Building Britain: Uncovering the top spots for tradespeople in the UK

A joiner drilling through a piece of wood.

Although the pandemic boom of renovations and improvements has dipped due to the cost-of-living crisis putting a hold on unnecessary expenses, there is still the need for skilled professionals for a range of vital household tasks, such as repairs and installations.

However, the UK is currently facing a shortage of skilled labour which has meant there is not enough supply to meet the demand from homeowners. This has presented tradespeople with an opportunity to find more work, although, there will be some locations that present a better opportunity than others, depending on the trade. 

At Markel Direct, we analysed search data across 46 locations in the UK to uncover which areas of the UK have the biggest shortage of tradespeople and, therefore, offer the best work opportunities. We compared this to businesses in the same area, discovering where deficits exist in supply and demand. We also surveyed UK homeowners to find out what DIY jobs they won’t attempt, while uncovering insights about their relationship with those in the trade industry.

Locations with peaks and troughs

There are some trades that are always going to be busy, whether it’s because of seasonal demand, it’s a specialised skill or it’s a trade that provides essential services that are more likely to be called out in an emergency. So, it’s no surprise that when looking at the trade that garnered the highest overall search volume in each city, plumbers emerged as the dominant contenders.

Plumbing claimed the top spot in 44 out of the 46 locations that were analysed. This is likely due to plumbing emergencies typically being more urgent and frequent than other trade requirements such as carpet fitting or landscaping. Only two locations, Blackpool and Cardiff, defied this trend, with electricians being the most in-demand trade.

However, where there’s high demand in one city, there are others that are grappling with shortages in certain trades. Despite plumbing being the most sought-after trade, it still appears to face shortages across the UK, as it earned second place on our list behind handymen. To discern the level of demand, we collected monthly search data per 10,000 people to find out who’s looking for certain trades near them. We then compared this data to the number of trades in the area to see if the supply met the demand. The results highlighted that 12 cities, including Edinburgh, Plymouth and York, are in dire need of skilled plumbers.

Yet, the trade experiencing the largest deficit across the UK is the versatile handyman, capturing the spotlight as the trade with the biggest shortage compared to the demand. The data revealed there was a deficit of handymen/people in 15 of the 46 locations analysed. Given the multifaceted nature of the trade, these tradespeople have become indispensable for homeowners as they can address a whole array of issues ranging from minor repairs to maintenance and installations. Cities that are in urgent need of skilled handymen are Bristol, Cambridge and Liverpool, where their expertise is eagerly sought to fix an array of household issues.

Map of trade shortages by city

Jobs that homeowners aren’t willing to take on

Even those that are relatively capable when it comes to DIY, there are still some jobs that are best left to the professionals. But what jobs are people most hesitant to approach, preferring to enlist the skills of seasoned tradespeople?

At the top of the list is roof repair, a task that 31% of homeowners are unwilling to undertake themselves. The rationale behind this is clear – roof work involves working at height, which is dangerous and demands specialised skill sets and equipment, making it a task that’s best left to experienced professionals who can ensure safety and quality.

Furthermore, asbestos removal and boiler and gas maintenance, with reluctance rates of individuals surveyed, both 30% respectively, find their place among the jobs that homeowners aren’t willing to tackle. As asbestos is a highly hazardous material, and removing it requires specialised training and personal protection equipment to reduce the risks of exposure, it is no surprise that this is one of the top jobs that homeowners aren’t willing to try to do themselves. Similarly, any boiler and gas works could result in severe and costly accidents or damage, highlighting the importance of leaving these projects to seasoned professionals.

However, while these three projects top the list, it’s worth noting that the painting and decorating trade secures sixth place with 29% of homeowners opting for professional. Despite its initial appearance as a DIY-friendly task, the allure of a flawless finish made achievable in half the time by a professional is attractive. 

The 20 DIY/repair jobs UK homeowners are not willing to tackle themselves

Rank 

Job 

Roof repairs 

Asbestos removal 

Boiler/Gas maintenance and rewiring 

Electrical maintenance and rewiring 

=5 

Fitting windows 

=5

Foundation repairs 

6

Painting and decorating 

7

Plumbing and installation of new fixtures and   appliances 

8

Plastering 

=9

Plumbing repairs and maintenance 

=9 

Kitchen fitting 

10

Tree removal 

11

Thatching 

12 

Driveway and paving 

13 

Carpentry and joinery (fitting doors, staircases   etc.) 

=14 

Knocking down an internal wall 

=14 

Chimney sweep 

=14 

Pointing and brickwork 

=14 

Rendering 

 

DIY jobs that are most likely to be taken over by professionals

Even armed with the best intentions and a bank of self-studied YouTube videos, some projects can still go awry and end up requiring the expertise of a professional. But which undertakings are Brits venturing into with enthusiasm, only to later need to call in a professional to take over?

It turns out that plumbing repairs and maintenance take the top spot. Whether it’s dealing with a clogged drain, leaky pipes, fixture insulation or other emergency repairs, 16% of Brits admit to needing help, making it the UK’s most in-demand trade. Especially because it’s common for something to go wrong if you’re not sure what you’re doing – like bursting open a pipe or creating improper drainage and inadequate sealing. For an inexperienced DIYer, these mistakes could mean costly repairs, however, professional tradespeople typically will have public liability insurance in place to protect both themselves and the homeowners in situations where mistakes are made and damage is caused (find out more about how to check if a tradesperson is insured here).

