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Solo tips for using tradesmen

Not everyone flying solo is doing so of their own accord.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine had to replace a garden fence. Recently widowed, and having also lost both parents within the space of 15 months, it was the first time my friend had ever had to engage a tradesman. She was terrified. Of choosing the wrong person. Of paying too much. Of getting taken for a ride.

If a tradesman can look you in the eyes,
hold out his hand and shake yours firmly, then he is my kind of tradesman.

It got me thinking about a time, 15 years ago, when a builder had suggested that the materials required to re-plaster my newly plaster-boarded kitchen diner ceiling would cost £250. A friendly plumber advised me it was actually 2 x £5 bags of plaster. Needless to say, the plasterer didn’t get the job.

Fast forward to ten years later and I found myself having to project manage a whole house renovation. On my own. I was totally at the mercy of the builder and his team. But it turned out I had made a terrific choice, and one which I will never regret.

Of course there were days when I literally cried myself to sleep with the stress and pressure of it all. But I knew deep down that, to a man, they were good at their jobs. And they were honest. Any unexpected work was talked through. Part payments were requested at intervals to cover materials and wages. And when an estimate was given, we always shook on it. A traditional older than the Grade II Listed property I was renovating, but one that I still stand by today.

If a tradesman can look you in the eyes, hold out his hand and shake yours firmly (and with sincerity), then he is my kind of tradesman.

Here are some other tips to follow if you need a tradesman to help you with a home improvement or DIY project:

1.Search on

2. Check that they have the right professional accreditations.

3. Look for reviews and recommendations on social media.

4. Google the rough cost of materials yourself.

5. Ask if they are VAT Registered.
Not realising 20% VAT will be added to the final price can be a huge shock that you didn’t budget for.

6. Don’t pay up front.

7. Take photos (evidence) before, during and after.

8. Ask a friend to be there for morale support while the tradesman does the work.

9.  A framed photo of a uniformed police officer displayed prominently can deter cowboys ;-).

10. Don’t settle the bill until you’re 100% HAPPY.

Finally, if your chosen tradesman does a good job, shake their hand and give them a great review on social media. They’ll be happy to help you with your next project, and you’ll feel even more confident to ask them to do the work.

Good luck!

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