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7 things every homeowner should consider before winter

on Wednesday, 09 November 2016. Posted in General, Home Improvement and Tradespeople, Blog, News, Advice

Look after your home! Spend a little now to save a lot later.

1 – Clear gutters (and downpipes)

2 – Work well with plumbers

3 - Only buy good quality logs

4 – Get your roof repaired before storms

5 – Get damaged or rotten fencing repaired or replaced before storms

6 – Service garden machinery

7 – Budget for your tax return



1 – Clear gutters (and downpipes)

Blocked gutters can lead to damp problems and damaged brickwork potentially causing thousands. An annual gutter clean of tree debris and moss helps prevent this problem.

Find recommended local gutter clearing companies here.


2 – Work well with plumbers

 CarlKnill Bathrooms Plumbing Exeter Reduced Again

Photo – Carl Knill of CK One Stop Plumbing Solutions, Exeter.  'He’s very very good. He’s reliable, organises jobs well, keeps to schedule and is good with his customers.'

Plumbers are very busy at this time of year – treat them with respect! Be prepared to be flexible as jobs can over-run. If you can be available at short notice make sure they are aware of this and you might get an earlier appointment. Encourage your plumber to be clear and honest about their availability. Keep them on their toes by making sure they know you got them from OurLocalExpert.

All plumbers in OurLocalExpert have been recommended by local people like YOU!


3 – Buy properly seasoned logs!

If you buy logs, make sure they are properly seasoned for a more efficient fire.

 Sidmouth Logs Honiton Firewood

Photo – Nick and Caroline from the excellent Devon Log Store, Branscombe.

Testimonial: ‘These are the best logs we've ever had. I didn't realise our woodburner could get so hot!’

Click here for businesses in OurLocalExpert who deliver logs in the local area, and pride themselves on the quality of their wood.


4 – Get your roof repaired before storms

If you know you’ve got a dodgy roof, give it some attention before the worst of the winter storms.

 RobinsBren GooglePortrait

Photo – Bren Robins Roofing, Exeter, recommended as Very pleasant, decent person who came for small repair on roof’.

Roofers are happy to take enquiries for smaller repair work over the winter – when it can be risky to replace whole roofs.

Find recommended local roofers here.


5 – Get damaged or rotten fencing repaired or replaced before storms

Hares Fencing

Photo - fencing by Hares Landscapes.

Fencing contactors in OurLocalExpert have been recommended for the quality of their work and their products. You get what you pay for, so make sure you understand the implications before trying to cut costs with cheaper products.

Find recommended local fencing installers by clicking here.


6 – Service garden machinery

Prolong the life of any expensive garden machinery by taking it to the doctor for some TLC. 

Garden Kit in Colaton Raleigh, East Devon were recommended because: 'the knowledge of the owners & staff and their willingness to help & give advice bowled me over.'

Find recommended local businesses for garden machinery by clicking here.


7 – Budget for your tax return.

...and you thought that Christmas was expensive! If you need the help of an expert, find recommended local tax advisers here.


Trade Associations and Trade Accreditations

on Tuesday, 11 August 2009. Posted in Advice

Throughout the listings in OurLocalExpert, you will often see businesses claiming to be ‘FENSA accredited’ or ‘on the GasSAFE register’, or similar.

Where accreditations are required, we have tried to highlight this in the listings.

This page tries to help you understand some of the more common accreditations and trade associations for your builder, electrician, plumber, and glazier – providing links to their websites for your convenience.

As a general guide, accreditations are usually won by a particular business. They prove competence, and that systems and processes are being followed. There is often a training aspect which ensures members are up to date with the latest regulations.

Trade associations tend to be membership groups which lobby on behalf of a particular trade – for example they may be the expert body discussing issues concerning a specific trade with the government. Trade associations provide specialist services for their members such as bespoke insurance, legal services, shared training, and specialist advice.

Other bodies listed here include independent and government regulated bodies set up to protect the customer.

