Britons planning to renovate their home this year could face eye-watering bills, as some tradespeople have more than doubled their prices in the last 12 months.
The overall cost of carrying out home improvements increased by 61 per cent between January 2021 and 2022, according to online directory Checkatrade.
The average bricklayer is charging 103 per cent more today than they were in 2021, an increase of more than £800, while fireplace and stove installers hiked prices by 95 per cent or £775.
The renovation generation: Rising prices are doing little to put people off. Checkatrade saw its busiest ever January, with 4.1 million searches for its tradespeople.
Inflation, the rising cost of building materials and increasing demand from customers are all being blamed for the higher prices.
Checkatrade examined over 500,000 real customer reviews to identify the average prices paid for renovations by UK home improvers.
It found the average person was paying roughly extra £1,342 for home improvements at the start of this year compared to prices paid at the beginning of 2021.
Those planning big building jobs could be the worst hit, with bricklaying, building work and roofing recording some of the biggest price rises.
Building work costs were up by a staggering 90 per cent this January compared to last, according to Checkatrade, while the average roofing job has also risen by 91 per cent.
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But it is not just impacting those renovating their homes. The average handyman job costs 40 per cent more than it did in January 2021, for example.
And hiring a plumber will typically set homeowners back 67 per cent more than it did last year, according to Checkatrade’s data.
Why are trades so much more expensive?
Inflation, the rising cost of materials, supply challenges and intense customer demand are all being blamed for the price rises.
Global supply chain challenges and transport delays are making it harder for tradespeople to get hold of bricks, aircrete blocks, roof tiles, steel lintels, cable trays and trunking, gas boilers and some electrical products – particularly those using semi-conductors and microchips.
Costs remain elevated, with shipping rates still eight to nine times higher than pre-Covid levels and air cargo rates seven times higher.
According to the Construction Leadership Council, price rises of between 5 and 10 per cent have been announced by many manufacturers so far this year, with energy-intensive products having increased by as much as 20 per cent.
The average cost of a plumbing job cost £434 as of January, according to Checkatrade. This represented a £174 increase year-on-year
And rising inflation has meant that the same increases in the cost of energy and petrol that are affecting households, are also affecting small businesses. Labour costs are also rising.
The expectation is that the conflict in Ukraine is likely to compound the situation.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders says: ‘As the cost-of-living crisis worsens, local builders are worried that after a tough few years, the worst may yet still be to come, as the war in Ukraine pushes prices up still further.
‘Seventy-four per cent of our members are having to put up prices to accommodate increased costs.
‘Builders are now in the unenviable position of having to raise costs for a customer base that is tightening its belt. This will mean customers will have to pay more for building work.’
How to keep costs under control
Rising prices are doing little to quell intense customer demand for home improvements, according to Checkatrade.
The find-a-trader website said it experienced its busiest ever January in 2022, with 4.1million tradesperson searches recorded in that month alone.
Choosing a good tradesman online
The most common find-a-trader websites include TrustATrader, Checkatrade, Rated People and MyBuilder.
These sites not only enable you to find tradesmen, but also see how well they have been reviewed by previous customers.
However, these websites are also funded by the tradesmen advertising on them, and therefore they are not necessarily a guarantee for quality workmanship.
Another, possibility is the Government-backed approved trader scheme, TrustMark.
With strict codes of conduct imposed on its members and a dispute resolution ombudsman that customers can turn to if something goes wrong, this website can provide further peace of mind for home improvers.
On top of these sites, the expert advice is to always conduct your own research into whoever it is you decide to hire.
However, those paying more for their renovations will be especially keen to stop project costs from spiralling.
Paula Higgins, founder of the HomeOwners Alliance, says that this year may not be the time to splash out on ‘over-the-top’ interior design ambitions.
‘Take a close look at your plan and see if you can choose a simpler design,’ she advises.
‘Picking off-the-shelf materials with standard sizes can also help keep costs down.
‘Spending time sourcing big-ticket items and looking for second-hand and ex-display products can not only save you money, but you can also avoid the supply chain delays many builders face.’
Homeowners are also being advised to shop around when it comes to selecting a tradesperson, and make sure they get more than one quote.
Where possible this should be done in person, so the customer has an opportunity to meet with them and establish whether or not they seem trustworthy.
