How to find the best tradespeople for your build

Looking for reliable tradespeople to suit your needs during a self-build project isn’t always the easiest task.

There are many different types of tradespeople who can help with your build from plumbers, roofers to plasterers and electricians. You may want to subcontract parts of your build or select a contractor to handle all of this for you. Either way, you need to spend time and effort sourcing and selecting the right people to support you. So, where do you start?

Research, research, research!

Did we mention that you need to do your research? It’s so important to find a tradesperson with the right skills and approach. You don’t want to be in a position where it doesn’t work out and you have to start searching again for a new builder or roofer, for example.

There’s really no substitute for personal recommendation. Friends, family, work colleagues and even your architect may be able to suggest reliable contacts. There are communities of self-builders on Instagram and social media so send the word out and start connecting with fellow self-builders.

Contractors can come through recommendation but you have to trust your instinct, as Richard a self-builder from County Down in Northern Ireland, explains: “Our contractor came highly recommended, lived locally, shared a similar mind-set and his price was competitive. We trusted our gut instinct and instantly felt that his local knowledge would be to our advantage.”

Read more about Richard's self-build journey in our case study here.

View of the front of the home

You can also find trustworthy builders through the National Federation of Builders. The ‘Find A Builder’ search allows you to contact reputable builder and contract members, all of whom have been strictly vetted and undergone a range of reference checks. You could also use the TrustMark tool to find tradespeople. TrustMark is the only government-endorsed scheme for all trades in and around the home. They have been vetted to ensure tradespeople provide good customer service, show technical competence and meet trading practices. You can search for reputable organisations and tradespeople using your postcode. 

Ask questions

Don’t feel silly for asking hundreds of questions. You want transparency and honesty from the tradespeople you work with. This is your time to make sure they are right for your self-build. Ask the builder or tradesperson how long they have been trading and what experience they have in the work you need completing.

James Mason, a self-builder in Yorkshire, believes a clear brief and an idea of price is important when looking for a tradesperson. He appointed a number of contractors for his self-build project to lay the brickwork, erect the roof and install the plumbing and gas.

He says: “Researching trades is one of the most important parts of the project. Getting recommended people really takes a lot of the worry away. Get quotes for the job as a whole, not price per hour. The main thing that sticks with me is the planning process - be in control, know what you want and hold contractors to task.”

After completing his first self-build home, James has made a start on his second self-build journey and we are following him every step of the way. Read his first self-build case study here and follow the blog of his current self-build journey here.

James' family in their living room

Check their credentials

Are they the real deal? Always check credentials and trade licences – for example, boiler engineers must be Gas Safe registered. There have been a number of cases of bogus builders fraudulently claiming membership of trade associations, so call and make sure they are actually a member. Always ask for references and speak to their previous customers – ask if they were happy with the quality of workmanship and general attitude. It’s important to know how long they have been trading for and make sure you get their contact details (office address and phone number).

Are they insured?

Always ask this question. A builder, for example, should have cover to protect themselves against property damage and personal and public liability to protect you and the general public in the event of an accident or injury. 

Find out more about the insurance you are required to have as a self-builder here.

Money talks

It’s important to gather a number of quotes to compare costs and have a sum in your head of how much you will spend on contractors. Before you sign a contract it is advisable to obtain at least three quotes for comparison. Confirm what is covered in those quotes so you know what to expect. Some building professionals are keen to link their fee to a percentage of the eventual construction cost. Be wary of this ­- you may be better negotiating a fixed fee for an agreed level of service. The Chartered Institute of Building may be able to point you towards local contacts. If contractors suggest a ‘VAT-free’ deal, do not agree to this. Your contract will be invalid if there is no proof of payment. Do avoid paying upfront or a cash deposit, in case something goes wrong or they don’t turn up.

Jason Taylor, a self-builder from County Down in Northern Ireland opted for a fixed price contract on his self-build.

He says: “A fixed-price contract meant that any additional costs were agreed in advance. We found that for peace of mind it was easier to take this route – it allowed us better control over the budget. We saw a few builders but the contractor we ended up with knew my mum, came well recommended and lived just down the road (no mileage costs). We visited some of their sites and sent my construction package over and they came back with a price that was on budget. Any extra expenses were discussed prior to commencement of works. For example, our builder asked if we wanted to add insulation to the garage for future conversion. For an extra £600 we decided that it might be worth it in the long term.”

Front of the self-build house

Read Jason's case study here for the full details of his self-build journey.

Get it in writing

Everything you agree on must be written down to protect you in case things start to go wrong. Be thorough and make sure your contract clearly outlines start/completion dates, security, safety, costs of materials, hours of work and disposal of waste, toilet arrangements, payment terms. Leave no stone unturned.

Build Planning