I’ll get straight to the point. Discovering how to find trades for our renovation – good quality tradespeople that tick all the right boxes – is hard. It’s probably the most stressful part of this renovating process so far.
It was so tricky working out how to find trades. My husband Marcus and I had reached the point in our renovation where we could do no more. We’d spent a couple of months gutting our recently purchased 1930s doer-upper. Then we’d successfully ripped out all the carpets and removed the dated wallpaper from the walls. We’d also expunged the kitchen and bathroom of the majority of their contents. And lastly, we’d successfully managed to remove a non-supporting wall that separated the tiny toilet from the rest of the bathroom upstairs. We were left with nothing but dusty walls and buzzing imaginations of how we wanted the property to look and function.
Sorting the basics of how to find trades
However, before we could start thinking about our main goal of extending the kitchen, we needed to sort the basics. Winter was on our doorstep, and it was important to replace the rusted pipe system that ran throughout the house. We also needed to install new radiators and a much more efficient combi boiler. Oh, and we had to ensure new windows were put in to retain the warmth they pumped out.
In addition, the windows weren’t very secure, which was another reason to buy updated ones. For the heating, we are lucky enough to have a lifelong friend in the trade who could help. He was incredible, and very swiftly installed a whole new heating system, helping us save a few vital pennies.
The windows were slightly trickier. When considering how to find trades, we looked at both local independent traders and well-known retailers. In the end we chose one of the bigger companies – although we had to practise our haggling techniques to get a good price. Sadly the local firm never got back to us. This is something we’ve morosely accepted during our renovation process.
How to find trades: going through the list
Next on our ‘how to find trades’ list was the electrician. Marcus and I were well aware the whole house needed rewiring. We also wanted spotlights downstairs and several more plug sockets – considering there was only one in each room. So we tried to find one in many different ways: we asked for recommendations from friends and family, and went online and did local searches.
We even saw an electrician who lived in our street from spotting his van parked up there every day, so got him round as well. So we must have had 20 different people over, and the quotes and time scales they could do the work in varied tremendously. When considering how to find trades, we wanted the right person, but not one person stuck out as ‘the one’. We knew how important this work was for our renovation, so weren’t willing to give up the search.
Red flags when it came to quotes
A few weeks later, unable to contain our excitement, we decided to get a few builders and construction companies round to the house. We wanted to discuss some of our ideas for the kitchen. We had agreed we wanted a rear extension to create a kitchen-diner, which would stretch the five-metre width of the house and out by three metres. This way, it would match up with our neighbours’ extension and not take up too much of the garden space. It would also be covered under permitted development. And hopefully it wouldn’t be too complicated a build, so achievable within our budget. We did our research, so were fairly confident about how much it would cost.
Or so we thought. We had people quoting triple the amount we were expecting. Others came up with a drastically lower figure – which was just as much as a red flag. This knocked our confidence in what we were doing. At one point it felt like the only good thing that came out of this was finally finding an electrician for our renovation. He was recommended to us by one of the builders. Thankfully, he gave us a fair price and could do it in a reasonable time. He also had all the right qualifications, which we checked on the NICEIC website. This is a trade body which provides assessment and certification services.
At this point in the ‘how to find trades’ process, Marcus and I had to have an honest conversation with each other. We discussed whether an extension was still viable for our renovation, and what we could do instead. Our hearts low, and our heads sore, we agreed to get some quotes for a knock through as an alternative. More builders came round, but it was one in particular – who we found on CheckaTrade – that asked us whether we had thought about extending. We told him our original plan, for which he said he would also give us a quote.
We were sceptical, based on our previous experiences. However, when I opened up their quote around a week later, I cried. It had everything we wanted, and at what we considered to be a fair price. When we enquired further, he encouraged us to come and see some of his most recent jobs before signing on the dotted line. This made me like him even more. Meaning the extension is well and truly on, and we are currently in the process of getting the designs and structural calculations done.
It’s fair to say I’m glad this part of the renovation is over. However, looking back I wouldn’t change the time and effort we put into finding the right trades, nor the way we went about it. From friends, to recommendations, to searching online, each way helped us find the right people. And these, in turn, are helping us create our dream home.
Read more Newlywed & Renovating blogs in the series.
Featured image: Georgina and Marcus tackle stripping wallpaper in their new home.
So, did you love discovering how to find trades? Then you’ll also enjoy Our Bungalow Renovation: Finding a builder.