Choosing the right builder
Choosing the best builder - where to start?
Most of us will know someone who has either had added an extension to their home, carried out renovation and conversion projects or perhaps even ventured as far as doing a self-build to achieve the house of their dreams. However, we probably haven’t thought how they went about appointing their builder. With ever increasing media coverage of ‘rogue builders’ in the industry, can we be forgiven for our misconceptions around choosing the right builder?
Finding a good builder who’s reliable and trustworthy can be quite daunting, especially if it’s the first time you’ve had to source one. The right builder should fill you with the confidence that they can realise your building plans and will deliver the project on time and to budget. Ideally, you want to work with someone you can form a trusting partnership with; one who you get along with as they will seem part of the onsite family for a while.
Let the search begin…
Many people look to recommendations from friends, family and neighbours in the first instance. There’s nothing better than being able to see first-hand the quality of their workmanship, plus the ‘story’ behind the building work. You can find out immediately if they delivered a smooth and timely outcome and pick the brains of the people who last commissioned them. A lot of trades rely on word of mouth, so if you can find a builder through someone you trust and whose work you can go and check out, then you can make an informed decision about whether they’ll do a good job.
Find a builder working locally
One of the best ways to find a builder who’s currently active near you is to find local building work projects. Regardless of the style of work, you should get a good idea of their skill, how they are working to plan etc. If you see a board, it’s a sign that at the very least this is a builder proud of their job and looking for more, by advertising themselves. It’s also worth finding out if they have got any other projects currently or coming up, if there are delays because of weather etc it’s important to know that they are able to finish the project before moving on to the next one.
Recommendations from other tradespeople
Tap into the local tradesman community and you’ll quickly be able to find a builder whose name commands local respect (and those garnishing less than golden reputations!).
Most tradesmen get used to seeing the same familiar names around the sites they are working on and often have preferences for who they like to work with — and who they see as a good source of work.
If you can engage with one of them, you can open up a whole network of local, reliable contacts.
Searching the internet
Another good place to start your due diligence is online which will also help you to find a builder registered on sites like the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). They have a search tool where you can find specific trades in your area and look at their references. All FMB members are vetted and independently inspected and are checked to ensure that they have the correct insurances in place.
Checkatrade.com and the Guild of Master Craftsmen are also good places to find a builder local to where you live. They offer stringent checks, which should give you more reassurance.
Ask the Building Inspectors
Local Authority building inspectors are a much-under-utilised resource for helping local people taking on building projects. Although some inspectors are unwilling to do anything off the record, the majority now are progressive enough to assist self-builders and renovators looking for builders by giving hints, nods and winks as to local builders they have known well and trusted for many years.
These aren’t recommendations as much as informal guidance and no building inspector would ever guarantee a trouble-free project.
Draw up a contract
A contract that details the extent of the work to be carried out in return for the agreed price – in addition to recording any extras yet agreed – is a useful point of reference in the event of any dispute.
People do tend to forget to get contracts in place, but it’s a vital part of working effectively with your chosen builder. A contract will protect you in the event of anything going wrong, it documents everything to provide both parties with peace of mind. A simple hand shake is not enough and if delays occur that causes knock-on costs, you need evidence that you employed them and exactly what was agreed.
Check what insurances are in place
It’s essential that your project is correctly covered for peace of mind. Most home insurance policies were not designed to cover your existing property whilst being worked on, or the workmen doing the work. It is therefore wise to speak to your existing home insurer in the first instance and describe, in detail, the scope of the project.
Most insurers feel better about you using builders under a JCT contract (Joint Contracts Tribunal) – although, given the large number of subtly different JCT contracts, you need to be clear about which one you’re using – but it is down to the individual underwriters to take a view on each case.