What to expect when working with contractors

Like many of you, we’re in the long process of retrofitting our home and that involves getting contractors to do the work. It’s our first home so the process is new to me. We have had it re-wired and replaced the central heating system.

With the re-wire I found the electrician via MyBuilder and overall my gut feeling was that he seemed like a good egg, unlike some of the others who quoted us (ranging from a text message with the amount to a few sentences). He gave us an itemised quote, verbally agreed a date, did the work (apart from the plasterer, but that’s a story for another day), and we paid him the agreed amount.

With the heating upgrade, I found the engineer via The Heating Hub. Again, seemed like a good contractor to me and very professional. He sent us an itemised estimate (not a quote) and multi-page contract specifying terms. Overall the work ended up being about 5% more expensive. I wasn’t thrilled, but it seemed fair considering the job did take much longer than he expected because of the difficulties getting the pipework in, we had bigger radiators installed and overall the work is to a high standard.

Now we’re looking at getting some render replaced and/or repaired. I’ve had one guy give a quote by email with a one sentence description of the work for a substantial amount of money. Plasterers seem to “wing it” a bit more than other trades.

So my overall question is – what should I expect when taking on contractors? Is it reasonable to ask for a written contract? If they can’t provide a contract like my heating engineer did, is this a red flag? (I’m talking about big jobs, like replacing roof coverings, render, EWI, cavity fill and so on). If anyone could share their experiences I would be most grateful.

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You need an itemised quote, start and end dates (can be flexible) and any prerequisites (eg. your responsibility to remove any fixings before work commences).

It is also a good idea to include how last minute changes are to be handled/charged/paid for. However well you think you have planned, there is nearly always something that needs changing once work commences.

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