How to Find a Good Builder
Finding the right builder is essential to be able to realise the build you set out to achieve. They need to buy into your design brief, understand the design philosophy, have the right trades and get the job done. Unearthing these unique individuals can be a major undertaking.
Drawing up the long list
Most people start with personal recommendations and this is a great place to start. Some of the busiest builders don’t advertise so this is might be the only way of identifying them. Ask your friends, family and neighbours if they know of or have used a reliable builder. Don’t stop here ask your architect, the suppliers of any items you’ve already decided on and the couple who live in the house down the road that has the stunning extension.
An internet search can produce an overwhelming list of names, that can leave you more confused than before you began. Focusing on sites dedicated to building will help you identify suitable names for your list. There is no registry body or code of conduct for building professionals, so be sure of the sites inclusion criteria. Though don’t rule out membership groups as these can be a great way of finding a builder with interest and expertise in the areas that are important to you. The Passivhaus Trust and AECB are excellent places to identify builders with interest and experience in eco building. The Federation of Master builders is another useful resource, they have a code of practice and criteria checks before any companies can join.
Having identified the potential builders, it’s time to begin the detective work. Try to speak to someone who has had work completed by your shortlisted builder and see if the work was to the required standard, on time and within the agreed budget. It’s also good to check when the work was undertaken, reputations don’t necessarily last a lifetime if key staff have moved on. Don’t be put off by one bad review if you like everything else you hear ask the builder to explain what went wrong, what they’ve learned and why it will not happen again.
Remember, some smaller firms who specialise in new build properties might not get as many reviews as these companies who undertake smaller job. It’s not possible to rack up a dozen 5* reviews if you on a single job for 9-12 months. However, having developed a relationship with a builder over this period of time previous clients are usually happy to have a call with a perspective lead.
Don’t take badges or registration numbers at face value. Bona fide member of trade association will not be put off by you checking their registration. Check their registration with companies’ house and the HMRC. Make sure that you check their insurance to avoid being left high and dry should things go wrong. It’s also wise to check your own insurance policies too.
Getting the right price
Once you have a shortlist of builders it’s time to obtain quotations. Make sure that you get a full quotation in writing clearly identifying what is covered and what is not. Your architect will be able to help you here by producing a costing specification to accompany your drawings. A costing specification might seem like an added cost, but it aids comparison amongst those on your short list. Improved clarity at this point will avoid assumptions which will be very costly to resolve as the project progresses.
VAT will have a big impact on your project, is the quote inclusive or exclusive of VAT. Some projects have differing rates of VAT and new builds are VAT exempt, but you will need to pay the VAT and claim it back after completion. Is your builder currently VAT exempt, or near the threshold, will they need to charge you as the project progresses?
A high price will not guarantee you quality, it might include items that you don’t want or items you didn’t realise you needed. Be suspicious of that tempting low price, clarify how the builder can achieve this and ask what extras might be needed. Take time exploring and clarifying quotations as it is far better to have an accurate and realistic quote now, than to try and resolve issues onsite.
Terms and Conditions
Once you have the right builder for your project get them to sign a contract. The contract should sets out all the items you’ve discussed and agreed to this point. In addition to the information in the quotation it should include payment schedules and the project start and finish dates. The contract should also state if you are using a contract administrator, and who this is. The most commonly used contracts are the jctltd.co.uk with a variety of contracts depending on the size and scale of your project. Your architect can support you in this process. If you would like more information why not give one of team a call.