1. For starters, try the TrustMark website (www.trustmark.org.uk) where you can search for the trade you need by postcode.
TrustMark is a government-endorsed quality mark and signifying when tradespeople have had their technical skills checked via on-site inspections (their trading record and financial status have also been checked).
TrustMark traders agree to a code of practice that includes insurance, health and safety, and customer care, and should be able to offer an insurance-backed warranty and deposit protection insurance, among other things. There’s also a complaints procedure if things go wrong.
2. Your local Trading Standards office should be able to help with finding reputable tradespeople, as many have a register of contractors (usually recommended by local residents) they have vetted.
Buy With Confidence (www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk) is one Trading Standards scheme. Businesses belonging to it have undergone a series of detailed checks by Trading Standards and must agree to a code of conduct.
3. The Local Authority Assured Trader Scheme Network (LAATSN) links some of the schemes run by local Trading Standards. Although the schemes are different, they have certain things in common, including giving the public a way of finding reliable local businesses they can trust and offering help and advice if anything goes wrong. Contact your local Trading Standards office to find out about the trader schemes they operate: www.gov.uk/find-local-trading-standards-office
4. The online version of getting a recommendation from someone you know is the many reviews-based websites, such as Checkatrade.com, RatedPeople.com and TrustATrader.com. Sites like this vary, but you can usually search for local tradespeople, post details of a job you need quotations for, and read reviews from customers to find out how good tradespeople are.
While these sites can be useful, be a little cautious when using them. In some cases, the feedback may be made up, or left by friends and family members. For example, I read good reviews of a two-man plastering team on one of these websites and when I used them to plaster my flat, their work was pretty poor.
5. Which? operates a subscription-based recommendations service called Which? Local, whose website is local.which.co.uk. This has more than 140,000 reviews of local businesses, including tradespeople, from Which? members across the country - the reviews are checked by moderators from Which? to weed out fake ones. As with all online recommendations, you can’t be positive that they’re genuine, but Which? certainly tries to ensure its subscribers aren’t misled.