Good news travels fast. If there’s a good builder in the area, people will be falling over themselves to share his details. Ask your family and trusted friends to give you their recommendations. Word of mouth is a powerful advertising tool for any building firm; it’s real customers giving their honest feedback.
Think outside the (tool)box. Local tradesmen tend to know each other; they may have trained together and have probably worked together on a building site at some point or other. If you know a good plumber, ask him to recommend a decent electrician in the area, or vice versa. Ask a carpenter friend who to go to for a loft conversion; he may just know the best company for the job. Your gardener may know a bricklayer who is the perfect guy to block pave a driveway; a local plasterer may know of the best window supplier in the area… you get the idea.
Approved trader schemes and online recommendations are another useful way to assess a builder’s professionalism and, ultimately, provide reassurance to you that they are suitable to work in your home, whether they’re fitting radiators or decorating the hallway. There are many schemes out there - Trading Standards, TrustMark, Constructionline, Checkatrade, Buy With Confidence, Rated People are just a few to get you started.
You now have all you need to help you make an informed decision. Many people will be tempted to choose a builder based on price alone, not realising that if you pay peanuts you may well get monkeys. A good rule of thumb is: if it looks too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Sure, all building companies operate in a competitive market, but price is only one indicator for what you should really be looking for: quality workmanship, reputable trading practices, reliability and good customer communication skills. If you’re lucky enough to hit the jackpot, all your home improvement troubles will be over for many years to come.