Published Wednesday 9 January, 2013
We've all seen the horror stories on TV programmes like Cowboy Builders; a family spends their savings to update their property, only to be left in the lurch with unfinished work and an untrustworthy builder who has run away with all their money. Thankfully, these stories are the exception rather than the rule - but because the building industry is unregulated, it's down to the client to check the builder’s credentials and ensure that they can put their faith in them. After all, when you employ a builder or building company, they'll be spending weeks or even months in your home, so you need to be sure that you can trust them with your most important asset.
To get the best out of your builder and the best end results, a good working relationship is essential - but how do you know that the builder you’re employing is committed to delivering the best possible service? Here's our advice on finding the right builder for the job.
Referrals and recommendations are often the best place to start, so ask around your friends and family to see if anyone can suggest a builder that they know has a good reputation. You can also turn to trade organisations – but don’t automatically take their recommendations on face value. You need to be aware that not all of these organisation actually vet and check the people that they register, so be sure you're using a trusted source such as the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) or the National Federation of Builders (NFB), both of which provide a very thorough service.
It's also important not to jump in straight away; approach at least three different builders for quotes and ask them to provide a detailed written specification of the work to be carried out. Don't be shy to ask for references and testimonials or to request examples of their previous work - any trustworthy tradesman will be more than happy to show their work with pride and put you in touch with previous, satisfied clients to prove their professionalism.
If you can, present your chosen builders with the same detailed drawings, such as architectural blueprints and any plans that have been submitted for building regulation approval. Ensure that each builder has exactly the same information to ensure that you're creating a level playing field. This also helps to ensure that no details are missed, so that you won't be stumped with extra costs once the building work commences.
Ask each of your potential builders to provide clear and detailed quotations rather than an estimate; quotations will give you a fixed price, whereas an estimated cost of work can soon see costs rocketing out of control when the work starts – remember that they may have given you a good price just to get a foot in the door. Also ask them to provide you with both a payment and work schedule if possible, so that you know what to expect and when, as well as their expectations for payments.
To give yourself some protection and additional peace of mind you should request a written contract, which can be provided by the FMB or the Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) - it may also be beneficial to use a solicitor’s escrow account to manage payments.
One of the golden rules of hiring a builder is to make sure that you never pay your project fees in advance. A good builder will be more than happy to arrange for payments to be made in arrears of each phase completion - if you're being asked to pay everything upfront, be very wary and refuse to part with your cash!
Public Liability Insurance is also essential to make sure that you and your home are covered should anything go wrong. Ask your builder to provide details of their insurance cover before you go ahead with the work and it’s also worth checking that you’ll have the peace of mind of being given an insurance backed warranty such as those provided by FMB Build Assure.
Our last piece of advice is not to be lulled into false sense of security with a ‘too good to be true’ cheap price. Cheap is not always best and could even signify danger - the builder’s credentials and experience should be the real deciding factor on whether or not they’re worth your hard earned cash.
Some builders will offer you a VAT free deal - but be aware that this will either mean that they do less than £77,000 worth of business per year, or that they’re illegally avoiding paying tax. Ask yourself these questions:
By following these simple bits of advice, you should be able to find a good local builder who can provide a quality service. If you’d like to speak to our experienced builders at Dobson, please feel free to contact us via the link.
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Matt and his team completed a single storey kitchen extension which has given us a great family space and larger utility area. They were very professional throughout the project, considerate to us and our neighbours, ensuring minimal disruption. We would not hesitate to use them again or recommend to our friends. Thank you to all at Dobsons!