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Home Improvement and Tradespeople

Our Local Expert blog posts about Home Improvement and hiring quality local tradespeople in Exeter, East Devon and the Teignbridge / Torbay area.

7 things every homeowner should consider before winter

on Wednesday, 09 November 2016. Posted in General, News, Home Improvement and Tradespeople, Blog, Advice

Look after your home! Spend a little now to save a lot later.

1 – Clear gutters (and downpipes)

2 – Work well with plumbers

3 - Only buy good quality logs

4 – Get your roof repaired before storms

5 – Get damaged or rotten fencing repaired or replaced before storms

6 – Service garden machinery

7 – Budget for your tax return



1 – Clear gutters (and downpipes)

Blocked gutters can lead to damp problems and damaged brickwork potentially causing thousands. An annual gutter clean of tree debris and moss helps prevent this problem.

Find recommended local gutter clearing companies here.


2 – Work well with plumbers

 CarlKnill Bathrooms Plumbing Exeter Reduced Again

Photo – Carl Knill of CK One Stop Plumbing Solutions, Exeter.  'He’s very very good. He’s reliable, organises jobs well, keeps to schedule and is good with his customers.'

Plumbers are very busy at this time of year – treat them with respect! Be prepared to be flexible as jobs can over-run. If you can be available at short notice make sure they are aware of this and you might get an earlier appointment. Encourage your plumber to be clear and honest about their availability. Keep them on their toes by making sure they know you got them from OurLocalExpert.

All plumbers in OurLocalExpert have been recommended by local people like YOU!


3 – Buy properly seasoned logs!

If you buy logs, make sure they are properly seasoned for a more efficient fire.

 Sidmouth Logs Honiton Firewood

Photo – Nick and Caroline from the excellent Devon Log Store, Branscombe.

Testimonial: ‘These are the best logs we've ever had. I didn't realise our woodburner could get so hot!’

Click here for businesses in OurLocalExpert who deliver logs in the local area, and pride themselves on the quality of their wood.


4 – Get your roof repaired before storms

If you know you’ve got a dodgy roof, give it some attention before the worst of the winter storms.

 RobinsBren GooglePortrait

Photo – Bren Robins Roofing, Exeter, recommended as Very pleasant, decent person who came for small repair on roof’.

Roofers are happy to take enquiries for smaller repair work over the winter – when it can be risky to replace whole roofs.

Find recommended local roofers here.


5 – Get damaged or rotten fencing repaired or replaced before storms

Hares Fencing

Photo - fencing by Hares Landscapes.

Fencing contactors in OurLocalExpert have been recommended for the quality of their work and their products. You get what you pay for, so make sure you understand the implications before trying to cut costs with cheaper products.

Find recommended local fencing installers by clicking here.


6 – Service garden machinery

Prolong the life of any expensive garden machinery by taking it to the doctor for some TLC. 

Garden Kit in Colaton Raleigh, East Devon were recommended because: 'the knowledge of the owners & staff and their willingness to help & give advice bowled me over.'

Find recommended local businesses for garden machinery by clicking here.


7 – Budget for your tax return.

...and you thought that Christmas was expensive! If you need the help of an expert, find recommended local tax advisers here.


Feedback about BAD local businesses is also welcome!

Written by Nick Local Expert on Monday, 25 July 2011. Posted in Home Improvement and Tradespeople, Blog, Why You Can Trust Our Local Expert


On Saturday 9th July we attended an event held by the Senior Council for Devon, in Exmouth.  

We were invited because our guide of recommended local businesses proves particularly popular with people who are old – many of who feel vulnerable to ‘cowboys' and 'rogue traders’.  Some old people are simply no longer able to perform work on their own houses and need recommendations of quality local tradespeople they can trust not to rip them off.

On the day we ran a prize draw - £10 to spend on Exmouth Farmers Market for each recommendation supplied.


Photo – Nick on the Our Local Expert stand at ‘Improving Life for Yourself’, Exmouth.

One Exmouth lady told us of a particularly nasty aerial installer in Exmouth who had taken advantage of a local man suffering from Motor Neurone Disease.  The installer had taken their vulnerable customer to the bank to withdraw something like £300 at the time.  When he was later called back to correct work done badly the first time, he expected the customer to pay a further £150.

Obviously we do NOT feature this business in our guide, but the information provided is useful to ensure that we do NOT invite them to feature – even if they should be recommended in the future.

To learn more about what we do with the recommendations we receive, see our Frequently Asked Questions page.

The contributor will collect her prize of £10 to spend at the wonderful Exmouth Farmers Market.  She told us that the news made her day!

Photo – Exmouth's fortnightly Farmers Market




Cowboys and Rogue Traders in your area?

on Tuesday, 15 March 2011. Posted in Home Improvement and Tradespeople, Blog, Why You Can Trust Our Local Expert

How you can be alerted to ‘rogue trader activity’ in your area.

As the recession starts to bite, Devon and Cornwall Police were today warning of door to door callers offering tarmac work in Budleigh Salterton.  In their own words: “Please be aware of the risks of employing such callers. The standard of work and the cost will often not be what you expect. Threats and intimidation are also employed to get the customer to pay outrageous prices, especially the elderly and vulnerable. Please have nothing to do with these people and look out for neighbours who may be approached. All suspicious callers should be reported to the police.  Please phone us with any information on 08452 777 444.”

The above alert was made by Devon and Cornwall Police’s ‘community messaging service’ – which allows you to be updated about local criminal activity (and potentially criminal activity) by telephone, text or Email.  To sign up to this free alert service for your local area follow this link to Community Messaging Service.

