Adding a single or double storey extension, or converting your loft, can dramatically change your living space, but not always for the better! Builders come in all shapes, sizes, abilities, and knowledge, deciding on one can be a tricky process.
Things to look out for – Cowboy Builders
• A cowboy will not normally provide a written quotation or any type of written agreement, or if they do, it will likely be vague, and just a few lines on email. Check out their business address!
• Never employ builders that have cold called for work, or because they are “just working in your area” they will probably take your money and run, or worse! No good tradesman would have to knock on people’s doors for work.
• If they can provide references, follow them up, and tell them that you will follow them up. If they are fake, they may trot out some rubbish about privacy to dissuade you.
Do you need Planning Permission or Approval
Before you begin work on your home, you need to check if you require planning permission or building regulations, however a good builder should be able to assess this for you, or they will have a competent architect who will check for you. Never allow a builder to start work before you have spoken to their architect and received drawings, if it is a large project.
Questions to ask a prospective builder
1. How long have you been in business?
Do not be afraid to ask this question. An experienced builder who you know has been trading in your area for many years is going to be a good prospect, even if you don’t know them personally, ask around friends and family, you can usually find someone that has used them or knows of their work.
2. Will I get a written quotation?
A professional contractor should always be able to provide a written quotation outlining the work to be carried out, and should include things like; decoration or not, rubbish removal, and staged payments.
3. Can you give me references of previous work?
This can often be covered by my first question, if you have asked around and had good reports from friends or family, you’re well placed to talk further about your project.
When a builder does a good job for someone they often get referral business from it, via word of mouth. Bad workmanship spreads even quicker, especially in today’s social media world. Follow up any references provided to make sure his word and work is good, and his previous clients were happy. Ask if he has a portfolio of work.
4. Do you have insurance?
This has to be one of the most important questions you should ask a potential builder, cowboys won’t have any insurance! In some cases, allowing someone work on your home without insurance renders you liable if anything goes wrong too. Rubbish removal requires a trade waste licence supplied by the Government, if you employ a builder who later fly-tips your rubbish you could be liable and be fined! It is your responsibility to check! They should also have public liability and employer insurance.
5. Is this a quote or an estimate
Sounds obvious doesn’t it? However you’d be surprised by the number of people who are caught out with this one. A quotation is exactly what the job is going to cost, no more no less, you should only have to pay more if you as the homeowner makes a change to the original drawing, or specification, and this must be agreed with the contractor and signed for. An estimate is just that, it’s a rough idea of the cost, but it could be more as the job rolls on, an estimate is often given so that you have an idea of what the project is going to cost, and to allow you to see if you can afford the works before going ahead with architect drawings etc.
First try and decide exactly what it is you want from your home project and what you want to achieve with it, before contacting any builders. Don’t be intimidated by a builder, and don’t be afraid to ask questions, you may be about to part with a lot of your hard-earned cash, make sure it’s the right decision for you!
Determine whether you need planning permission and building regulations. Also be aware that on top of any quotation from the builder, you are also likely to pay extra for any architect drawings, structural engineer drawings, building regs, building certificates and building inspections from the local council, these are usually paid direct to the local authority or professional.
If your builder can answer the above questions and you’re happy with both the quotation, and how your prospective builder has conducted themselves in your home, then you could have saved yourself a lot of time and money in choosing the right contractor to carry out your home improvements this year.
One last thing to remember, having building work done on your home can be very noisy, dusty and at times downright frustrating, and requires patience on your part, keep looking to the future and what your lovely new home is going to look like when the work is complete!
For an informal and friendly chat about your home project, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.