Going online to find reliable builders, plumbers and other tradespeople may sound unlikely, but there are plenty of websites and schemes designed to help.
One is the TrustMark website where you can search for the trade you need by postcode.
TrustMark is a government-endorsed quality mark, and those with it have had their technical skills checked with on-site inspections (their trading record and financial status have also been checked).
TrustMark traders agree to a code of practice that covers things like health and safety and customer care, and should be able to offer an insurance-backed warranty, among other things.
There’s also a complaints procedure if things go wrong – go to the website to find out more.
Your local trading standards office should also help with finding reputable tradespeople, as many have a register of builders and other contractors, usually recommended by local residents.
Those on the register should have been vetted by trading standards and agreed to a code of practice.
Another trading standards scheme is Buy With Confidence. Businesses belonging to it have been vetted and approved by trading standards.
You can search for local tradespeople on the Buy With Confidence website.
The Local Authority Assured Trader Scheme Network (LAATSN) links some of the schemes run by local trading standards.
Although the schemes are different, they have certain things in common, including giving the public a way of finding reliable local businesses, and offering help and advice if things go wrong.
Check with your local trading standards office for the trader schemes they operate – their contact details can be found at www.tradingstandards.gov.uk.
If you want the hassle taken out of finding a home-improvement pro, B&Q’s Homefit service (www.diy.com) is worth a try.
Sites like this vary, but you can usually search for local tradespeople, post details of a job you need quotations for, and read reviews from past customers to find out how good various tradespeople are.
While these sites can be really useful, be aware they don’t give the same assurances or make the same checks as government and trading standards-backed sites/schemes, and there can be other problems with them.
In some cases, for example, it may be possible to fabricate the feedback, or get friends and family members to leave it, rather than genuine customers.