OK, so you’re excited that you’ve finally decided to extend your property, build your dream home or tart up your driveway. But how do you go about finding the right building contractor that will deliver exactly what you want, on time and on budget?
Well, here’s our top 10 obvious but often overlooked questions to ask your builder:
- What sort of company are they?
Are they a Limited Company or a sole trader? There are obviously horses for courses, and depending on the size of your project, you’ll want to find a builder that can deliver the best results for you. A building contractor that has formed a limited company usually means that he’s separated himself as an individual from his business. This is a good thing in the main as it means that you can usually see a track history and if there have ever been any claims made against them in the last 5 years, or indeed, if any of the Directors have ever dissolved a Company. Also, a limited company would normally employ a number of specialists or other contractors, which will give you peace of mind that your builder isn’t a ‘jack of all trades’.
- The number of years in business
The number of years in business isn’t necessarily a recommendation, however, it is an indication of experience. You’ll be wanting to find the best builder to deliver the best outcome, so this question is crucial to knowing whether they have the relevant experience or not.
- Are they a member of any Trade Association?
This is important because it confirms that they take their trade and profession seriously and are keeping themselves up to date with innovation, best practice and policies. Be specific about which trade association they’re a member of. The more information you can gather on your builder, the better choice you’ll make and they’ll be no hidden surprises further down the line!
- Are their team qualified and registered?
Most builders would have a CORGI registered plumber and a qualified electrician in their team, but it’s worth asking the question. In fact, it’s worth asking about all of their team, what they specialise in and how qualified they are. You may not need some of their skills, but it does give you an understanding of what the builder is capable of.
- Do they employ a site manager?
A site manager is pretty key to every project. He’s the person that will oversee that his team are performing well, that materials arrive on time and that he’s sticking to the agreed budget. He often liaises with your Architect and it’s important that you get to know if they can develop a good working relationship. He’s the one you’d go to in an emergency, so it’s important that you can trust him.
- What technical and support staff do they have?
This question will give you the reassurance that the building team are supported by administrative teams that will sort out payment of supplies, queries etc, so that the building team can get on with the job.
Does the builder have the correct insurances in place? At the very minimum he should have Public Liability, Employers Liability, Professional Indemnity and Contractors All Risk Insurances.
- Portfolio and Testimonials
It goes without saying, but it’s important to take a look at some of your builders recent work before making a decision. Photographs and online testimonials can give you a taste of his work and reputation, but it’s a much better option to actually see with your own eyes his recently completed projects and actually speak face to face with his existing clients.
- The Quote – ah! THE QUOTE! The scope of the project
When your prospective builder quotes for the job, but refuses to write it down, then be very sceptical! You need to have a written quote, and to pin down exactly what is included in the quote. Is it a fixed price or an estimate, does it include VAT and a break down of the costs of materials they’ll use and if they are to purchase them on your behalf, is that listed in the quote. Failure to fully understand what’s included and what’s not, can cause serious problems later down the line.
- The Contract
Make sure that the contract between you is either a RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) or JCT (Joint Contracts Tribunal) contract. The contract will have to be administered by both the site manager and the architect and should list everything that’s in the quote.
Most templated contracts aren’t legally binding, so protect yourself right from the outset
Is your prospective builder genuinely interested in your project? If he shows enthusiasm, offers up ideas and potential solutions, is engaged with your vision for your dream extension or new build, then that’s a good sign! If he’s showing any ambivalence, then it could cause trouble and ill-feeling along the way!
We hope this information is helpful and gives you some guidance when finally deciding on the right building contractor to put your trust, faith, hopes and dreams in!
We are Cotswold Contractors, with a 20-year history of delivering a quality service and complete customer satisfaction to the homes and businesses in Gloucestershire, Cheltenham and the Cotswolds.
If you’d like further information, please visit our website or give us a call on 01453 453990 – we’d be happy to answer any questions you have.