Tips for finding a good, honest contractor

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

How to find trusted contractors who will complete your work to a satisfactory standard, and not rip you off.

Renovating or adding on to a home is generally a stressful exercise. Firstly there's the mess that invariably accompanies any form of build. Then there’s the inconvenience - ask anyone who has renovated a kitchen - and thirdly there's the frustration which often occurs when a contractor doesn't keep to the allotted time schedule or doesn't do the work to the required standard. The worst scenario of all is when a contractor insists on being paid a hefty deposit and then rides off into the sunset, never to be seen again, having done little or no work on the project.

Of course not every contractor is a crook, but there do seem to be an awful lot of unscrupulous, unqualified people setting up shop. So how do you go about finding someone who will not only complete the work to a satisfactory standard, but who will also not run off with your money?

The Master Builders Association (MBA) web page offers a number of tips on how those who decide to renovate their homes can protect themselves against becoming yet another statistic:

• The client must not pay any deposits in cash. An EFT to an identifiable bank account is a must. If the contractor is a sole trader then request a copy of his ID book and a utility bill clearly stating his home address.

• The client should request references from previous clients, with addresses where the work was undertaken and with contact numbers.

• The client should always try to view the work done at these references and speak to the previous client.

It is also highly recommended that anyone engaging a contractor ensure that the person or company is registered with the MBA. Fly-by-nighters don't usually belong to a registered body which will, if the need arises, hold them accountable. Although professional builders and other contractors generally charge more, as the saying goes 'you get what you pay for' and very often the cheaper option becomes far more expensive in the long run.

Although most contractors will insist on some sort of deposit, homeowners should be wary of those who demand full payment upfront for the job.

Word of mouth is king in the world of advertising. Ask around to see who has earned a solid reputation and shy away from those who are vague when asked about previous work.

A homeowner who is unhappy with the time taken to complete the job or with the overall quality of workmanship should take action as soon as possible. Firing a contractor who has not lived up to his promises or who is simply not equipped to do the job may not be pleasant, but it could end up saving thousands in the long run.

Try to avoid dealing with someone who professes to be a 'Jack of all trades' – they are usually master of none. Reputable building companies don't generally try to do all the work themselves and will call on other experts to do work that is outside their field of expertise. Ensure that the people you employ such as plumbers and electricians are legally qualified to do their jobs.

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