Citizens Advice: Tips on how to find a trader to do the job right

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Here are some steps you should take when choosing a trader to carry out your home improvements.

“I’ve been saving up to have my kitchen redone, but I’m a bit worried.

“Last time I had work done on the house, it took double the time I thought it would and ended up costing me a fortune.

“I’m looking for a different builder this time, but how will I know I can trust them?”

A qualified plumber repairs a boiler. Photo: AdobeA qualified plumber repairs a boiler. Photo: Adobe
A qualified plumber repairs a boiler. Photo: Adobe

Over the past two years, the number of people undertaking home improvements has increased significantly with lockdown and continued working from home.

Many of us will take advantage of the warmer weather and bank holiday weekends coming up to improve our homes, and it’s important to make sure the job goes well.

Here are some steps you should take when choosing a trader:

○ Find a Trading Standards ‘approved trader’ – use the internet to search for one in your area or the Government’s approved trader scheme TrustMark.

○ Get references or recommendations – ask people you know or ask the person you hire for examples of work they’ve carried out in the past. Try to avoid contractors who won’t give references – it’s a sign they could be dishonest.

○ Find out if they are a current member of a trade body – trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve problems if things go wrong, so check your trader is a member. Ask who they’re registered with and check the trade body’s website.

○ Only use certified traders for gas and electrics – it’s dangerous to use someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. Check the Gas Safe Register for a list of traders and use a registered electrician who can certify their own work. When you are having a kitchen fitted, it’s worth checking whether the person you’ve hired will be doing the electrical or gas work themselves. If not, check who they are using and whether they’re registered.

○ Get a written quote – this is different to an estimate. A quote is legally binding, and the builder can’t change it without a good reason – for example, if you ask for extra work to be done. Try to compare quotes from a number of contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price.

○ Get a written contract – this should cover exactly what you are paying for and everything you have agreed on, like timings, payments, materials and subcontractors.

○ Think carefully about payment – where possible, try to pay by card as this can give you extra safeguards if something goes wrong.

○ Keep copies of receipts – also keep your written contract as evidence, as well as photos of any problems if they arise.

If you have a problem and you’re not sure what to do or where to go, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133.

We help thousands of people each year, with issues such as employment, asylum, debt, benefits and much more.

See our website at for more information about the range of services that we provide.