How do I find a builder I can trust?

Date published: 19 April 2021

Citizens Advice Oldham is a local charity that provides free, independent, impartial, confidential advice to Oldham residents.

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I’ve been saving up to have my kitchen redone, but I’m a bit worried about it. Last time I had any work done on the house, it took more than double the time I thought it would and ended up costing me a fortune. I’m looking for a different builder this time, but how will I know I can trust them?

Many of us will take advantage of the warmer weather and bank holiday weekends coming up to improve our homes, and it’s important to make sure the job goes well. Here are some steps you should take when choosing a trader:

Find a Trading Standards ‘approved trader’ - use the internet to search for one in your area or the Government’s approved trader scheme TrustMark

Get references or recommendations - ask people you know or ask the person you hire for examples of work they’ve carried out in the past. Try to avoid contractors who won’t give references - it’s a sign they could be dishonest.

Find out if they are a current member of a trade body - trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve problems if things go wrong, so check your trader is a member. Ask who they’re registered with and then check the trade body’s website.

Only use certified traders for gas and electrics - it’s dangerous to use someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Check the Gas Safe Register for a list of traders and use a registered electrician who can certify their own work. When you’re having a kitchen fitted, it’s worth checking whether the person you’ve hired will be doing the electrical or gas work themselves. If not, check who they will be using and whether they’re registered.

Get a written quote - this is different to an estimate. A quote is legally binding and the builder can’t change it without a good reason - for example, if you ask for extrawork to be done. Try to compare quotes from a number of contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price.

Get a written contract - this should cover exactly what you’re paying for and everything you’ve agreed on, like timings, payments, who will pay for materials and subcontractors.

Think carefully about payment - opt to pay in stages rather than upfront. Where possible, try to pay by card as this can afford you extra safeguards if something goes wrong.

Keep copies of receipts - also keep your written contract as evidence, as well as photos of any problems if they arise.

If you have a problem with a contractor, and you’re not sure what to do or where to go, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133

If you’d like to find out more about our service for Oldham residents, and access advice online, go to
You can also call our friendly team on 0808 278 7803 (freephone)

Our advice gives people the knowledge and the confidence they need to find their way forward - whoever they are, and whatever their problem.

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