Trade Associations and Accreditations by Industry / Trade

Trade Associations and Accreditations by Acronym

All Trades

Public Quality Assurance Groups

Central Heating Engineers
Chimney Sweeps
Double Glazing
Garden Services
Tree Surgeons


ACS Training
Buy with Confidence
City and Guilds
Construction Skills
Consumer Direct
Customer First
Dulux Select Decorators
GAS safe

Guild of Builders and Contractors
Guild of Master Craftsmen
Marshalls Register
Part P
Trading Standards


All Trades:


City and Guilds

City and Guilds are academic and vocational qualifications – proving that a tradesperson has been properly taught in their trade. They are not specific to any one area – covering over 500 qualifications in 28 industry areas.
These areas include Gardening (Alan Titchmarsh is C+G qualified), Catering (Jamie Oliver has C+G qualifications), construction and building. See the City and Guilds website at

The Guild of Master Craftsmen

The Guild of Master Craftsmen represents members in over 400 trades, including builders, plumbers, glaziers and electricians, as well as more specialist trades such as wrought iron, stained glass and thatching. See the Guild of Master Craftsmen website at
By representing such a wide body of tradespeople, this membership organisation is able to offer favourable products and policies (e.g. insurance) to its members, and to encourage good practice throughout its membership.

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Builders, Construction (general)

Construction Skills

Construction Skills (previously known as CITB - Construction Industry Training Board), is the (Government) Skills Council for the construction industry – including the industry training board. They exist to ensure a safe, professional, fully qualified UK construction workforce, and are involved in schemes such as apprenticeships and other pre-City and Guilds training.
As well as providing training courses, they also provide card schemes for employers in the construction industry which help ensure that migrant workers are legal and suitably qualified to work. See the website for Construction Skills at:

For more information about specifically the card scheme, see: CSCS was set up to help the construction industry to improve quality and reduce accidents. CSCS cards are increasingly demanded as proof of occupational competence by contractors, public and private clients and others. They cover hundreds of occupations so whatever you do in construction there will be a card that is suitable for that role.

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FMB - Federation of Master Builders, MasterBond Warranty

FMB - Federation of Master Builders is a trade association for Builders.
We particularly approve of their MasterBond Warranty - an insurance-backed guarantee that offers a safeguard should your builder cease trading, part of the Government’s ‘TrustMark’ scheme.

Amongst other checks, Masterbond members must have provided 6 different references, and have a minimum three year-trading history. Their work is inspected by an independent assessor every three years. We understand that this scheme includes the National Register of Warranted Builders. For more information about the Federation of Master Builders, see their website at:

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The National Federation of Builders

The National Federation of Builders is a membership organisation which aims to make running a building business as simple and stress free as possible. Particularly relevant for ‘non-volume housebuilders’ (e.g self-build and new-build builders – representing their interests to the Government on such issues as Home Information Packs).
Membership requires businesses to:
• Provide business and financial references.
• Be VAT registered (if applicable).
• Be CITB registered.
• Provide Public Liability Insurance details
• Have traded for at least 2 years.
• Adhere to a code of conduct in regards to clients relationships.
Members then need to demonstrate their company’s technical competence, health & safety standards and financial probity.
See the website for the National Federation of Builders at:

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NHBC - National House-Building Council

Typically the NHBC acts as a warranty and insurance for new builds and owners of newly built homes, although they also input to work on new regulations and standards, including Building Regulations and British Standards.
Only builders and developers who can demonstrate financial security and technical competence can be registered with the National House-Building Council. They must follow the NHBC Rules and build homes to agreed standards of construction. See the website for the National House-Building Council at

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Guild of Builders and Contractors

Membership of the Guild of Builders and Contractors appears more member-focussed than consumer-focused, although the consumer obviously benefits by employing well-informed contractors. See the website for the Guild of Builders and Contractors at

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Central Heating Engineers, Plumbers


It is a legal requirement that all gas installers are on the GASsafe register: See for details.
(Prior to April 2009, this was known as CORGI - which still exists as a quality-based trade association, although it is now open to most trades). For more information about CORGI see:

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APHC – Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors

APHC – the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors is a trade association for the Plumbing and Heating industry in England and Wales. All members of the association undertake an annual assessment to ensure they are meeting criteria based on customer service and competency. This assessment also checks that customer complaint processes are in place, and that Public Liability insurance is held. See the website for the APHC at:

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CIPHE – the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering

All IPHE members have had to prove their qualifications and/or experience to join and have to adhere to a five-point Code of Professional Standards.

