Ask friends and neighbours if they can recommend anyone. If possible, view the work that was done for them. Be wary of people ringing you up or knocking on your door, especially if they want you to sign up to a special deal on the spot.
Be equally cautious of advertising which comes through the door, particularly adverts which only have a telephone number. Anyone can claim to be a builder, decorator, etc.
To determine this, you could also ask them if they have a permanent business address. Established traders are less likely to disappear in the middle of a job.
This may give you some extra security as some associations have protection schemes or will help to resolve disputes. Ring the association to find out what protection it offers, and to check if the trader is indeed a member.
If you don't know anyone personally who has used the builder, this question will be pertinent.
This question is important because even if the builder is reputable and has done good work in the past, mistakes can happen. You don't want part of your house ruined by these mistakes, with you left to foot the bill, nor do you want to be left with a massive bill for any damage done to your neighbour's property should something go wrong.
If the guarantee is insurance-backed, you will have protection should the builder's company, for some unfortunate reason, go out of business. If the guarantee is their own, you will not. See below for more information on that topic.
Guarantees are in addition to your legal rights, not instead of.
If the work is covered by a guarantee scheme, the name of the scheme and any registration number should be included in your written agreement. The two different types of guarantees are described below:
Traders' own guarantees - If they go out of business, the guarantee is worthless. But don't forget that you have rights whether or not you have a trader guarantee.
Insurance-backed guarantees - An insurance-backed scheme protects you if your trader goes out of business. It is underwritten by an insurance company. Insurance-backed schemes may well be tied in with a trade association and sometimes association members are vetted before they are able to participate.
Don't let fast-talking cowboy builders, who just happen to be 'in your area', talk you into a spur-of-the-moment decision that you later regret.
Never accept lifts to banks from salesmen for you to collect money for the deposit; they may disappear with your cash.
Never give your credit card details over the phone in response to a sales call.
If you are interested in the deal being offered:
It is important to note: