Getting Quotes

Hints and Advice for Getting Good Tradepeople for the Job

Getting an honest quote is a worry for most people when they have to or wish to have some work done in their house, or garden or on their car. How do you know that:

a) They are not cowboys
b) The estimated price is reasonable
c) The final price will be reasonable

The answer is, you don't. However, there are some steps that you can take to try and increase the chances of getting a good job done and we'll try and cover some of them in this article.

Identifying Potential Companies

One of the best ways is to use a company that has been recommended. Older family or friends are usually fantastic for this. They've probably learned the hard way about who to use, so learn the lessons of history and ask for advice. Ask why they would recommend them though. Have they experienced the company's standard of work or has the information come from one of their friends.

If you are really unsure about the job you are having done, maybe they could come around when the trades person comes to estimate the job. Somebody with a bit of experience will often be able to sniff out a dodgy character.

Another good way of finding a reputable company is through a trade association, such as the Institute of Plumbing, etc. To become a member of these institutions usually requires the company employees to either have taken official exams or have many years experience in the industry. However, is has been known for trades persons to show bogus qualifications or say they are member of some association that really doesn't mean anything, e.g. The Honorable Guild of Flying Plumbers. So, if in doubt look in the phone directory for the official association and give them a call.

The most vulnerable time for choosing a trades person is when you need some emergency work doing. Try and resist the temptation to call Aardvark Plumbing because it's the first you see in the directory or Mary's Massage and Heating Engineers that you saw on a card down your local phone box.

When deciding whom to get in for a quote examine their company address. Do you know where it is? Does it exist? Are they only listed as mobile number? Bad sign. However, working from their home address isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Try and have at least 3 companies selected before moving onto the next stage. Whatprice provide a free quotation service to help you obtain up to 5 quotes for your home improvement jobs.

Prepare Specification

Before the company comes to view the work have a very careful think about what you wish to have done. Perhaps make some notes about the changes required, that way you are less likely to get sold on covering the whole garden with decking and water features when all you want is a 3 by 2 patio.

[Sharp intake of breath].. It's not Going to be Cheap.

The important thing at this stage is to very clearly explain what you want doing. Don't assume anything about the work if possible. What is obvious to you is may not be obvious to others. Made that mistake myself, many times. Generally it's a good idea to get the trades person to explain back to you what they think you mean in terms of the job.

Be aware that even for the legitimate trades person this gives them their income. So, to a certain extent they will try and convince you that you really need that new remote controlled pressurised combination boiler in your one bedroom flat. Stick as much as possible, to your pre-planned specification but still do listen to what they say about the feasibility of the project as you have laid it out.

Ask the trades person about how many similar jobs they have done to this. Did the project run to budget and what were the difficult parts? Ask in particular, if the type of job is suitable (e.g. turf on a lawn - yes, wiring a fuse box - probably no), whether you could see some examples of their work. If they say yes, then go to see them. It really is worth the effort. If it is not obvious that this trades person did the job you go to see then ask the owner or store manager who did the work.

Finally make sure that they are insured properly for the task they are going to do and are you insured for them to be in the house carrying out the work? It is probably all right, but worth thinking about now.

The Quotes

Always ask for a written quotation and not an estimate, which can change. For big jobs it is likely that the specifics of the job will change once work has started and so maybe the price will realistically change. Maybe this couldn't have been known nor anticipated when the original quote was made. Fair enough, but make sure that before you agree to the extra work involved have an additional quote written for this work. This way you always have some reference as to how much this is going to cost.
The quote should not only list the price but give a pretty good estimate of how long the job will take and when it will start. When will the company need access to the property, will you need to be there all the time?

A final note is that tempting as it may be to take an offer of having a discount in return for paying cash it may make things a little awkward if things don't work out quite right. With a properly quoted job, put through the books with an agreed specification you have some rights to say go to the appropriate authorities if things go wrong.

Do I Pay Them?

Assuming the job is finished to the specification agreed upon, the site has been left tidy, no paint splatters, debris cleaned away and you are happy then well - yes!
If the design is what you picked but it doesn't quite look how you imagined then tough - pay up anyway. Until you have paid the materials used in the work are still the property of the trades person and they could be removed from your premises.
If you feel that its not quite up to what was agreed upon in the quote then say something now. Most companies will make a serious effort to make you happy.
In return for payment you will receive a receipt, this should list what the money was for, how much it cost (including VAT) and who did the job with their address on.

Main Points about getting a quote

"Very informative, excellent."


"m. d This info. while useful needs a real overhaul!!! Price of copper has gone up by 100-200%, imported products although cheaper are not made to the same standard as British parts are and prices labour wise vary enormously throughout the country esp in the SE. The prices quoted here are VERY VERY basic and I have found very few willing to quote anywhere near the price for a c/h system as quoted here. Unrealistic was the reply i got every time i mentioned this site details. sorry"


"the advice herein is a good sound bases for someone to work off, your prices for trades men tho does need updating as i dont know any plumbers for example that work for £25 per hour.40-50 is the norm in north west. otherwise v good"

k barlow-tradesman

"There are some very interesting points on this page which relate to why it CAN be much better to pay for your central heating installation by credit card if possible. It lists some exclusions, e.g. credit card cheques, and instances where the tradesperson simply uses another organisation's 'PDQ'(chip and pin) machine, amongst others. So it would be worthwhile to check with your credit card provider, whether your purchase/deposit with a given central heating installer, will be protected by the consumer credit act. It may be, additionally, that a person need only pay a small portion of a purchase/deposit with credit card, and the whole item be insured. Again, check with provider (and be aware they may not know the extent of their obligations under law!)"

amateur legal geek

"Following on from H's comment re applicable legislation, your local building regs officer should be able to offer advice. Contracts for supply and fit / build are likely to fall under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 and the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 (easily found via Google). In essence, goods / services must be of satisfactory quality, and if not you can you can ask for remedial work or replacement. Be aware, however, that ownership of goods remains with the supplier until they're paid for! Contract law is complicated, so if something does go wrong - and talking to the supplier / fitter gets you nowhere - it's wise to seek professional legal advice."

Legal Beagle

"Try to find out what the legislation is that applies to the work you want done - quite how I'm not sure but there's always google. Then make sure the tradesman you pick will issue the certificate/comply with the regulations/be qualified to do the work ..."


"As Jon and Trades man wrote, and especially in current economic climate, when the job is quite big, customer has to expect that payments will be made gradually as the work will proceed with last big chunk to be paid after the job is done. Otherwise the article is written very well."


"I generally agree but I think it depends on the size of the job. A small job, new central heating pump or consumer unit then I'd expect to pay it all once the job is finished. For things like an extension I would expect to pay in agreed stages of construction. Some at the beginning for materials, some after foundations etc. If the materials costs are high then some upfront costs should be paid and both sides need to be reasonable. The tradesperson should do their best to please the client and the client should pay in full once the job is done to spec."


"You wouldn't eat all your shopping and then pay the supermarket. To ask for a third up front or half the money once half the job is done is not unfair. even us tradesmen can't trust customers. in the whole they are good but you do get some people who just don't want to pay or try and get you to do more than you agreed"

trade man

"thank you , very helpful indeed"

L Cain

"great advice, i feel a bit more confident now!"