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Choosing the right bathroom fitter

Last updated 22nd Jun 2017

Bathrooms are one of the most functional rooms in our homes, in use everyday and forced to deal with a lot of wear and tear.

Whether you’re updating a tired family bathroom or looking to install a luxury en suite, with such an important space, it’s vital that you find the right bathroom fitter to perform the work. We spoke to some of the experienced tradesmen recommended on MyBuilder to find out the key things you should know in order to make the right choice:

  • Look out for experience as much as accreditations
  • Make sure you are comfortable with them
  • Get quotes that cover everything
  • Establish a payment plan
  • Check their familiarity with building regulations
  • Ensure there are follow-ups after the build

Keeping these points in mind can help you focus on what to look for when you’re meeting with tradesmen and getting quotes for the work. Carry on reading for more details on how to go about finding the right tradesman for your job.

Look out for experience as much as accreditations

Bathrooms are far from a simple, off-the-peg purchase. Although the basics of bathroom fitting may appear outwardly similar from job to job - installing a bath, a sink, a toilet, perhaps some tiling - the devil is in the detail, and there are big differences between swapping in a new three-piece suite, and renovating a large bathroom with extras such as floor-to-ceiling tiling and underfloor heating.

As with many jobs, there are a range of available tradesmen who will be able to take on the project. At one end of the scale, there are firms that specialise in bathroom fitting, working with you on every element of the build, from designing the new bathroom to installation and decoration. At the other end of the scale will be more general builders and plumbers, who have the necessary skills to remove and fit a bathroom, but may outsource jobs like installing electric showers. Both have their advantages - while a specialised firm will likely deliver a very high standard to your exact specifications, the chances are it will be more expensive than hiring a generalist.

When looking for a tradesman for your project, it’s sensible to speak to ones who have performed similar jobs to the one you have planned. As well as seeing previous examples of their work that they can show you as part of their portfolio, you may also be able to arrange through them to visit their previous jobs - they should be happy to put you in touch with previous clients they have done work for before.

As well as checking their references, there are other things you can do to check their experience. On MyBuilder, you can read honest feedback on the jobs they have undertaken for homeowners, as well as seeing pictures of the jobs they have taken on. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions as well, about any qualifications they may have, their length of time working with bathroom installation, or how they’ll approach your own particular job.

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Some tradesmen may belong to trade associations. As well as general trade bodies for builders like the Federation of Master Builders and the Guild of Master Craftsmen, bathroom fitters may also be part of the Kitchen, Bathroom and Bedroom Association (KBSA), which offers protection for consumers who hire KBSA members.

However, it is experience that is the most important thing to look out for. Charles Bell of Charles Bell Refurbishments, who has more than 150 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, said:

Experience is really what’s key when it comes to bathroom fitting, as there are so many parts of the job someone has to learn to become good at it. It took me years to really get going with it. I learnt on the job - there’s the tiling, there’s the plumbing, all these different elements. You also learn the importance of knowing about and purchasing the right materials.

Charles Bell, Charles Bell Refurbishments

Make sure you are comfortable with them

As well as knowing if they are experienced with your kind of job, you should simply assess how comfortable you feel with the potential tradesmen. You can do that from your first contact with them; are they polite on the phone, do they arrive for meetings at the scheduled time, do they ask lots of questions about the project?

Bathroom fittings aren’t completed in a couple of hours - depending on the size of the job, it can last for as little as a few days, or up to several weeks. Much of that time, if your bathroom is out of action, you may need to vacate your home while your tradesman works on it. Being able to maintain good communication throughout the project is essential. You shouldn’t try to become best friends with them, but you should be able to have a professional relationship - you must feel comfortable speaking openly about any concerns that may arise, and dealing with any issues. James Woodham of Akiva Projects said:

I believe that every tradesman that comes into your house should be really friendly, really experienced, really clean and tidy. And they should be able to explain everything to the client. Every time we leave a project I like to think we leave them with knowledge as well. You can never provide a client with too much information. The more you ask them, the more they feel involved in the process, and the more confident they can feel in you.

James Woodham, Akiva Projects

Get quotes that cover everything

With many larger jobs, it’s advisable to meet with, and get quotations, from at least three tradesman. The detail and scope of their quotation can tell you a lot about their process. It’s important to make sure that all the quotations are like-for-like - do they include materials and labour, as well as any subcontracting the tradesman may do, and VAT? If the tradesman will be removing and disposing of the previous bathroom features, is that included? The only way to accurately compare quotations is if you are comparing like-for-like, and to get them from people who have seen the job in person.

Taking a sample of at least three quotations can can help you spot any that seem unreasonably low - if this is the case, it could be the sign of a tradesman who wants to win the job, but will make up the true value by adding on extra costs during the course of the build.

Roman Panici of Good Global Services Ltd, who has more than 60 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, said:

I’ve had people try and explain jobs on the phone, but I tell them I’m sorry, I have to see it in person to talk it through - it’s the only way to give a good, accurate quote. You have to get everything out up front, give all the information, so everyone knows what’s included and what to expect. It should be clear about things like materials too.