See the website for the CIPHE at ,, or see their code of standards by clicking here.

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Water Regulations Advisory Scheme, WRAS

The Water Regulations Advisory Scheme, WRAS, is for water Industry approved plumbers (and components). This scheme is accessed by your local water authority to prevent spread of problems such as legionnaires disease etc. For a plumber or fitter to be Water Authority approved, means they would need a professional qualification in plumbing along with a recognised qualification in the new water fittings regulations or byelaws. Members also need up to date Public Liability insurance. For more information about the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme, see the WRAS website at:

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HVCA – the Heating and Ventilation Contractors Association

HVCA, the Heating and Ventilation Contractors Association, is a membership organisation providing services and promoting excellence throughout the Heating and Ventilation industry. Members are subject to regular third-party inspection and assessment to ensure technical and commercial competence. See the website for the HVCA at:

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OFTEC are the experts for Oil Heating and oil-fired heating. OFTEC offer a wide range of courses for oil firing technicians and oil-fired central heating engineers. OFTEC training and registration are recognised as professional standards throughout the industry. OFTEC also test and approve equipment for oil-fired heating. To learn more, visit the OFTEC website at:

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For work on a gas boiler, note that building regulations will apply if you want to install or move a gas boiler unless you use a GASsafe registered installer who can self-certify.


HETAS is the official body recognised by government to approve solid fuel domestic heating appliances, fuels and services. They approve products including boilers, cookers, open fires and stoves, and room heaters. They also provide specialist advice on factory made chimneys and carbon monoxide detectors and alarms suitable for use with solid fuel.
All HETAS registered installers are trained and assessed as competent, and they run the only competent persons scheme specialising in solid fuels and wood biomass. In the event of a complaint they try to work with all sides to promote a fair and equitable outcome. To learn more about HETAS visit their website at

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ACS Training

ACS Training is the formal training required before engineers can claim to be GasSafe. This needs to be refreshed every 5 years.

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Chimney Sweeps:


HETAS is the official body recognised by government to approve solid fuel domestic heating appliances, fuels and services. They approve products including boilers, cookers, open fires and stoves, and room heaters. They also provide specialist advice on factory made chimneys and carbon monoxide detectors and alarms suitable for use with solid fuel.
All HETAS registered installers are trained and assessed as competent, and they run the only competent persons scheme specialising in solid fuels and wood biomass. In the event of a complaint they try to work with all sides to promote a fair and equitable outcome. See the HETAS website at:

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National Association of Chimney Sweeps

The National Association of Chimney Sweeps offer insurance, certificates for all customers, training, and shared advertising to members through their web-site:

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The Association of Professional and Independent Chimney Sweeps (APICS) Ltd

It is a Trade Association to set standards for, and improve the knowledge and safety of its members, thereby giving customers a better service.  APICS members adhere to the APICS code of conduct which includes holding adequate Public Liability Insurance, and to fully inform the customer of any problem that has been found in writing.  Click here to visit the APCS website.
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Dulux Select Decorators

To be a member of Dulux Select Decorators, painting decorators must have worked in the trade for at least 5 years, and be able to provide 4 recent references on request. Spot checks are carried out to ensure that decorators jobs are performed using quality materials, to a good standard. See the web pages for Dulux Select Decorators by clicking here.

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Double Glazing:

FENSA - the Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme

FENSA is the Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme. Installing replacement windows and doors to your property requires an application to Building regulations unless your installer is registered with FENSA. This is because the replacements must comply with current thermal performance standards. [Note that FENSA does not apply to new-build].
FENSA also operate the TrustMark scheme for the Government on behalf of the Double Glazing industry – to help drive out the cowboys, rogue traders and builders from hell.

Learn more about FENSA from their website at:

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The Marshalls Register

A contractor on the Marshalls Register is an independent contractor who is regularly assessed, and agrees to follow Marshalls' own code of practice and installation specification (Marshalls have an excellent reputation for supplying hard landscaping products nationwide, as well as design services where required). Whoever you choose should be able to advise on the best products for the job, taking into account drainage. For more information about the Marshalls Register, click here.

