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Choosing the right gas engineer
Last updated 20th Sep 2018
When choosing the right gas engineer, there are some key issues you need to think about. In this article, we’ll take you through them step by step.
- Ask whether the tradesman is Gas Safe-registered - then double check
- Choose someone with lots of specific experience
- Get a detailed quote from each tradesman you’re considering
- Never hire a tradesman who demands the full cost of the job upfront
- Ask each tradesman to explain what he intends to do - and why
- Don’t make yourself vulnerable by self-diagnosing the issue
- Ask who will actually be doing the work
Let’s look at each of these in a bit more depth.
Ask whether the tradesman is Gas Safe-registered - then double check
With many of the trades listed on MyBuilder, homeowners can choose to either take a DIY approach, or call in a professional tradesman (or a mixture of both).
However, this is not the case with gas. If anyone is working with gas in the UK, they are legally required to be on the Gas Safe Register. That’s the official list of gas engineers who are registered to work safely on boilers, cookers, fires and all other gas appliances.
This is not an area in which you can have a go yourself! So, the first thing to check is that the tradesman you’re considering hiring is Gas Safe-registered.
Every registered gas engineer will carry a Gas Safe ID card. Ask to see this card, and don’t be afraid to make a note of the licence number. Then, after the tradesman has left, you can check they are definitely registered using this online tool. Don’t simply take their word for it.
Not all gas engineers are qualified to work on all gas appliances, so check the back of the card to find out which the tradesman can and can’t get involved with.
This video explains what all the information on the card means.
Choose someone with lots of specific experience
Once you’ve established that all the tradesmen you’re considering are legally allowed to work on your project, choose one that has lots of specific experience of doing your type of job. Paul Caton of Paul Caton Gas Services has years of experience under his belt, so much that he often focuses on installation work while letting others take on inspection and repair jobs.
I've been installing 200 boilers a year for more than 20 years so I can safely say I know what I'm doing when it comes to boiler installations. I've also been accredited by different manufactuers, so people can know I have the experience to do their kind of job. Some people will focus more on inspections or repair work, so you can find the right person you need.
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Once you’ve found a tradesman with the right experience, ask to see photos of their work, and - if it’s going to be a big job - try to speak to one or two of their previous customers. That will allow you to find out about what it’s like having them in your home, as well as their standard of workmanship.
Get a detailed quote from each tradesman you’re considering
Be wary of a tradesman who only gives you a quote over the phone - it’s unlikely they’ll be able to be accurate without seeing the situation in person.
I do a lot of quoting, often at weekends because I'll be booked up doing installations in the week. It's important to go out and quote because you have to see the job to know what it is you're dealing with. Just hearing a description of the job might not cover it because the homeowner doesn't have all the information.
Choose a tradesman who gives you a detailed written quote after the viewing, with all the costs broken down. These should include everything from labour and materials to any possible extra expenses, like travel and parking.
Never hire a tradesman who demands the full cost of the job upfront
William Eastman of One Shot Plumbers has only been a MyBuilder member since 2015 - but he’s already won well over 200 jobs and has an excellent feedback rating. He explains that a homeowner should never choose a gas engineer who demands full payment upfront.
I find a lot of people actually try to pay me before I’ve done the job! Never, ever do that - always wait until the job is finished and you know you’re happy with the work.
I’d also suggest a homeowner chooses a gas engineer who gives them a total price for the whole job in their quote - rather than a per-hour or per-day rate. That’s because if you’re paying someone per hour, they could be doing whatever in your cupboard. They could be spinning it out and just sitting there on the phone!
Ask each tradesman to explain what he intends to do - and why
Because of the potential dangers involved with gas, and the fact that homeowners aren’t allowed to undertake any gas work themselves, the area remains particularly impenetrable and difficult to understand for many customers.
William warns that unscrupulous tradesmen sometimes take advantage of homeowners’ reluctance to ask questions. He says:
You should get the tradesman to explain why he’s taking action before he starts work. So for example, if someone tells you a gas valve needs changing, ask them to explain exactly why it needs changing. That will often discourage tradesman making extra work for themselves - and charging for it - when it doesn’t really need to be done.
So I would choose a tradesman who was willing to explain things, and show you how to sort the little, safe things you can do yourself, rather than just fixing something but not showing you what he’s done.
When I’m doing a job, I try to explain to the customer why it’s being done, why I’ve decided to approach the job that way, and how the machine actually works for future reference. For example, a lot of people don’t know how to top their boilers up - and then they pay an engineer £60 to come out and top the boiler up every time.
Don’t make yourself vulnerable by self-diagnosing the issue
When considering which tradesman to hire, it’s best not to tell them exactly what you think the problem is; instead, explain what the effects are on you (for example - you don’t have any hot water) then let them take a look for themselves. William explains why:
A lot of people research things themselves online, before a tradesman gets to their property. Which makes sense in one way, but if they tell the engineer what they think is wrong before he even looks at the situation, they make themselves more vulnerable to being ripped off.
Because then there’s the risk that a dishonest engineer will just agree with you and say yes, that’s the problem - even if the real issue is a lot simpler and cheaper to sort.
Ask who will actually be doing the work
Finally, ask each tradesman whether they’ll be the person actually carrying out the work. That way, you should avoid ending up with a less competent, less experienced sub-contractor at the last minute.
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