How to find reputable bathroom fitters for your new bathroom installation
Introduction to finding your bathroom fitters
Having tradesman into your property can be stressful and all to often the excitement of improving your home can be overshadowed by the experience of the work itself. There are plenty of news articles and programmes exampling the cowboy traders to strike fear into every homeowner. What many are often unaware of is that a large percentage of tradesman are of high quality and can be trusted. Its just a matter of knowing where to look and make sensible decisions.
As experienced bathroom fitters ourselves we deal daily with customers, have installed hundreds of bathrooms and find our daily business affected by these cowboys both directly and indirectly. Directly we are often asked to refurbish bathrooms that had only been done recently but have already fallen apart. Indirectly we regularly encounter customers who are clearly 'on guard' from the cowboys and our customer-bathroom fitter relationship suffers unnecessarily.
Who are 'we', and why have we written this? We are the bathroom fitters of Morgan Plumbing Services based in the West Midlands. Our prime motivation for this article is to offer encouragement and advice to homeowners that have been put off improving their home.
Use product photos to show your bathroom photos
Deciding what you want from your bathroom fitters?
To be able to get genuine comparable quotes from bathroom fitters you need to have a firm idea of what you want and expect. At this stage you may feel that a lot depends on the price so its difficult to be specific or perhaps you are uncertain as to its feasibility. At this early stage my advice would be to not make any assumptions, decide what you would like in a fairly realistic dreamworld and write it all down so nothing is forgotten. By 'fairly realistic' understand that the majority of bathroom work is straightforward enough, but if your dreams involve structural changes (making a bathroom larger or adding a window) and your budget is small then its unlikely you can afford it.
Many customers apologise when on a quote they present us with a list. In fact for most bathroom fitters this is brilliant. It shows you have definite plans and ideas, making an accurate quote easy and helping avoid any future confusion over exactly what is required. As bathroom fitters it can be very difficult to provide competitive quotes for customers that are still trying to decide where the bath will go, or whether to have tiles or vinyl on the floor.
Additionally, with reference to the 'cowboys', you are showing that you are organised and informed. This will scare many irreputable companies away in itself. Vague requests result in vague estimates and typically large bills!
So to recap, make a list, include pictures of products you like and prepare any questions in advance.Now its time to start the search for your bathroom fitters.
Choosing which bathroom fitters to invite to quote
The usual advice is to use recommended bathroom fitters. The common problem with this is that for many people a bathroom may last for 15 - 20 years. With that in mind, for many a bathroom refurbishment within their trusted group of friends can be a rarity. Even if you have a recommendation, you'll still need to find some others yourself. When it comes to recommendations you can have confidence that the work will be done to a decent standard, but be aware that a fair price to one person may be wildly expensive to another. What may be very good tiling to one person, may be considered quite average to others. If they are recommended don't hesitate to see the work first hand and judge for yourself.
So either way you now need to search for some bathroom fitters. Aim to get a minimum of three quotes, ideally more. In the past it would have been the yellow pages that would be the source of your searches. Now the power of the Internet means you can get direct to the tradesman and their websites. there are a couple of very good review sites for tradesman that allow customers to right reviews. Be aware of tradesman that have a couple of extremely good reviews. Despite the review sites best effort it is easy for tradesman to manufacture reviews from friends and family. If the reviews are genuine then the tradesman may be happy for you to contact the reviewing customer yourself.
The other big advantage of searching for your bathroom fitter on the Internet is that you can explore their website. Often seeing photos of themselves and their work. On our site we include write ups of previous work and photos where possible. Now we commonly have requests from customers who say that want something similar to what we have done previously.
Choose several to call to request a quote. Bare in mind that if they are a small company they may be busy on a job if you call during office hours so don't be afraid to leave a message or allow them to call you back at an arranged time. Don't be afraid to ask about qualifications, experience and insurance. Again, reputable tradesman will welcome such questions as a chance to prove their professionalism and the cowboys will be put off. We have never made a claim on our insurance and see it equally as protection for all parties and a marketing tool to prove we are a reputable outfit.