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(includes information about fitting lights, socket wiring, and regulations Part P):

Part P

Part P is the section of the Building Regulations for England and Wales concerning electrical installations in domestic buildings. It requires that most domestic electrical work to be carried out by government-registered electricians, or to be inspected by Building Control officers.

Or put another way, an electrician registered for Part P will be able to self-certify electrical work without the need for a Building Control application.
When adding to or extending a current installation that does not require a new circuit, ensure that you are issued with a Minor Works Certificate by your electrician. This could be the addition of socket outlets or lighting points to existing circuits. The replacement of accessories such as socket outlets, switches and ceiling roses in any location is also classed as minor work, as is fitting lights and socket wiring. You should keep this certificate as it will be essential information during any future sale of your house
For official government advice about regulations Part P, use this link to the Government's Planning portal.

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ECA – Electrical Contractor’s Association

ECA – The Electrical Contractor’s Association - is the UK's largest and leading trade association representing electrical, electronic, installation engineering and building services companies (including security systems). ECA operate the excellent ‘TrustMark’ Government Endorsed standards scheme within the electrical industry. TrustMark promises consumers that members will:
Have their technical competence checked
Have the quality of their work regularly monitored
Sign up to a code of good practice covering insurance cover, customer care, and health and safety procedures.

Learn more at the ECA website, at:

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NICEIC is a trade association that exists to protect anyone who uses electricity from unsafe electrical installations in their homes. They keep a register of electrical contractors who are assessed as complying with the Council's rules. The assessment covers a representative sample of the electrician’s technical work, their premises and documentation, and the competence of their key supervisory staff.
Once electrical contractors become NICEIC Approved Electrical Contractors, they are re-assessed every year to confirm that their business and the technical standard of their electrical work continue to comply with the Council's rules. Visit the website for NICEIC at:

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ELECSA provides Part P inspection, assessment and certification services to electricians serving the domestic market. See the ELECSA website at:

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NAPIT: National Association for Professional Inspectors and Testers

NAPIT is the National Association for Professional Inspectors and Testers. They are an organisation committed to consumer safety (domestic and commercial in not just electrical, also plumbing, heating and ventilation (including air conditioning). NAPIT members are able to offer customers an insurance backed Work Quality Guarantee scheme to give you peace of mind.
NAPIT members are also able to offer you a certificate of compliance for the work carried out, and they also update your local authority's records. This will help you with future house sale issues and may be required by future extensions of the home information pack.
NAPIT are also able to offer membership of the excellent TRUSTMARK scheme to their members – protecting consumers from cowboys and rogue traders. See the NAPIT website at:

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Garden Services and Tree Surgeons


NPTC is part of the City and Guilds group, providing training and assessment services for land-based and related industries.  It aims to promote competence and professionalism in the workforce by the encouragement of continuous learning and the recognition of skill.

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Roofing and Roofers:


NFRC - the National Federation of Roofing Contractors

The National Federation of Roofing Contractors, NFRC, represents over 60% of the roofing industry. Using an NFRC registered contractor offers guaranteed protection and quality. They work with the Government endorsed Trustmark scheme to drive cowboys out of the roofing trade. See the website for the NFRC at

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The Confederation of Roofing Contractors (CRC)

The CRC was established to protect the public from unscrupulous roofing contractors – roofing being once notorious for ‘rogue traders’ as it can be so difficult for the customer to inspect the work performed.
They recommend that you obtain 3 quotes for any piece of work, and offer you the service of going through each quotation in order to secure the most cost effective quote.

Follow this link to see the website of the Confederation of Roofing Contractors.