The above message relating to rogue tarmaccers ‘scored a hit’.  In the words Devon and Cornwall Police:  “A community messaging recipient responded promptly, enabling police to stop-check and identify the occupants of a vehicle. Although no actual offences were committed in this case these people will have realised that their card is now marked and may not try their tricks here for a while. The police officers involved were suspicious but there was not enough evidence to take direct action. Well done that recipient.”

If you need quality local tradespeople you can trust – use Our Local Expert – where businesses featured have been recommended by local people.  For tarmac driveways throughout Exeter, East Devon, Teignbridge and Torbay, Bovey Macadam have been highly recommended to us by several readers.

Further information:

Follow this link for good practice suggestions of how to work well with tradespeople.

Follow this link to understand more about different Trade Associations, accreditations, quality assurance bodies and membership organisations that tradespeople often use.


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur"

on Thursday, 16 December 2010. Posted in Blog, Home Improvement and Tradespeople

Why Cut-Price does not mean Quality

Quality Exmouth builders Roach and Colestell us that “too many customers are choosing their builders based on price alone – and not considering that you get what you pay for”.

It’s becoming more common for them to be invited to quote for a job, and then lose out to a cheaper competitor.  Four times this year, Roach and Coles have been invited back to such customers, to put right the job that the cheaper, inferior, builder had done badly.

That’s going to end up costing the customer a lot:  the price of the first builder, PLUS the subsequent work of the quality builder – i.e. much more than the original cost quoted by the quality builder, that was deemed too expensive.

In summary – if you want a quality job done right, first time, you need to choose a quality builder – who is unlikely to be the cheapest quote offered.

You can trust all builders who feature in Our Local Expert to be quality - as they have been recommended by local people like you.

[See also related blog, explaining why cheaper prices are being offered in the current economic climate:  ‘Don’t hire a Cowboy – even if they’re cheap’]

Don't hire a Cowboy Builder - even if they're cheap!

Written by Nick Local Expert on Friday, 06 August 2010. Posted in Blog, Home Improvement and Tradespeople

A reminder of why you shouldn’t use Cowboy Builders

In the current economic climate less people are moving.  Staying put and not moving into new homes means there is still a need for redevelopment, renovation (or more commonly, repairs) to the house you stay in.

There are bargains on offer! 

With less demand for new homes in Devon, many building firms have laid off tradespeople, and competition is rife for building work.  Existing local builders have less new-build projects, plus they have to compete with the newly laid-off tradespeople. You must have noticed an increase in flyers for handymen, fencing or driveway businesses, which often advertise just a mobile phone number as the sole method of contact.  Anyone who works from home will have noticed an increase in people calling at your door offering great deals for immediate work.  We’ve even heard of lorries laden with paving parked outside driveways in St Thomas, Exeter, while the representative touts for work.

How can a cowboy builder offer such low prices?

If you compare quotes – one quote from an established, reputable local builder, another from a newly laid-off and newly self-employed tradesman, the reputable builder is likely to quote a higher price. Their valuable experience tells them how different jobs will pan out in different types of building.  They will be cautious not to under-price a job as they are aware of potential pitfalls, and will forewarn you accordingly.
The cowboy builder needs income, quickly.  Unexpectedly out of work they still have bills to pay.  They will be more desperate to win the job at all costs.  Someone whose experience comes from site work for new homes may well know how to install 100 identical bathrooms quickly, but not be flexible when it comes to installing five completely different bathrooms, taking into account the needs of the customer and the needs of the existing building.  They will not be aware of potential pitfalls, and will price the job purposefully low in order to secure the job, not allowing for contingeny.  They may not even possess the skills for pricing your construction job properly, including the cost of all the materials needed, removal of waste, cleaning up, etc.  Someone with only building site experience may not understand the needs of the family who are living in the house in which they are working.  They may not take suitable precautions to safeguard your carpets, curtains and soft furnishings from damage.

What can happen if you employ ‘builders from hell’CowboyBuilderExeter

If you chose the cheapest option and they haven’t priced the job properly, you might be in for a nasty shock.  What happens when the unforeseen problem happens?  Someone after a quick buck might just cover it up and not mention it to you.  Obviously it will come back to bite you one day.  The unforeseen could have been foreseen by an experienced contractor (hence the more expensive quote), and they would have advised you to plan accordingly.  Maybe your chosen cheaper builder does leave you happy with the completed job, and you pay them.  What happens in six months time in the middle of a stormy Devon night when you realise that your roof is leaking?  You phone their (mobile) number and it’s been changed.  Even if they had been insured, you can’t get hold of them to find out.  This time you get a professional to have a look – someone local, who has a good reputation, who has been recommended to you.  Imagine if that person tells you that all the renovation work you had done in the summer was of such bad quality that it needs to be done all over again.  How much will this end up costing you?
1 – The price of the cheap original work performed by the cowboy builder.
2 – The price to remove all this awful building work.
3 – The price to perform the renovation properly (as originally quoted by your quality and experienced local builder).
That’s likely to total two or three times what you were originally quoted by either builder.

How can I tell I’m choosing a quality builder, not someone who’s ripping me off?

Our Local Expert only features quality independent builders and tradespeople who have been recommended by local people like you.  This means you can trust those we feature to use quality workmanship and provide a good standard of customer service.  They may be more expensive than those touting for work door-to-door in the short term, but I hope you can see why they should be your chosen contractor.

Click here to see our guide on how to work well with tradespeople