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Choosing the right demolition and clearance contractor

Last updated 8th May 2017

Sometimes, it’s not what you add to your home or garden that counts, it’s what you take away. 

Whether you need to get rid of a dilapidated outbuilding before you can complete your grand landscaping dream, or you have an old bathroom suite that needs stripping out and removing, the best way to ensure the job is done safely and correctly is to hire a professional. 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:

  • Find out what feedback they have
  • Get quotes in person and make sure everything is included
  • Make sure you’re comfortable with them
  • Check they have the correct licenses
  • Be clear about payment

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.

Find out what feedback they have

As with any tradesman you’re looking to hire, looking at their past work can help inform you as to how their future work for you will go. There are a range of ways you can assess their previous work, and the best way is to hear directly from past clients. While with building work, you can often visit previous jobs and inspect the quality of their work, this is not the case with demolitions - when good quality work means there will be nothing there to inspect. But ask the tradesman if you can speak to people they have done work for before, to find out how they conducted the job.

James Lewis of London and Kent Garden Clearance, which has more than 100 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, said:

I’m always very happy to share my past work with new clients. Whenever I go along to give a quote, I take along a portfolio which shows off pictures of what I’ve done - before and after pictures of demolition works I’ve done. And if someone wants to speak to a past customer, I can put them in touch and they can hear it for themselves. I pride myself on doing a good job, so I have no problems in letting customers talk to past jobs.

James Lewis, London and Kent Garden Clearance

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Another way to gather feedback is on a site like MyBuilder, where past customers can leave feedback about a tradesman’s work, and they can list their qualifications and experience as well as share photos displaying their work.

Get quotes in person and make sure everything is included

While many people may think of demolition work as a basic, brute-strength job, there are a number of nuances and technical issues that can make clearance jobs anything but straightforward. Structural considerations, hidden gas and water pipes, and the presence of materials such as asbestos can have a big impact on the difficulty of a job, and often, these elements can only be accurately judged when seeing them in person.

For larger jobs, it is advisable to get a range of quotes, and it is important that the tradesman sees the work in person in order to give a quote that properly covers the scope of the job. The quote should be complete, itemising every aspect of the project, including labour, elements like disposable costs, and tax. James said:

Quotes are very important. You have to go along to see what needs doing, if you’re taking down a garage or something, it’s not just something you can easily price up on the phone - you want to take a look and see if there are complications with pipes and things like that. When I give a quote, it has everything in it, with waste disposal charged by the vehicle load. We have our own skip so don’t have to outsource that, but some tradesmen will have to account for that. Make sure it has everything, otherwise things can be added on, and the price goes up. My price has everything - if something new crops up, I’ll still stick to the quote.

James Lewis, London and Kent Garden Clearance

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Make sure you are comfortable with them

As well as knowing if they are familiar 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?

Some clearance jobs can be expensive and time consuming and being able to maintain good communication throughout the work is essential. You shouldn’t become best friends with them, but you must be able to have a professional relationship - you must feel comfortable speaking openly about any concerns that may arise, and dealing with any issues.

Paul Coulson of KDBS in Newcastle, a tradesman who covers a variety of projects and has more than 350 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder said:

Getting on with a tradesman is really important for a homeowner. All it takes is one miscommunication for things to turn sour, and the whole job can be an issue. If you can sit down together and have a proper chat, then everything will go more smoothly.

Paul Coulson, KDBS

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Check they have the right licenses

All tradesman who deal with waste must be registered as either a waste carrier, broker or dealer. Tradesman who deal with waste and are not registered can be fined up to £5,000. While homeowners will not be punished for hiring an unregistered tradesman, knowing a tradesman is registered can help to reassure you that your tradesman is legitimate, and carrying out their work to a high standard and in line with all professional requirements. For tradesman who transport only waste they produce themselves, there is no cost to register with the government, so there is little excuse not to be registered. Feel free to ask if the tradesman you are considering has an up to date registration.

Another key thing to consider is if your demolition job involves asbestos. Asbestos is a highly dangerous substance that causes thousands of deaths a year, and can still be found in many properties, as part of old water tanks, shed, garages and in other forms. Tradesman who work with asbestos should be fully aware of the risks, and have completed a course in asbestos awareness, as regulated by the Health and Safety Executive. For some asbestos-related projects, only licensed contractors should undertake the work.

Some demolition jobs, such as those of supporting walls, may require the report of a structural engineer to carry out safely, and may have to be reported to the Building Control office of your local authority. James said:

Regulations are important, we often encounter jobs where we will need to comply with building regulations, which can make things more complicated and more costly. When it comes to waste, a lot of people don’t realise it costs a lot of money to dispose of building waste, but it’s a big part of what we do. And asbestos is a big consideration - if you think asbestos is involved, you need to be clear with the tradesman, and they should be clear with you if you if they find any. Making sure tradesmen are fully up to speed is very important.

James Lewis, London and Kent Garden Clearance

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Be clear about payment

After receiving quotes and checking a tradesman’s references and experience, make sure you are happy with the payment method you agree on. Always be wary of any payments up front, especially in the case of demolition jobs which typically require no materials to be purchased by the tradesman. Most reputable tradesman will be happy to accept the majority, if not all of the payment, after the job is complete and you are happy the result. James said:

The biggest thing for me is be on the lookout for tradesman who want a lot of money up front. I take all payment after the work is done - you know you’re getting good work, because you won’t pay me until you’re happy with it. I’ve been on site until late into the night to make sure the client is happy - I stick to my word, and that’s how I keep my reputation.

James Lewis, London and Kent Garden Clearance

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Get your job started today

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