Berry adds: ‘Consumers looking to have work done should get three quotes from reputable builders, either by using a find a builder service or more traditional methods such as asking friends, family or neighbours for recommendations.
‘They need to be mindful that making quotes is a time-consuming job for builders, so they may not respond immediately.’
Whilst price is a big consideration when selecting which tradesman or builder to hire, it is also important to consider their track record, past reviews and professional qualifications.
‘The golden rule to remember is that a good builder is a busy builder,’ adds Berry.
‘If anyone offers quick turnaround times and cheap prices, especially in the current market, then alarms should be ringing.’
Sky high: The average bricklaying job on Checkatrade has doubled in price, with customers typically paying £829 more than they did a year ago
With prices being so volatile, many tradespeople are only locking in quotes for a few days at a time, according to Checkatrade.
This means prices could rise during long-term renovation projects, and that quotes may go up if work doesn’t start immediately.
‘Before you commit to work going ahead, ask your tradesperson how long their quote stands for, and confirm in writing how any material price rises would be managed,’ a spokesperson for Checkatrade says.
‘Some materials prices are rising particularly quickly – for instance, copper piping. If your project isn’t due to start for a while, it could be worth purchasing the materials you need sooner rather than later.
‘Make sure to store these in a secure space, as when prices rise the risk of theft can be heightened.’
How to avoid rogue traders
Unfortunately, price hikes and high demand have created the perfect environment for cowboy traders to take advantage of those looking to save a few pounds.
Homeowners should therefore carry out due diligence on whoever they plan to hire.
A good first step is to ask for proof of a trade body membership.
Industry bodies for electricians include the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC) and National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT), whilst with gas engineers, look for a Gas Safe Register certificate.
It may also be wise to check the firm out on Companies House, to see how long it has been trading and assess its financial situation.
‘Check whether the tradesperson is registered with a trade body,’ says Higgins. ‘Ask for references and speak to previous clients.
‘Don’t try to cut corners by avoiding VAT or not asking for the necessary certificates needed to comply with building regulations.
‘You won’t be protected and you will also need the paperwork when you come to sell your home.’
Checkatrade advises homeowners to be mindful of any trade with very high availability, never accept work from trades who appear on the doorstep, and beware of being asked for full payment upfront.
TrustMark’s do’s and don’ts for hiring a tradesperson
The average tiling job increased by £483 in 2021 according to Checkatrade
- Really think through the work you’re looking to have done and take expert advice if needed. Know how much you want to spend and set your budget. Bear in mind that prices may go up before the job is finished
- Be specific about the work you require. If you want a certain type of material, colour or finish, explain this in your brief
- Start planning and obtaining quotes as early as possible: a minimum of three. Good quality tradespeople are often busy months ahead
- Seek references, read reviews, ask friends and family for recommendations. Speak to previous customers and if possible, visit previous jobs. Use TrustMark’s ‘Find a Trader’ facility
- Always use a written contract as it offers you protection if anything does go wrong. Make sure it includes the cost, expected timescale and how they will deal with any disputes that may arise
- Check what guarantees, warranties or other protection are included. TrustMark registered businesses must offer two years’ financial protection mechanism for all works carried out. It will also cover you for certain risks if the business were to cease trading
- If materials need to be bought in advance by the business, it is reasonable that they may ask for a deposit or percentage of these costs as the job progresses
- Only pay for work that has been completed, unless using a service like the TrustMark Payment Protection service which releases funds to the business at key project milestones
- Be flexible. You may need to wait a little longer for the tradesperson of your choice to be available or materials may take longer to source. Good communication is key
- Just select the cheapest option. Does the quotation match what you’re asking for or expecting? Are you happy with references and reviews?
- Be nervous about asking to see credentials and insurances – all good tradespeople will be happy to show you
- Be frightened to talk to your tradesperson. If you’re unsure about something or unhappy, the earlier you raise the issue, the easier it is to rectify
- Forget to make the necessary access available. Is there adequate parking or provision for offloading materials? What about pets, children, neighbours and toilet facilities?
- Assume anything. Talk things through and ask questions, no matter how trivial they may seem. That way you’ll both have a common understanding of what’s required, and any limitations
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