Plumbers in demand but shortages persist

Plumbers are in high demand across the UK according to new analysis, but many cities face shortages of skilled professionals in the trade.

Markel Direct analysed search data across 46 cities in the UK to uncover which areas have the biggest shortage of tradespeople and, therefore, offer the best work opportunities. It also surveyed UK homeowners to find out what DIY jobs they won’t attempt.

Overall, the study found that 46% of UK homeowners have struggled to hire a tradesperson for their projects or repairs, with the top reasons cited being “no availability” by 46% of respondents and “shortage of specific trade in the area” by 34%. The study also looked at which UK locations are experiencing the greatest shortage of tradespeople. Out of 46 cities analysed, 19 were revealed to not have enough tradespeople to meet the search demand of the residents.

Plumbing reigned supreme as the most searched-for trade in 44 of the cities. This is likely due to plumbing emergencies typically being more urgent and frequent than other trade requirements. Only two cities, Blackpool and Cardiff, defied this trend, with electricians being the most in-demand trade.

Despite plumbing being the most sought-after trade, it still appears to face shortages across the UK, as it earned second place on the list, behind handymen. The results highlighted that 12 cities, including Edinburgh, Plymouth and York, are in dire need of skilled plumbers.

With other trades like handymen experiencing even wider supply shortages versus demand across 15 cities, Markel determined that skilled plumbers have a huge opportunity to pick up more work, given the multifaceted nature of the trade. Bristol, Cambridge and Liverpool were identified as the cities where their expertise is eagerly sought to fix an array of household issues.

When householders were asked about the jobs they aren’t willing to take on themselves, plumbing and gas work ranked third as tasks best left to the experienced professionals. 30% of those surveyed said they were reluctant to attempt boiler and gas maintenance, with roof repairs and asbestos removal coming first and second, respectively.

Meanwhile, plumbing fixes were the most common jobs people attempted DIY before requiring an expert to sort issues. Whether it’s grappling a clogged drain, leaky pipes, fixture insulation or other emergency repairs, 16% of Brits admit to needing help.

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

Rank Job
1 Plumbing repairs and maintenance 
2 Painting and decorating
3 Tree removal
4 Fence repair
5 Plumbing/installation of new fixtures and appliances
6 Chimney sweep
7 Driveway and paving
=8 Fitting windows
=8 Guttering and roof repairs
=8 Pointing and brickwork

A big reason why people are opting to hire tradespeople is their lack of confidence in their own 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.

In terms of the months with peak demand, September was shown to be the most popular time to call a tradesperson, but plumbers were most likely to be needed in the month of July, according to Markel’s research.

Rob Rees, divisional director at Markel Direct, comments: “Whilst it can be tempting to attempt repairs or DIY tasks yourself, the risk of getting something wrong could result in only more problems to fix. Hiring an accredited and insured tradesperson with years of experience will ensure the job is done to a high standard and, most importantly, safely.”

Markel Direct says 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.

The complete findings of Markel Direct’s research can be found here.

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