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Choosing the right handyman

Last updated 26th Jun 2017

There are a hundreds of smaller jobs around the house that sometimes need the attention of a knowledgeable tradesman, and a good handyman should be able to turn his attention to many of them.

Whatever small job it is you need doing, given the range of potential tasks it is essential that you find the right handyman 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:

  • A little research can go a long way
  • Find out if they have relevant experience
  • Make sure you are comfortable with them
  • Get like for like quotes if needed, and make sure everything is included

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.

A little research can go a long way

There are a huge variety of small tasks that a handyman can come and do, anything from fixing leaking taps, to putting up shelves, assembling furniture, or sanding floors. Many of these tasks might count as DIY for some people, but if the job is beyond your experience or confidence level, an experienced handyman is the best way to ensure it’s done properly.

However, even if you are not taking on the task yourself, a little bit of research into the subject can go a long way to helping you ensure the job is done well. Reading up on how a tradesman might approach a particular issue will give you an insight into how much work is involved, and how long it might take. It can also give you an idea of questions to ask when meeting tradesmen and getting quotes, as you will have a better idea of what the job requires. Even better than reading about the topic is watching videos on it - YouTube has a wealth of videos showing many common household tasks. Andrew Croft of ASC in Romford, who has more than 140 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, is an advocate for homeowners arming themselves with knowledge before starting out on a home improvement project. He said:

I always tell people to go on YouTube and give themselves some idea of what a job will involve. When it comes to something like fitting floating shelves, people have all sorts of ideas about how it’s done, and how easy it is to do. With a bit of research, you can find out about it and how feasible it is, so when a tradesman comes, you can have a proper chat about it and get the best possible work done.

Andrew Croft, ASC

Find out if they have relevant experience

Given the range of jobs a handyman can carry out, one of the most important things you can do when hiring one is to make sure that they have particular experience for the task you are hiring them for. As well as finding out what they can do, you should also be aware of what they cannot do, especially when it comes to work such as gas and electrical work.

There are various ways of finding out if their skillset matches your job. As well as being able to read feedback from previous clients on sites like MyBuilder when you meet your potential tradesmen, you can also ask to see previous examples of their work. They can either show you pictures of their past jobs, or, even better, they can put you in touch with previous clients who can provide a reference for them and tell you in detail if they were happy with the work and how it was carried out

While many handymen will have some form of qualification or have spent time working with other building firms, many will have learnt on the job. Although qualifications can be a good way of assessing if a tradesman has a basic grounding in their field, it is often experience that is the surest sign of a tradesman’s competence. Gary Benson of GB Joinery and Property Maintenance in Batley has hundreds of pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder. He said:

Being able to show off my feedback is invaluable to me. People can see that I do my work on time, to price, and am conscientious about how I go about it. Likewise, if you see negative feedback, you can see why something has gone wrong. It’s all about honesty and integrity. I’m happy to put people in touch with past clients if they do want a personal reference too. When it comes to qualifications, they’re all well and good - if you can go to college, do an apprenticeship or get a City and Guilds and so on, it shows you’ve dedicated yourself to learning the business. But I think real competence comes with experience, doing the jobs again and again over years and learning everything about it.

Gary Benson, GB Joinery and Property Maintenance

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While many handymen cover a wide range of jobs, many have particular areas of expertise - be that carpentry, or landscape gardening. However, if your job involves gas work, such as repairing a boiler, you must hire a tradesman who is Gas Safe Registered, and ask to see their Gas Safe ID card when they come to perform the work. Similarly, with electrical work, the majority should only be carried out by electricians who are qualified to self-certify their work through an official competency scheme. 

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? No matter how big or small the job is, a tradesman should not be dismissive of the work, and you shouldn’t feel as though they will rush it. 

Most handyman jobs won’t take a long time to carry out, but being able to maintain good communication throughout the project is essential. You shouldn’t aim 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.

You should also ask about what other work a tradesman is currently undertaking - while tradesman who take on larger projects may have more clearly defined schedules on their jobs, handymen may take on more work and thus find themselves stretched thin. You should feel confident that the tradesman you hire will spent an appropriate amount of time on your job. Gary said:

You have to be able to trust the person you hire. I always make sure I go in person to see the job and speak to the homeowner. It’s difficult to price things up over the phone, you have to go and see them. For me, the main thing is turning up on time - punctuality is very important.

Gary Benson, GB Joinery and Property Maintenance

Andrew added:

Meeting someone in person is very useful - it’s hard for people who don’t know much to give accurate information in writing or over the phone, so you want to see it. You should also check that the person has time to do it - if they’re running round to lots of different jobs, will they have the time to dedicate to it? I’m very careful about only booking in jobs a week or so ahead, so I won’t be caught out with things overrunning.

Andrew Croft, ASC

Get like-for-like quotes if needed, and make sure everything is included

With larger jobs, it’s advisable to meet with, and get quotations from at least three tradesmen. With a very small job, this may not be necessary, but 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, including materials and labour, and make sure they cover the whole scope of the job, from beginning to end. 

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, or is using cheaper materials that may not be up to scratch. Andrew said:

My quotes include everything, and I stick to them. I won’t undersell it, and try and make up the cost at the end. It may sometimes look higher than someone else’s quote, but I know that it’s accurate and isn’t going to change - sometimes it might even come down, if the work goes quicker than I think.

Andrew Croft, ASC

When it comes to payment, both Andrew and Gary warn people away from paying anything upfront. Gary said:

I never take a deposit, and can’t see any real need to, especially with smaller jobs around the house. Even if materials are needed, nearly all reputable tradesman will have trade accounts with suppliers so they won’t need to pay upfront for them. I take all my payment after the work is finished and the client is happy with it.

Gary Benson, GB Joinery and Property Maintenance

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