Always hire registered or licensed tradespeople for restricted building work. You will have more rights under consumer laws if anything goes wrong.

Before you hire a plumber, electrician, builder, tiler or other tradesperson, you need to:

  • get estimates or quote
  • make sure they're a good fit for your job — think about their character and experience
  • check they are licensed and registered
  • ask the right questions.

Give your tradesperson a clear brief, and be sure you check what paperwork they will give you when the work is complete.

1. Get estimates and quotes

Shop around and get written estimates or quotes from different companies.

Choose tradespeople that:

  • are recommended by others — ask friends and family, or check online reviews
  • have experience doing the type of work you need
  • feel like a good fit — you need someone who understands your vision and family situation, and who you can talk to easily. Good communication is the best way to avoid problems down the track.

Read more about Estimates and quotes

Finding the right fit

When Aroha was beginning her bathroom renovation, she asked friends and family to recommend a good builder. One builder was highly recommended, but didn't have experience in renovating bathrooms, and when Aroha spoke to him she wasn't sure he could see her vision. Instead, she chose to go with a company who specialised in kitchens and bathrooms and immediately "got" her ideas.

2. Check your tradesperson is registered

Check your tradesperson is licensed for the work you're hiring them to do.

If they aren’t:

  • you might not be insured for damage caused by poor workmanship
  • you may not be able to get the certificates you'll need for council sign-off if the work required consent
  • you may have problems when it’s time to sell your home
  • the work might be unsafe.

Builders must be registered as Licensed Building Practitioners (LBP) to carry out or supervise restricted building work.

Restricted building work includes:

  • anything that influences the primary structure of the property (including walls, framing, foundations, floors and roofs)
  • weathertightness (anything outside of the building which prevents moisture entering your home)
  • fire safety system design (for attached houses or small apartment buildings).

Restricted building work(external link) — Building Performance

Video: Build it right - restricted building work(external link) — Building Performance

For work that is not restricted, you can employ builders without a licence as long as you get any necessary consents and meet the Building Code requirements.

LBP licence classes include:

  • design
  • carpentry
  • roofing
  • brick and blocklaying
  • external plasterering
  • foundations
  • site.

Each Licensed Building Practitioner is restricted to working within the work covered by their licence class, and they may be licenced in more than one class. Their LBP licence card will state what type of building work they may do.

Registered architects, plumbers and chartered professional engineers are allowed do or supervise some restricted building work.

LBP public register(external link) — LBP Scheme

Choosing the right people for your type of building work(external link) — Building Performance

To do electrical work, registered electrical workers must hold a current practising licence. There are different classes of registration and each class is limited to a specific type of work, eg:

  • electrician — can do all installation work in your home
  • trainee electrician or apprentice — can do installation work under supervision
  • electrical service technician — can service your appliances
  • electrical inspector — can inspect the work done by electricians.

Find an electrical worker(external link) — Electrical Workers Registration Board

A tradesperson must have a licence to legally do any:

  • sanitary plumbing — fixing or unfixing pipes, plumbing fixtures or appliances
  • drainlaying — installing, altering or repairing a drain, including gully traps and septic tank drains
  • gasfitting — installing, altering or repairing gas appliances, including ventilation, flue pipes and safety checks.

The licence classes are:

  • certifying plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer — can do their own work and supervise others competently
  • licensed plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer — qualified and licensed but must be supervised by a certifying person
  • limited certificate trainee — working towards becoming qualified. They can do the work, but a certifying person must ensure it is done competently
  • exempt worker — not registered or fully qualified. They can do plumbing work, but a certifying person must ensure it is done competently.

Check if a plumber, gasfitter or drainlayer is licensed(external link) — Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board

You can report an unlicensed person doing restricted plumbing, gasfitting or drainlaying work using the Report-A-Cowboyapp(external link).

Sort the Pros from the Cons(external link) — Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers

Check an architect is registered(external link) — New Zealand Registered Architects Board

Hiring an unlicensed tradesperson

When Beth and Cormac want to update their kitchen, they struggle to find a licensed builder who is free. Their neighbour recommends a builder he’s recently used. They check out her work and are impressed. She isn’t licenced. But as the work they want done isn't structural — they'd like to replace kitchen cabinets, tile and put in a new floor — and has glowing references, they feel happy to hire her.

3. Ask the right questions

Some people find it hard to say no. Make sure your tradesperson isn't telling you what they think you want to hear. Ask them to be honest. Check:

  • your timeframes and budget are realistic
  • what you want done is possible for your house
  • they have done similar projects before — ask for references
  • they can start and finish when they say they can — ask what other jobs they are working on
  • who will be doing the work — them or an apprentice or subcontractor.

4. Make sure the brief is clear

Meet with your tradies to discuss the details of the brief. Ideally, have a document everyone can refer to throughout the project, and update it when things change.

Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of:

  • the required level of quality and finish
  • who's responsible for what
  • contract terms.

Be as detailed as you can be from the start, eg specify where lights and powerpoints should go, list all the different appliances and confirm with your main contractor who needs to do what for each thing. Try to confirm as much as you can before work starts, and make sure that anything that is important to you or that involves a lot of money is put in writing.

Read more about how to Communicate for a smooth job

Read more about Keeping projects on track

Missing information can cost

Julie's kitchen renovation went over budget because she hadn't confirmed with her main contractor at the outset that she needed an instant hot water tap installed and an additional outdoor light. Although she had mentioned it in passing, she hadn't put it in writing — so it hadn't been included in the quote.

5. When the work is complete

Once the job is finished:

  • check they've given you all the paperwork and warranties relating to the job
  • keep any certificates (eg energy work certificates from an electrician or gasfitter) — you'll need these to get council sign-off on the work.

Read more about Sign off and certificates