Arrange the quotes at a convenient time for yourself when there are no pressures from other commitments such as children's routines. In our experience quotes can take from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the complexity of the project. Allow time between quotes so you can make your own notes.
It may become clear after the visit of several bathroom fitters that you may need to arrange other trades as well depending on the project. However don't be afraid of multi - trade bathroom fitters. People often assume these are just handymen not skilled tradesman. Most bathroom fitters are specialists in the trade of fitting bathrooms. They have learnt the skills they need to complete the job. They may not be able to skim your living room ceiling, but can very competently patch a wall before tiling it.
Having said that, it is essential that any electrical work conducted is completed by a professional electrician. Like many bathroom fitters we call in an independent electrician to complete any electrical work for our refits.
I hear a lot of customers say that it would be cheaper to get the different tradesman in themselves. This is almost certainly true, BUT there is a reason why this is cheaper. Once you have removed the old suite, what happens first? Do you get the plumbing done or the plastering? Do you need a full skim or just ask the tiler to patch the walls before tiling? Will you tile the walls before installing the basin or after? Are all the tradesman you want available on the precise dates you want them? How long will you be without a bath or even a toilet?
These are just a few of the thousand questions you will encounter if you project manage yourself. If you have the time and a spare bathroom(!) then being your own bathroom fitter can be very rewarding and a considerable saving. If you go down this route your planning will need to be extensive, and bare in mind that if you book tradesman in, and there is a delay because of an over run on the previous task, the tradesman will still want and deserve to be paid even if you have no work for them.
Choosing which bathroom fitters are for you
So after a couple of weeks of searching for bathroom fitters you now have at least three quotes in front of you. Look over the quotes carefully and check that they all cover the same work and nothing has been left off. Now look at the prices, how do they compare? Ideally they should all be fairly similar but commonly they are not. If they vary significantly, (by more that 20%) before dismissing them, try and understand why they may differ. Yes they may be cowboys, but more commonly they have other reasons. Occassionally we encounter customers who have had quotes for half the price of ours (and others). The automatic assumption is that the lower price is correct and everyone else is overcharging. Its a fairly natural response. If you do have one very low quote, try and think back to how you found them, It probably wasnt a large glossy ad or website. It may well be a one man bathroom fitter who is short of work and happy to work for less.
Would you prefer that or the higher prices of the company that are very busy and charge more as a result. Which represents better value?
In reality our advice would be to do all the checks and precautions outlined previously. Combine this with your instinct upon meeting each of the bathroom fitters. Did you feel comfortable having them in your home? Did they appear knowledgable and experienced?
Checking quote prices helps you avoid either the rip off expensive bathroom fitters and those that have under quoted ( and will rush the job). In reality over the lifetime of your new bathroom, the difference in quote prices is perhaps negligable compared with the lasting effects of a quality job. As a final check, try to see some examples of your bathroom fitters work and talk to past customers if possible.
Finally, agree to a schedule of works and payment plan where necessary. Many believe that they shouldn't have to pay anything until the job is done. In an ideal world this would be great, but bare in mind that for every ripped off customer there is a tradesman with a story of not getting paid after a job. Agree a payment plan based on the schedule. On larger projects we ask for staged payments based on targets. (e.g. after the tiling etc). This way you are paying for work that has been completed and both parties can be satisfied.
A final word
We hope you have found this article useful. There are many guides out there for finding bathroom fitters written from a customers viewpoint. Hopefully by writing from a bathroom fitters perspective we have given you some inside information that will help you find the bathroom fitters for your next project. In coming weeks we will be writing further guides, particularly about bathroom fitters so look out for them! At Morgan Plumbing Serviceswe believe that helping people find reputable bathroom fitters drives out the cowboys that are detrimental to fitters and customers alike.