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

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.

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