Painting and decorating claim the second spot on the list, with 15% of respondents admitting to initially trying to tackle the job themselves but having to call in reinforcements. With all the sanding, masking taping, priming and extra coats, people are opting to enlist the help of those with the skills to finish this painstaking task.

The 10 most common jobs tradespeople have had to take over from DIYers

Rank 

Job 

Plumbing repairs and maintenance 

Painting and decorating 

Tree removal 

Fence repair 

Plumbing and installation of new fixtures and   appliances 

Chimney sweep 

Driveway and paving 

=8 

Fitting windows 

=8 

Guttering and roof repairs 

=8 

Pointing and brickwork 

Top reasons people prefer hiring tradespeople

In a time when the cost-of-living crisis looms large, homeowners are faced with a challenging choice: balancing their budget or ensuring the job is done properly.

Surprisingly, 41% of respondents prioritise the expected quality of work when deciding to hire a tradesperson for a project, surpassing cost considerations by nearly 10%. This data reveals that people are willing to invest in skilled professionals who can be trusted to deliver seamless work.

While quality takes the lead, cost remains a significant factor, securing the second spot on the list with 32%. So, the data suggests that a balanced approach, where homeowners are willing to allocate a reasonable budget to secure professionals, can still deliver superior results.

A significant reason why people are opting to hire tradespeople is their lack of confidence in DIY capabilities. Many homeowners worry that attempting a job themselves may lead to worsened problems and eventually cost more than hiring a professional from the outset. In fact, more than a quarter (28%) have initiated a DIY project only to require professional assistance to rectify mistakes.

With plumbing repairs and maintenance, it becomes clear that the initial investment in a professional is often a wise choice. For example, replacing a toilet can cost an average of £400, but hiring a professional to do it ensures the job is done correctly, preventing recurring issues and potential water damage, which could ultimately result in higher expenses.

Similarly, opting for professional interior wall painting at an average of £250, guarantees a high-quality finish without the laborious effort of doing it yourself. Finally, the cost of removing a tree stump stands at an average of £200, while full tree removal requires an additional £50. Investing in a professional for these costly tasks not only provides peace of mind and quality, but it also safeguards against costlier repercussions in the long run.

Navigating trade demand peak months

To increase your chances of being able to get hold of a tradesperson, Google search volume was analysed to discover which months have peak searches for each individual trade. The most popular month to hire tradespeople seems to be September. This aligns with the end of the summer holidays, the kids going back to school and typically cooler temperatures, with people searching for trades like bricklayers, handymen, landscapers, joiners and plasterers the most.

However, several trades like builders, roofers and painters and decorators are seeing a surge in demand after the holiday season. Refreshing the home and planning for extensions in January is likely a result of New Year renovation goals.

Understanding these trends can be crucial for both homeowners and tradespeople. Unless it is for an emergency, such as an urgent repair, searching for your needed trade outside of the peak months may mean you’ll be more likely to secure trade. For tradespeople, it allows them to anticipate when customers may be reaching out, which tailor services accordingly to meet the needs of homeowners throughout the year.

Like bolstering workforce during peak months while strategically planning annual leave in slower periods. By syncing their operations with these demand patterns, tradespeople can offer more efficient and responsive services, ensuring homeowner satisfaction and smoother project execution.

Trade 

Peak demand months for each trade 

Bricklayer 

September 

Builder 

January 

Carpenter 

September 

Carpet fitter 

October 

Electrician 

November 

Handyman 

September 

Joiner 

September 

Landscaper 

September 

Painter and decorator 

January 

Plasterer 

September 

Plumber 

July 

Roofer 

January 

Tiler 

September

 

Timeline showing peak demands for tradespeople

 

In the world of DIY and trade, the need for collaboration is clear – homeowners need tradespeople and tradespeople need customers. Brits are wisely delegating certain tasks to skilled tradespeople, recognising the value they provide. However, it is also vital for both parties that tradespeople ensure they are insured. Mistakes happen, even by professionals, which is why it is recommended that tradespeople have public liability insurance.

What is public liability insurance?

Public liability covers businesses against allegations of personal injury and property damage claims made by members of the public. For more specific cover, those working in skilled trades may instead opt for tradesman insurance. Tradesman insurance is a type of business insurance that provides specialised cover for the risks that trade professionals typically face. It can include a variety of cover types, such as tradesman public liability insurance, employers' liability protection and tool theft cover. At Markel Direct, we offer specialised insurance for tradespeople across an extensive range of trades. Helping to keep your business covered against compensation claims, providing peace of mind on all your work projects.

Methodology

A sample size of 1092 UK homeowners aged 18+ across the UK were surveyed by Censuswide.

To find the demand in each city, we collected Google monthly search data for 13 trades using terms such as “[trade] near me” and the trade job title such as “bricklayer” in 46 UK cities. This was then used to determine the most in-demand trade in each location, as well as the peak month for each trade based on the months with the highest search volume. To work out the deficit, we took the monthly search per 10,000 people, using the cities’ population, and compared them to the number of trades in the area on the Checkatrade website.

The average cost of jobs was sourced from pricemyjob.com.

The number of trades in each area was sourced from checkatrade.com

Cover starting from £8 a month