Roman Panici, Good Global Services Ltd

The cost of your project will of course be affected by the scope of your work - if you are looking to hire a firm to design your new bathroom as well as fit it, it will be considerably more than a simple installation project. The cost will also change depending on whether or not you purchase the bathroom yourself, either from a store, or the internet, or whether you employ a fitter first and get them to purchase the bathroom. In some cases, this can work out cheaper, as fitters may have relationships with manufacturers, or be approved installers, and can pass their trade discounts on to you. This also minimises the risk of buying elements yourself, only to find they are substandard, or don’t fit your space. If you do choose to make the purchase yourself, it is important that you communicate with your fitter to make sure they are familiar with the particular brand and comfortable with fitting it. The same goes for items like tiles and accessories such as towel racks, taps and fitted toilet roll holders. Yaz Meer of MPM Builders, a firm in Nottingham that specialises in bathroom fitting and has more than 30 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, said:

It’s always worth speaking to a tradesman before you go out and buy everything, just to make sure you’ll be getting the right stuff. Even when people buy their own suites, they often ask me to provide the things behind the scenes like the pipework, as it all adds up and I can source the best stuff cheaply. I can also think about the bigger picture because of my experience - people sometimes just want to swap in a new bath, sink and toilet, but they don’t realise it can mean changing things like tiling as well.

Yaz Meer, MPM Builders

Roman added:

You need someone who knows their products - it’s all in the detail. If you buy a cheap, bad sealant that cracks after a few weeks, what happens? If that’s on a bath, and the crack means there’s a leak, and the wall and floor and electrics are damaged, that’s a huge problem - all because you tried to cut a corner.

Roman Panici, Good Global Services, Ltd

Establish a payment plan

After agreeing to a price through an accurate, written quotation, make sure you have a payment plan in place that you are comfortable with. A written contract is the best way to ensure you are on the same page, with no misunderstandings.

A reputable tradesman will generally not expect, or ask for, the total value of an expensive bathroom job upfront. However, a small deposit is not uncommon. While many builders buy materials on account from trade suppliers, and will not request money up front to cover these costs, if it’s a small firm working on a large build with high costs involved, this may be worked into the plan. Many tradesmen are happy to be paid in cash, but most will accept cheques or bank transfers for larger amounts, which allow you to keep a better record of the transaction. Charles said:

I take 25% of the overall fee up front, then the rest is paid upon completion of the job, when the homeowner is happy with it. I think that’s fairly standard for a job the size of fitting a new bathroom. I take bank transfer for payments, so everyone has a record of it - even for smaller jobs, that’s standard now - it’s not that common to see cash changing hands.

Charles Bell, Charles Bell Refurbishments

Check their familiarity with building regulations

If your bathroom job involves electrical work, either with changing lighting, installing a new power shower or similar, that particular element should be carried out by a qualified electrician. Most major electrical jobs in the home must be certified for their safety, so should be either:

  • Approved by the Building Control department of your local authority
  • Carried out by tradesmen registered with a competent person scheme, who is qualified to self-certify their work

This is to ensure that all the electrical work is safe, and will not pose a danger to yourself and other people in your home. If the work does not come up to standard, your local authority can insist that the work be corrected, while you can face difficulties selling your home if you don’t have the correct electrical safety certificates to show that the work has been done.

An electrician who is qualified and registered with a competent persons scheme is allowed to self-certify their work, issuing you with a certificate of compliance on completion, and dealing with Building Control on your behalf. Your bathroom fitter should be able to talk you through how they will approach any electrical work. You can find more information on electrical work in the home in our article on hiring an electrician. Similarly, if any gas work is involved, the tradesman dealing with it must be on the Gas Safe Register. Charles said

I have an experienced electrician who comes and does any electrical work that’s involved - I’ve had a bad experience with that before. You need someone who’s fully qualified, so all the work I do now is done by someone who is up to standard and can have it signed off. If I do encounter gas, then it has to be carried out by someone who is on the gas safe register.

Charles Bell, Charles Bell Refurbishments

Ensure there are follow-ups after the build

With a project like bathroom fitting, there is chance that there will be complications along the way. Often, these issues may not manifest themselves until after the work is notionally complete, and the tradesman has moved on to other jobs. That being so, it is sensible to hire a tradesman who is happy to return to the build to follow-up on their work and make right anything that may have happened since the work finished.

Some builders will put something to this effect in their initial contracts with the homeowners, while others will offer a more informal arrangement. Bathroom units themselves may also come with warranties, which is worth double checking if buying through the fitter. Charles said:

I honour a bathroom for a few years. Especially in older houses, things can shift so it helps the homeowner to say I’ll be able to come back and look at anything that might have happened. If there’s leaks and things, then obviously I’ll come and take care of that.

Charles Bell, Charles Bell Refurbishments

If the tradesman is willing to put you in touch with previous clients to see their work, then it is a good sign that they have maintained good relationships, taken pride in their work, and ensured that they have followed-up on any issues that have arisen.

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