If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to finally finish doing up the bathroom/kitchen/garden, you may need a little help.

But how do you choose a plumber, decorator or gardener who’s reliable?

According to a new poll of 2,000 Brits, more than three quarters said they’re nervous about using new tradesmen for the first time, with almost 40% admitting they’d had a bad experience in the past.

Electricians came out top as the most trusted tradesmen, with the best manners, timekeeping and appearance, with window cleaners second and plumbers in third place.

But the study for Helly Hansen Workwear also found that builders and plumbers were the most likely to overcharge customers and builders were seen to work the shortest hours.

So what can you do about it?

A good place to start in your search is by asking friends and neighbours for recommendations.

You can also visit www.trustmark.org.uk and pop your postcode in to find a whole host of approved tradespeople. TrustMark is a government-backed quality scheme that helps people find reputable local firms and tradesmen working to government-endorsed standards.

Get a quote

Then shop around and get at least three quotes for the work you need doing, being really specific about what you’re expecting to be included. Never use a tradesman who cold calls. If lots of work needs doing, set a penalty clause of something like £500 a week should they run over an agreed deadline.

And make sure they…

The Citizens Advice Bureau (www.adviceguide.org.uk) offers the following advice on hiring a good builder, that you must check they…

1. Offer you a contract or at least sign the one you give them

2. Charge VAT if they should. If they are a small or new trader, they may not need to register or pay VAT. It depends on how much work they do in a year.

And make sure they don’t…

The CAB also has tips on how to avoid hiring a rogue tradesman – mainly, look out for builders who…

1. Offer very cheap quotes or estimates, as this could mean they’re a cowboy or not experienced enough to give accurate figures

2. Are unwilling to put a quote or estimate in writing

3. Are unwilling to offer references

4. Are too keen to start the job straight away – cowboy builders often do lots of work in one area before moving out of the area altogether. They often leave very poor or unfinished work behind and are impossible to track down.

5. Are unwilling to offer you details about their business – for example an address or landline number.

6. Ask for money up front – a reliable builder won’t ask you to do this, not even if they need materials

7. Only accept cash – they could be acting dishonestly by saving on paying out for VAT

Correction: We apologise for using misleading information in a former version of this story, relating to tradesmen who do not belong to trade associations. We implied that tradesmen who are not members of trade associations are dishonest, which is indeed incorrect.