Nine tips to avoid problems with home improvements


Thinking of making home improvements this year? It can be hard to know where to start when hiring a builder, plumber or electrician, especially if you have heard stories about rogue tradespeople or large, unexpected bills. How can you make sure you get value for money? We have some handy tips to help your repairs or renovations go smoothly:

  1. Have a clear idea of what you want done – know what you want improved or changed and set your budget before you contact a tradesperson.
  2. Do your homework – ask family, friends or neighbours for recommendations on tradespeople they have used. Make sure companies or individuals you deal with are well-established. If it’s a company, check that it is registered with the Companies Registration Office or if they are a member of a trade association.
  3. Ask for references – check their track record with previous clients. Call the clients to confirm the references and if you can, try to visit them to see the work that was done
  4. Get a quote, not an estimate – an estimate is an educated guess of how much a job will cost but has no legal standing. The price could rise as the work goes on. A written quote is binding so long as you don’t make changes to the job’s requirements. Get three different quotes and remember that the cheapest one mightn’t always be the best value.
  5. Always sign a contract – having a signed contract protects you. But you should never sign any contract without reading it carefully, including the terms and conditions and small print. If you are taking on a large project, like an extension or complete renovation, it might be worth getting your solicitor to look at the contract.
  6. If possible, use your credit or debit card to pay any deposit - if the supplier goes out of business, your card provider may be able to reverse the transaction with a chargeback. Remember though, deposits are usually non-refundable and if you change your mind about the job or service the tradesperson doesn’t have to refund you.
  7. Agree a payments schedule - to avoid any disagreements, break the payments into stages. The payments schedule should detail the work to be done, the amount to be paid at each stage and the number of payments. Avoid paying cash if possible, as it can’t be traced. Always get a receipt for your payments and keep the receipts safe.
  8. Know your rights – when you employ a tradesperson to provide a service for you, you have the rights. You have the right to expect that: 
    • The service is provided with proper care and attention
    • The business providing it has the appropriate skills to do the job
    • Any materials they use are fit for their purpose
    • Any goods they supply to you as part of the service should be of acceptable quality too
  9. Know what to do if things go wrong – if things go wrong, check your contract to see where you stand. Talk to the tradesperson and explain why you aren’t happy and try to agree a solution. If they aren’t willing to finish the work properly or give you a refund or reduction in price, you can take legal action. You can use the Small Claims procedure if the job cost less than €2,000. For jobs over €2,000, you should consult your solicitor.


Published Date: 21/02/2017

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