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Public Quality Assurance Groups

As well as the above trade associations, there are several quality assurance groups who are of key help to consumers:


TrustMark isthe Government-endorsed kite mark to help consumers find reputable and trustworthy tradespeople. Offered across all trades, usually implemented with the help of trade associations. See the Trustmark website at:

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Trading Standards, Consumer Direct

Trading Standards, the well-known local and independent advice channel, is now only available through ‘Consumer Direct’. Their regionally based advisors are specially trained to give practical advice on all kinds of consumer issues - from problems with cars to faulty household appliances. Call them for any questions about your consumer rights, product or service issues - 08454 04 05 06 or see the Consumer Direct website at:

Trading standards also have a web presence at:

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Buy With Confidence, Customer First

Buy With Confidence has now joined forces with Customer First to offer a Trading standards approved list of traders.
Not just tradespeople, but also shops and restaurants, the scheme enables members to share the costs of customer service courses to ensure a better quality of customer care. The aim of the Buy with Confidence scheme is to help consumers to avoid rip-offs and cowboys by providing a list of companies who have been independently checked by staff from the local authority Trading Standards Service. Learn more at the Buy With Confidence website:

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Please note that the information above is for guidance only – and is only contained to the best understanding of the author. For the latest advice and information on individual trades, we recommending going to the trade experts themselves – i.e. the trade associations.

We try to keep this list up to date, so if you do not find information about a particular trade association, please do CONTACT US.

Why do people use Our Local Expert?

on Thursday, 09 July 2009. Posted in Why You Can Trust Our Local Expert, Advice

“I like your directory - great idea - wheedles out the baddies of the trade world!” Julie P-F, Honiton

We aim to be the first place you look for local experts you can trust, for people you would be happy to have in your home. The sort of people you would recommend to a neighbour for their quality service and good workmanship.

Please don’t just use this website just for tradespeople like builders, plumbers, electricians, decorators and roofers. We also receive recommendations for local garages, computer repairs, also specialist food and farm shops, restaurants, and caterers; wedding and function hire; complementary therapists; in fact pretty much any service where you would want a recommendation.

As well as this website we also publish a free printed local directory. Please contact us if you'd like a copy.

We started with our East Devon guide in 2007 under a different name. We received such great response from the local community that we have decided to expand into different areas – starting with Exeter in 2009, and Teignbridge and Torbay in 2010.

Our directory is only as good as the recommendations we receive from people like you, so please do keep telling us about:
local businesses you recommend ,
local businesses you don’t recommend and
telling us how you get on with the businesses we currently feature

We differ from other directories because we have a genuine local presence, and we are a small local business ourselves.  This means that we can apply our local knowledge, integrity and discretion, when many automated websites are liable to abuse by fake reviewers.  Please see our Quality Control page to understand more about how we deal with the reviews you send us.

Please let us know what you think, either using our ‘feedback’ page, or see our ‘contact us’.


Why do people use

Here’s what some of our readers have told us:

"Your booklet has been an immense help in finding reliable, courteous and helpful tradesmen all of whom I will have no hesitation in recommending to others."
Timothy Green, Exeter

"When you’re recently widowed and need your boiler serviced, you don’t feel you can just trust anyone in the Yellow Pages."
Val H, Kingskerswell

“I was delighted to receive this little book and to have a handy list of tradesmen recommended. It will be invaluable to us newcomers when we look for a reliable service.”
Sheila McB, Honiton

Great for an old person / single lady like me. Nice, independent businesses”
Olive H, Exmouth

"Your guide is such a good idea – not only if you’re new to an area.  I’ve been here five years now and found this particularly helpful to find a reliable plumber.  I find it very useful."
Mrs Roll, Exeter

"Put it this way, although it came through my door, I’ll be keeping hold of it.  I like the way it has testimonials, and it tells you more about the business than just what you’d find in the yellow pages.  It contains local people – some things through my door are for companies in Torquay, which is no use to me. "
Paul Day, Newton Abbot.

“I like the layout, and found it extremely easy to use – I shall certainly be making good use of it”
Cyril R, Clyst St Mary

A brilliant idea to have a local directory of trades people who are reliable and trustworthy”
Di H, Topsham

"Thank you for what you do at Our Local Expert.  It gives us more confidence when we are calling tradesmen."
Mr and Mrs Durston, Milber, Newton Abbot

“This book is brilliant – it provides a most excellent service, as it can be a problem to know who to approach when you need work done. It’s nice to have people recommended”.
Mrs B, Newton Poppleford

“Thank goodness for your little book”
80yr old lady, Sidmouth, who used one of our featured businesses for a new computer, installation and lessons.

