Finding the right builder is important. It might be a home extension, a new office block, or even a factory that you require, which means the company that completes the work should be experienced in the particular type of building you require. As there is so much at stake, take your time in choosing the main contractor. Here are a few tips to help you find the perfect partner for your construction project.
Accreditation and associations
Any established builder will be accredited with registered organisations, and this tells you they are familiar with building regulations and procedures. One thing you should always ask to see is the contractor’s public liability insurance. If your scaffolding collapsed onto your next-door neighbour’s property, this would be covered by the contractor’s public liability insurance.
With such a wide range covered by construction, most builders specialise in one type or another, perhaps complete house building, or extensions, or maybe commercial premises. By choosing someone that usually works on your type of project, they should be familiar with all aspects from design, planning approval, to construction and completion. A competent contractor will be able to assist you with design and planning approval, as they regularly deal with the local council. If you are looking for such a company, the most reputable London builders will be listed on Thomson Local, the leading online directory in the UK.
Contracts need to be clear and comprehensive
Before allowing your chosen contractor to start work, make sure you have agreed everything, and all points are covered in the written contract. If everything is agreed beforehand, there are no surprises later. Do not sign a contract until the local council has approved the project, and all costs have been finalised. It is always a good idea to ask for a sample contract at the very outset, which you can browse through at your leisure.
The best way to find out if the builder is professional in his work is to talk to existing customers. Any reputable contractor will be able to provide you with a number of references, which gives the assurance that they have successfully completed many projects already.
View recent projects
This will give you an insight into the standard of work you can expect. If you ask to see some examples of work, a good builder would be happy to provide you with some addresses. You can also talk to the owners of the property, and find out how they feel about the work.
Here is a list of questions to ask previous clients,
- Was it a pleasant working relationship?
- Did the contractor communicate well throughout the project?
- Was the project completed on time, and within budget?
- Was the contractor fair and honest?
- Did the contractor do any remedial work?
- How was the follow up service?
- Were you happy with the standard of workmanship?
If the contractor has a current project running, ask if you can pay a visit. It will give you an opportunity to see how the work is carried out.
Several contractors should bid
It never pays to go with the first company you see, there are many available so spend some time and screen them carefully, until you have three or four that meet up to your standards. Then ask the contractors to submit a bid for the project, giving them a reasonable amount of time to prepare their bid. This gives you the upper hand and each contractor will be trying to impress you, so expect to receive some concessions at this stage.
Selecting the best contractor for the project
Once you have received all of the written quotes, go through them carefully, while making notes of any questions you might have, or any points you are unclear about. Then ask each one to clarify these points, then you should be ready to make your choice. Check out this link for more information on hiring the right contractor for your building project.
Once you have chosen your main contractor, you need to discuss the payment schedule. It is normal for the client to pay at certain stages, the first being a small advance at the contract signing stage. Then the next payment might include all work up to ground level. This covers foundation and footing work, with everything below ground level completed. The next stage might be the first floor, or perhaps to roof stage, depending on the size and type of project. Once the schedule has been agreed, you should thoroughly inspect all stages before making a further payment. This allows remedial work to be completed before the project continues.
Be particular when checking
Builders are only human, and when a client pays great attention to detail, the contractor soon realises this and makes sure the standard of work is of the highest. Any signs of careless checking will encourage the builder to lower their standards and they may be tempted to cut corners.
Hire a Project Manager
If it is a big project and you are not always available, it might be an idea to hire someone who can oversee the project on your behalf. A retired builder would be perfect, as he has intimate knowledge of the construction business, and can represent you at meetings, and provide you with regular progress updates. This is not essential for a smaller project such as a house extension, but a larger project would require at least one experienced person to be onsite regularly, with your interests at heart.
Don’t expect the builder to start straight away
Most good builders are very busy, so it is unlikely that work can begin immediately. Set a schedule that is practical, you don’t want to rush things, as this might be the cause of sub-standard work and missed deadlines. You may want the job finished as soon as possible, but it is best to allow sufficient time for the contractor to complete the work. With clear communication and a written contract, things should go smoothly if you follow the above steps.