As a Surveyor living and working in Chichester, I know many and have worked with many of the local contractors. Having also worked across the wider area of Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire and into London, I have worked with a good many different contractors, ranging from one man bands to national companies and everything in between. Some bad, but the vast majority good.
Whilst most builders and tradesmen are decent, honest and charge a fair price for the work they do, there are still a few cowboys out there and unfortunately there always will be. At Tim Kenny Surveying we do not recommend contractors but we are happy to offer the benefit of our experience with some tips on how to choose a good one.
Most people are now used to websites which rate contractors based on the feedback from their customers and allow you to read reviews. Two of the most popular are Checkatrade and Rated People. These both allow you to see feedback from previous customers. These sites don’t however guarantee the quality of the work and can be open to misuse. Once you have been through these sites there is still no substitute for meeting with contractors and speaking to them face to face.
When you do meet the contractor there should be a number of things you consider.
1. Was the contractor easy to get in contact with? It is understandable that you may not get hold of a contractor during the day but if you leave a message it is reasonable to expect them to get back to you within 24 hours. If you can’t get hold of them to give them work, how likely are you to be able to get in contact if there is a problem?
2. Is he, and his van, clean, presentable and cared for? First impressions count for a lot and how can you expect a contractor who can’t keep himself neat and tidy to keep your home neat and tidy?
3. How soon can they start? It is important to remember that a good contractor will be busy and may not be able to fit the job in for a while. This is especially true for smaller businesses or those trades where jobs take a few days as opposed to a few hours. If they tell you they can start tomorrow it is always important to ask why.
4. Is this contractor really up to the job I am asking him to do? This is where websites like Checkatrade can be very helpful. Look at the jobs the contractor has done for other customers. Are they similar to your job? If all the reviews are for painting and decorating then maybe it is not the right contractor to knock out a wall. Even the most skilled contractors can do everything themselves, good ones know this and wont be afraid to say if a job is too complicated or if they need to a different trade in for part of the job.
You should never be afraid to ask questions and it is here that a good survey can come in very handy. Your Surveyor will always explain a problem in clear, plain English and translate any technical terms or jargon. If you have a Building Survey it will also include a lot of detail about how the building have been constructed. This information should allow you to ask the right questions and if you are not sure you should always go back to your Surveyor and they will be happy to provide more details.
All good surveys will give you an idea of the extent of a problem, so if your Surveyor reported a small roof leak and the contractor is telling you the whole roof needs to be replaced then there are certainly some questions to be asked.
The last thing to remember with any contractor is that a cup of tea and some biscuits go a long way towards keeping them happy!