Self-managing the individual trades is often less expensive than placing a single contract with a builder. This is because most small builders or contractors will themselves 'subcontract' the trades to individual, self-employed tradespeople (hence giving rise to the popular term, 'subbies', short for subcontractors) and charge a premium on their labour and materials in exchange for managing them. Employing the trades directly cuts out this premium, but requires the 'self manager' to have at least a basic knowledge of the building process in order to combine all the individual trades successfully and where necessary, order the materials, plant and machinery they require to perform their trades.
'Supply and fix', means that the tradesperson will, in addition to their labour, supply all the tools and materials required to complete the task within their quoted price.
'Labour only', means just that, you are employing the tradesperson for their labour only and you are providing all the materials, plant and machinery required to complete the job. E.g. A bricklayer will have their own tools, but in addition to the materials, will require their employer to provide a cement mixer and scaffold and materials as necessary.
Certain trades are invariably provided on a supply and fix basis and they are listed here. Be sure to detail in your contract the terms of employment that you agree, with details of who is responsible for providing materials, tools, plant and machinery as appropriate.
Membership of a trade association will not guarantee a better job than would be provided by a non-member, but it will provide a number of safeguards. Trade associations work hard to maintain standards amongst their members and all have strict codes of practice. Once you have found one good reliable tradesperson, you may find that they are a superb source of other local tradespeople who can help you. They are likely to know others they work with regularly, perhaps for a local contractor.
Above all, ensure that you are comparing like with like. Use your own judgement of character and do not be afraid to pay a little extra for someone you trust or who has been recommended to you. It is not always easy to resolve disputes if they arise, so it is important to get on with all the people you employ and to stay on good terms with them.
Be sure to agree how payment is to be made before any work begins and outline what you agree in your contract . If you are not happy with the standard of the work you can withhold payment until the work has been put right.
Never agree to pay on an hourly or daily rate - it will end up costing you a fortune. Always agree a price for the complete job or, in the case of bricklayers, a price per thousand bricks, or per square metre of blocks. Try to act and think like a builder.
Treat tradespeople with respect, but never let them take liberties. Make sure that you have taken all tasks into account in your work schedule. Discovering 'extra' little jobs that you haven't accounted for can send your budget into turmoil! Especially watch out for grey areas like lead flashings and ventilation that can be done by more than one trade - you may find that no-one has quoted for the task and you will be faced with an 'extra'.