What to look for in a builder and how to find a good one

Starting your building project

Employing someone to alter or extend your most valuable asset can be a nerve racking prospect. Unless your project is very simple it makes sense to at least talk to a qualified person for advice before you start.

It is important to be clear in your own mind exactly what you want to achieve from the build, so:

  • draw up a brief with a "wish list" for the project and if possible include a few sketches or cut out pictures and ideas from a magazine
  • imagine how you will live in and use the new space
  • picture yourself moving around or sitting in it and where your furniture will be positioned
  • note down all your requirements and highlight any problems that you think need solving
  • note down anything you have always thought needed changing
  • talk to friends or relatives who have had works recently carried out and ask them how they got on

This will help your designer to understand your wishes and create a space suited to your needs

There are many different qualified people who offer a variety of different services with varying costs. Choose one which meets your needs.

Choosing the right builder

Having had your plans drawn and obtained the permissions you may need to choose a builder to carry out the work. Bear in mind that the builders will be spending several weeks or even months, in your home. You need to be confident both in their ability to do the job, and that you will have a good working relationship with them.

We are not allowed to recommend contractors but the following advice maybe useful:

  • ask family and friends to recommend firms who have done work for them
  • talk to builder's previous customers. Go and see the jobs and ask if all went well
  • ask at least three builders to provide quotes. The cheapest price may not always be the best price
  • produce a detailed written account of the work you want done
  • include detailed drawings (if you have them) and send a full set to each builder you are asking for a quote
  • make sure the quotes cover everything you would like done, including:
    • supply of materials
    • removal of rubbish
    • making good / snagging (this means that if any problems arise a few weeks down the line, such as a crack in the wall or a door fixing falling off, the builder will return to correct them)

Once you have selected your builder

If the costs of works are substantial, you may wish to agree a formal written contract covering payment of work, including:

  • stage and final payments
  • timescales
  • responsibility for satisfactory work
  • making good/snagging

This can prevent disputes and delays.

General advice for a smooth project

  • if problems arise tell your builder straight away
  • do not pay the entire cost in advance
  • confirm the costs of any extra work in writing
  • obtain a receipt for all payments

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