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Home improvement advice

A guide to having work done on your home

A reputable company is proud of its reputation and should be willing to prove it.

Most of us don’t know very much about the building trade and what to do when we want to carry out repairs or improvements to our home.

How to choose a tradesman

If you are spending a lot of money on repairs or changes to your home, think about employing an architect or surveyor.

An architect or survey can help:

  • plan the work
  • select the tradesmen
  • check the estimates
  • supervise the work
  • deal with any problems

Although you will need to pay a fee, this may avoid problems and save money in the long run. It is also likely to give you peace of mind.

The best source of information on reliable tradesmen is from friends or neighbours who have had work carried out.

Once you have a few names (at least three), contact the tradesmen or contractors that suit the size and type of work you want carried out.

Get confirmation that they can:

  1. do the type of work you want and
  2. when they are likely to be able to do the work.

Additional tips

  • Ask for details of recent jobs they have carried out and if possible check with the property owners that they were satisfied with work and the end result
  • Be cautious when looking at jobs that have only just been finished as whilst the superficial appearance may be good, the underlying construction may be poor
  • Ask them to visit you to make an assessment of the work required and the cost of the work
  • Obtain written quotations and compare them
  • Ensure the quotations are on company letterhead paper – if possible, check the address and telephone numbers.
  • Be very cautious if you cannot contact the contractor easily or they are only contactable by mobile phone

Standard of workmanship to expect

You should expect the work to be carried out to a reasonable standard, comparable to the rest of your home. Ask the tradesmen to show you examples of work they have done in the past.

The Isle of Man Employers’ Federation maintain a list of Manx Accredited Construction Contractors (MACCS).

The contractors on the list will:

  • possess appropriate insurances
  • have a health and safety policy statement
  • employ certificated craftsmen in those categories relevant to the contractor's approval

The Employers’ Federation offers no warranty, guarantee, or other approval of the contractors on this list, other than those checks carried out as detailed above.

How to compare prices

When comparing prices from different people make sure that they have included everything you want.

Types of quotations:

  • fixed price for the work
  • estimates (price is only guidance)

Often it may be necessary to have a mixture of the two. For example a fixed price to install kitchen units but the cost of the units depends on your final choice

Check if they are only valid for a specific period of time. If so do not take too long to begin deciding whether or not to accept although you should be wary of being rushed into agreeing to quotations without the opportunity to think about them fully first.

Additional checks to make

  • Do they clearly show a contact address and telephone number (not just a mobile)?
  • Do they have established premises that you can visit?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • Have they full insurance cover?
  • Do they carry out Risk Assessments and have the correct Personnel Protective equipment for their employees?
  • Qualifications – are the tradesmen appropriately qualified to do the work? Are they members of the MACCS?
  • Check if the contractor is registered with appropriate trade body e.g. Gas Safe, Chartered Institute of Plumber and Heating Engineering.

Do not be afraid to ask questions on points that concern you – reputable contractors will do their best to answer them and to assure you of their competence. Customer satisfaction is a sure way for contractors to further their reputation and gain more business.

The paperwork tradesman should provide

For anything other than a very minor job you should ask for written details of the work to be carried out and the price you will have to pay.

It should include start and planned finish dates, but completion may be delayed due to bad weather or unforeseen problems.

Making changes to your requirements once work has started will cause delay and risk the possibility of mistakes. Costs for the work may also change. If changes are essential, agree the cost and length of extra time needed before the changes start.

Obtain a proper receipt for your payment, particularly if it’s for cash. Preferably make the payment using a credit card where you will have the additional protection afforded by the credit card company.

Available guarantees and warranties

Any guarantee offered covering performance is only as good as the traceability and creditability of the company carrying out the work.

If the work is not carried out by a registered company and/or is not a member of the MACCS it could be more difficult for consumers to resolve any problems that arise.

Many builders offer insurance backed warranties for their work. These may involve a small additional cost but do provide you with extra protection.

Check the cost and level of cover provided before you accept. It is worth finding out who the insurer is and whether they are an established insurer.

Cold callers, doorstep traders and cowboy builders

Cold calling is illegal for traders in the isle of Man.

This ban is for all forms of cold calling, including by telephone.

If you receive a cold call in any form, you should close the door or end the call, and immediately advise the Office of Fair Trading (+44 1624 686500).

Planning permission

Some works will require planning permission from the Planning and Building Control Directorate. 

Always check with the Directorate even if your selected tradesman says it doesn’t need permission. 
Obtaining permission is your responsibility.


If you are unhappy with the completed work:

  • Don’t pay for any work that you are unhappy with
  • Review the written details you received from the tradesman to ensure that you made it clear what you wanted doing in the first place
  • Discuss any problems with the tradesman so they have a chance to put it right
  • If this does not work put your complaint in writing
  • Keep copies of any letters sent and notes of any conversations
  • If you are unable to resolve the problem contact the Office of Fair Trading for further advice
Office of Fair Trading

Thie Slieau Whallian

Foxdale Road

St John’s


Telephone:+44 1624 686500

Email:Send Email

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