Hiring Builders and Professionals

publication date: Jul 30, 2009
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Finding a good builder (or electrician, plumber, architect, gardener) is essential to getting a good renovation or home improvement job done, and with the boom building times over, finding a good builder may have got easier as the recession and credit crunch has reduced work in the new build industry by 70%. So it’s key to follow our top 10 steps to ensure you secure the right builder for your home.

Step One
Write down everything that you want carried out. Deciding that you want a single storey extension isn’t enough, you’ll need to write down things like how big do you want it? What is it for - a kitchen, extra room, a bathroom? Will you require planning permission?

Step Two
Decide what your role is with the project. Do you want to manage it on a day to day basis, in which case you won’t be able to do this if you also work full time? Do you just make the decisions and pay the costs? Do you want to choose and order all the materials?

Step Three
Ask friends and family or neighbours that have had work done to see if they have anyone that has done a good job for them. Try to find a builder or tradesman that is a member of an organisation such as the Federation of Master Builders. Check they are members of Trustmark (and that they definitely belong!). See our Property Associations to find a builder or tradesman near you. NEVER work with a builder or tradesman that is not a member of an organisation, because if something goes wrong you will have no third party to complain to.

Step Four
Find three builders or tradesmen to quote for the work. You’ll learn something new from each of them as they may all have different ideas or best practice which improves your project. With each person, sit down with your list and make sure when they quote, they all quote in the same way so you can compare:-

1.       The list of work required.
2.       Itemise each job and give costs for labour and materials separately.
3.       Be clear on your material specifications, for example, laminate flooring can range from £2 to £30 per square metre!
4.       Payment terms, money upfront, staged payments.
5.       Ask for a contract and check what happens if there is a dispute.

Step Five
Compare quotes and don’t forget to negotiate! You may be able to reduce the costs this way, or there may be things that you can do for the job that would reduce the costs. This could be as simple as clearing up afterwards or clearing the whole area prior to the builder and tradesmen turning up. Always ask for references and ideally for projects that could cost thousands, visit homes that have had work done - taking the builder with you! 

Step Six
Choose your builder or tradesmen but be very clear on who is responsible for what jobs. For example, if you need work to pass building regulations or certificates to be sent to the local authority, who is responsible for this? What happens if the work doesn’t pass building regulations? Who will pay for the additional work required. The same goes for planning permission.

Step Seven
Agree with the builder or tradesmen:-
1.       When will they start? What happens if there is a delay?
2.       Agree a timeline and alert the contractor to costs you may incur if it’s not finished on time. 
3.       How can you be sure they won’t walk off the job? What do you do if they do that?
4.       What payments are required and when?
5.       Who decides on what materials are used and when they are delivered?
6.       What insurance is in place if anything goes wrong?
7.       What guarantees are you going to receive?
8.       What copies of certificates (building control passes etc) will you have?
9.       Who will mediate if you have a dispute you can’t agree on?
10.     Check the contract with a local legal expert prior to signing.

Step Eight
Make sure you keep 10% of the monies owed to the builder or tradesman back for a month or two (agree this first!) just in case something goes wrong and needs fixing.

Step Nine
During the work, make sure that you sit down with the builder or tradesman first thing in the morning and last thing during the day. Discuss where you are against your timeline and any additional costs you may be about to incur.

Step Ten
Always avoid trying to make daily changes to your brief. If you do, it will lengthen the job, increase the costs more than you think and then irritate the builder/tradesman!

Get a helping hand with our new Renovating a Property Service for just £19.99!

Property expert, Kate Faulkner, has joined forces with B&Q and other industry experts to offer a unique service, where you purchase a ‘property project pack’ that gives you:-
  • An A4 ‘how to’ guide (approx 80 pages), containing Dos and Don’ts, Factsheets, Checklists, Handy Tips and Forms
  • Access to Kate and her team, by phone and email, for any queries you might have during your project.

See the full list of Kate Faulkner's unique Property Services here!

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