won’t have to monitor them every minute!

An alternative to hiring a trader is to do the job yourself. Start with small jobs, accumulate useful tools, become more ambitious and know your limitations.

At the moment I am waiting for a general builder/odd-job person to come to clean out all the gutters and clean the fascias, gutters, down pipes and upper window cills. He is over an hour late now and I am rapidly losing my desire to employ him. It’s not work I am prepared to do myself now and no longer have long enough ladders to reach the roof line. He is at risk of losing the opportunity to repaint the gutters and downpipes which I haven’t mentioned to him yet but thought I would do so if I was satisfied with the cleaning work.

Occasionally there can be genuine reasons why people don’t turn up. I had struggled to find a recommended tree surgeon to remove three Leylandii and when I did find one he turned up promptly to provide an estimate. On the appointed day he failed to turn up and later that day his wife rang to say that he had been taken into hospital in pain because of a kidney stone. Several weeks later he arrived and did an excellent job. More recently I received a call to say that an engineer would not be turning up because he had called in sick. When he did turn up I was impressed by the work he did.

I agree that it’s worthwhile seeing how well people perform before getting them to do larger jobs.

If someone is unable to turn up on time it takes no more than a phone call to explain – barring exceptional circumstances of course.

Cutting the hedges around a rather large garden is no longer as much fun as it used to be, and a holiday absence had allowed my lawns to grow – selfishly. I had been considering looking for some help for a while and found someone who had recently moved from greenkeeping to try his hand at going solo. Turned up just after 8, cut all the hedges neatly, cut all the lawns, bagged the cuttings and filled my compost heap and finished weeding large clumps of grass from one of the vegetable patches before he had to leave at 2:30. We fed and watered him, but he wasted no time, so he’ll be back – hopefully – from time to time.

I telephoned the builder a short time ago and he apologised for the delay which was due to him having to take his wife to hospital; he said he had called at the house to explain the position a few days ago but there was no answer. He’s coming early this afternoon and promises to get it all done today, so we’re back on track and I shall see if he wants the painting job. I don’t know how his price for the gutter and fascia cleaning etc compares with the firms who have display advertising in the local papers or are franchised operations but he quoted £130 which for a fairly large house with quite a lot of guttering seems very reasonable. We shall see. The previous owners had obviously not given any attention to the gutters for many years as they all contain lumps of moss and the undersides are covered in green mould. The vertical fascias and down pipes seem to stay clean through the action of the elements but will benefit from a wash down.

I had an electrician here earlier today as well to quote for a number of small jobs to replace fixtures and fittings and to install some new lighting positions. He turned up early, seemed very business-like and had some good solutions to possible problems. I was impressed and look forward to having him work at the house for a couple of days in early July. He did comment that the plastic consumer unit should be replaced with a metal one but advised me that it was OK not to disturb it unless it was necessary to install any additional circuits. It was last inspected in 2005 so I have put it on the “To Do” list.

I plucked a guttering and window cleaner from checkatrade earlier this year who did a good job and so I arranged for a return visit in 3 months time to clean the windows only at an agreed £20. They turned up 2 months later and I paid them £20 but I was informed their next visit would be increased to £22 to cover recently incurred VAT charges. They turned up last week at 8am and I was greeted with the news their charge has now increased to £24, which I refused to pay stating that if every return visit was going to cost another £2 they needn’t bother coming back.

At our previous three-storey house I had the windows cleaned every five weeks for just £15. The window cleaner used a filtered water system from a tank in the back of his van with a long narrow-bore hose attached to a lightweight telescopic pole with a water-fed brush on the end. He did a very good job and I need something similar at the new property but all the local window cleaners use ladders, bucket and cloth. Unfortunately the projecting ground floor extensions front and rear with pitched roofs make it difficult to use ladders as the angle is too shallow for safe working; one man said he could back his van up to prevent the ladder sliding but when I asked how he could do that at the back of the house his response was to say he would dig the foot of the ladder into the lawn. He lost my trade.

Is the window cleaner registered for VAT Beryl?

Check them out here:

If you want to report them:

I have had traders say it is the law to charge VAT even though they are not VAT registered. It is just more money in their pockets but if you were happy with their quote including their VAT, you tend to just pay it.

If all traders had to be assessed and licensed, they would be more accountable.

Many of them charge 3 or 4 times as much as their clients can earn and cash-in-hand might keep them under the VAT threshold. Why should they get away with paying taxes when we have to pay them? It is our public services like the police and NHS that lose out.

Websites that endorse and allegedly assess tradesmen are only a veneer to getting a good tradesman. Do your checks and get your own recommendations from people you know. Cash in hand & no written agreements just facilitates a black market and petty crimes (VAT avoidance & no warranty on the work). If you pay cash for a cheaper VAT free job, expect problems sooner or later.
A cash-less society would lead to a lot less crime! listen to this https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09y6zc2

Whilst sitting in the barbers today I saw an advert in the local paper for John Lewis Home https://homesolutions.johnlewis.com/ . A couple of trial enquiries priced up automatically on their website looked expensive. The possible advantage is their reputation and 1 year guarantee behind the work – hopefully they only use properly assessed tradespeople.

I wonder why Which? do not guarantee the work of their traders. I would have far more confidence in one that was recommended if I felt that sub-standard work was subject to remedy without too much hassle.

When other schemes exist – checkatrade, Which recommended traders, TSI (under trading standards), JL…..would it not be better to have one national scheme of accreditation and guarantee so that those who are prepared to probably pay a little more can be assured of decent work?

I once had a new fitted wardrobe installed by J Lewis. The guy who was Polish, turned up to date and on time. His work was extremely professional and polished (of course) and he took a great pride in and enjoyed the work he did. J Lewis phoned the following day to establish whether I was happy with the standard and finish. I couldn’t fault it.

I’ve just been speaking to a friend who is a little annoyed about waiting in all day and no-one turning up to fit the new kitchen units stacked up in his garage. It’s not good to have the old units removed and then find that no-one appears to fit the new ones.

Another friend was expecting a new bathroom to be completed before the builder disappeared on holiday for several weeks.

What does one do about a trader you know is trying to mis-sell solar panels but his literature says he is a Which? Trusted Trader and I cannot find him on the Which? Website?

I would suggest you report it to Which? Trusted Traders and leave it to them to deal with the impostor.

I am a fan of Which and was keen to try the Trusted Traders, unfortunately they seem like any other trader, they don’t reply to communication.

Hi Martin, sorry to hear this. Would you mind emailing details to trustedtraders@which.co.uk so the team can follow this up with you?

Getting a good trader who will do a thorough & good job is a nightmare. I have yet to find one that does not take advantage of the fact I’m a woman. I’m not a perfectionist but do know when a job has been done properly. Example a painter to paint hallway. Who paints emulsion on wood.
Property maintenance decorated my bedroom, looked great until you put bed side lights on. Patches showing on walls because the walls had not been skimmed. I trust people less & less these days.