I can’t do it myself any more, so how do I know who to trust?
frustration for the householder and a frequently, a big bill.
While your trust is admirable I would be very cautious about paying an hourly rate unless it is someone you know and can trust. This amounts to “day work” and more often than not results in the work expanding to fill the time available.
Choosing a tradesman from the local press can be a lottery. Although some will have served an apprenticeship many will be ordinary jobbing builders with no qualifications (the notable exceptions are electricians and heating engineers, who have to be registered). If you are looking to undertake a project of any significant size such as a loft conversion or extension then it’s better to employ a chartered building surveyor or if the project warrants, an architect. They can design, specify and administer the project on your behalf. This will include helping you select the contractor, organising the tender process and issuing certificates to release stage payments where appropriate. It may even be worthwhile talking to a building surveyor about some of your smaller jobs as they could assist with prioritising what needs to be done and more importantly will have on-going relationships with local contractors who are prepared to carry out the jobs at reasonable prices. However, if you do decide to employ a builder directly there are a few simple steps that will limit your risk. Firstly, if the advert has no land line or address I would be suspicious.
Always insist on an itemised quotation for the whole job and do not agree to pay an hourly rate. This quotation effectively becomes the contract although be warned, any variations made as the job proceeds can be inordinately expensive. It is more than reasonable to ask for an update as the job proceeds to ensure there are no surprises with the final account. More importantly, never pay up front for goods or services. A reputable contractor will have accounts at building suppliers allowing them a degree of credit. Ask for receipts and only pay for materials that are on site and under your control. If possible on larger jobs try to negotiate a five per cent retention that can be paid after three months, giving you time to ensure there are no defects. Finally ask for a receipt.