Save my home from the 1980s!
August 26, 2012 7:16 AM   Subscribe

I recently moved to (West) London from overseas and have to do some reasonably major renovation work on a 2-bed flat. This will include re-doing the floors, removing the dreaded "woodchip" wallpaper and therefore possibly re-plastering, replacing or fixing Artex-ed ceilings and possibly some dated/inefficient windows, and re-doing a kitchen. I am not sure what type of professional to call to get an overall plan and estimates or where to look for such professionals.

The flat as purchased is in great condition so this isn't an emergency-homelessness-avoidance thing - there are no structural issues at all and its been surveyed and given an electrical safety certificate. This is basically a really extensive re-decorating job to make the flat more liveable and modernise it and to preserve our investment, since the flat was frozen in approximately 1982 when we moved in. If I were in the US or Canada, I would know who to call, but here...not so much.

It seems that all of the "Interior Decorators" or "Interior Architects" around will only look at large houses and really huge budgets, as opposed to the flat and reasonable-but-not-Beckham budget we've got. I am not sure a painter-decorator is qualified and don't know how to find a good one if that's the right way to go. Most of this is not stuff we can even try doing outselves - we can't mess with the ceiling or floors and woodchip, though nominally wallpaper, was meant to be permanent and is very difficult to remove without professional help. Please don't suggest DIY.

What we really need is someone to do what a good "contractor" would do in the US or Canada - come look at the place, help us itemize a list of jobs, and give us an overall quote for work he/she would then supervize. No one here seems to call him/her-self a contractor!

I know such people exist - I have seen them on UK shows like Homes Under the Hammer! - but don't know the first thing about where to find one or even what search terms to use on Google. Help...
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Google's not the place, you're better off asking your network to recommend someone. (I know a guy I trust but he's well south of you).

The UK search term that roughly equates to the US "contractor" is probably "tradesman".
posted by Leon at 7:26 AM on August 26, 2012

You could use rated people.
posted by oh pollo! at 7:30 AM on August 26, 2012

You should really try to get personal recommendations from people who have had these kinds of jobs done recently. Ask around widely because formal training and qualifications are not necessarily required for a lot of the jobs you list.

For example, my uncle trained as a car mechanic but he spent many years selling and fitting windows and doors...and he was good at it because people called him back for more jobs and recommended him...but that kind of thing is not entirely uncommon. He also used to put up curtain rails, blinds etc for a curtain shop...

And your impression is correct - those kinds of jobs are normally given to different people, not an overall contractor, because really, even put together, they are not massive and a lot of people would tackle some of these jobs or at least elements of them as DIY projects e.g. tear down the woodchip wallpaper but then get the plasterer in to skim the walls...

Anywhere that sells windows or kitchens can offer you a fitting service. Clearly you could buy the windows, kitchen etc and have somebody else fit them but it sounds as if you'd prefer to have as little hassle as possible. So if price is not your main consideration your best bet is to get recommendations for smaller, independent shops who compete on quality of service and not price. They all work with people who do fitting and normally they'll do a good job because that's what their customers expect. Start with a double glazing place and a kitchen place and get these jobs out of the way. Get written quotes for everything.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:21 AM on August 26, 2012

Are there any websites that focus on your part of west London? (Or a nearby region would do). For instance I live in Chiswick and the forum on has been very useful for this purpose. As people have said, I would normally use different specialists for the jobs rather than a single contractor.
posted by chrispy at 8:48 PM on August 26, 2012

UK tradesmen do (with a few exceptions) like to stick to their one trade only. I can see this can be frustrating for the sort of work you require. Certainly you should have no problems finding a specialist Kitchen company who will deal with all the sub-contrators "subbies" relating to fitting a new kitchen (Electrician, Plumber etc). Many similar companies exist for bathroom refits, but I suspect many builders find it more profitable to stick to a specialisation rather than offer the remodeling service you describe. The Windows would be best be done by a big double-glazing company unless you want fine wooden windows where a specialist joiner would be your best bet.

If I was doing the walls I'd want a cheap laborer to steam-off the woodchip, a plasterer to "re-skim" over the artex and then a decorator to repaint. Good decorators hate steaming paper, likewise good plasterers tend to never touch a paint-brush. Allow for 2-3 weeks drying time between skimming and decorating.

I do run building projects like this in the Cambridgeshire, so I think you would be too far away for me to help but feel free to PM for further advice.
posted by Sturdy at 10:16 PM on August 27, 2012

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