“….an excellent resource…….always the first place I look for local tradesmen.”
Martin D – Woodbury

"I’ve been using your book all morning and I think it’s brilliant! When you’re new to an area you don’t know where to start, and it’s hard to know who to trust from the other books of listings."
Helen S, Sidmouth

"I like your listing ethos as it is very hard to find trusted tradesmen”.
David C, Whimple

“I took his name (Jack Burgess Aerial suppliers) from your book. He lived up to all claims: helpuful, considerate, punctual and professional
Jill R, Ottery St Mary.

"We’ve had an elderly lady from Budleigh started as a new customer. Her husband had recently died, and he’d previously done all the things like looking after the cars. She got our name from your book’.
Anecdotal – from Danny at M+D Motors, Exmouth

How to work well with Tradespeople

on Tuesday, 07 July 2009. Posted in Advice



1. Before work begins – check legal requirements

Building regulations approval is usually required for internal work like removing a wall or converting a garage. Note that Building Regulations and Planning Permission are totally separate – not requiring one does not mean you do not need the other!

If you decide to sell your house in the future, your buyer’s solicitor will ask for a copy of all Building Regulations and Planning consents. If you don’t have these, it could hold up or even stop the sale of your house.

Many changes to your electrical wiring installations require approval under Part P. This includes all work in kitchens, bathrooms and outdoors. An electrician registered for Part P will be able to self-certify the work without the need for a Building Control application. Building regulations will apply if you want to install or move a gas boiler unless you use a GASsafe registered installer who can self-certify. [GASsafe replaced CORGI in April 2009]. Similarly, installing replacement windows and doors requires an application unless your installer is registered with FENSA.

Renovating a thermal element now requires approval and you will be required to upgrade the thermal efficiency of the part of the building you are working on. For example, replacing roof tiles will require additional roof insulation, and re-rendering an outside wall may require additional wall insulation.

For building work up to, or on the party wall with your neighbour – download this useful Government booklet on the Party Wall Act.

For more information see, or use the following phone numbers:

City / District Council Building Control Hotline Planning
Exeter 01392  265167 01392  265223
Mid Devon 01884  234345 01884  234260
Teignbridge (East) 01626  215793 01626  215734
Teignbridge (West) 01626  215793 01626  215743
Torbay 01803  208095 01803  207801
East Devon 01395  517482 01395  516551

2. Use a recommended tradesperson is based entirely on local recommendations. You can also ask neighbours and local friends for recommendations. Avoid people who come to your door asking to perform work.

Ask to see your chosen tradesperson’s Public Liability Insurance (and check the expiry date). This should be up to at least £500,000. Ask if they have done any work locally that you could visit.

3. Get a written quotation, on headed paper (as opposed to an ‘estimate’)

Cheaper is not necessarily better, especially if it means you will need the work to be done again in a few years time. Check if VAT is included, and if there is a call-out charge.
Check if any guarantees are insurance-backed (in case the business should fold).

4. Agree written contract

Agree a written scope of work, based on the quotation you choose. Ensure it details all the work required, including the removal of earth and waste materials if applicable. Ensure that the contract estimates the time taken, and agrees all staged payments in advance.

Try to agree your first payment to coincide with materials delivered on site, and agree your final stage payment at the point you are happy to sign off the completed work.

5. Budget 15% over the quoted price

This will allow for unforeseen problems, or any extra work that you may require mid-way through the project.

6. Agree changes with project manager

For large projects, any changes made by you or the contractor should be detailed in writing. Agree these with the project manager, and not one of the staff.

7. Ask for a receipt when paying

Be sure you can track all payments and always ask for a receipt if paying cash. No paperwork means no guarantee.

8. Who to contact should a problem arise

If your work fails to meet your expectations and you are not happy with the response from your chosen tradesperson, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0845 040506), or take independent legal advice from a solicitor or your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

East Devon Citizen’s Advice Bureau: 01404 44213,
Exeter Citizen’s Advice Bureau: 0844 4994101.


Further links and articles:

Link to Devon County Council Trading Standards - prosecutions in the last 6 months.

Follow this link for February 2010 news item about a Newton Abbot 'cowboy builder' found guilty by Devon Trading Standards (links to 'This is South Devon').