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Although the vast majority are reliable and professional, builders don’t enjoy a great reputation with the public at large. Many people are reluctant to fully trust builders to do a good job in a reasonable time frame, and worry that they will be fleeced, or left with with a job half done. In actual fact, most people who do use a private builder end up being satisfied with the results, and providing a few basic checks are carried out and pricing and payment structures are agreed beforehand, there is every chance you will enjoy a successful relationship with your builder.
Below is a checklist of some of the steps you should take when hiring a builder in order to get the best possible result.
Finding a builder
Don’t just go with the first builder you find. In order to make sure you get a good price, and a realistic schedule, you will need to do your research and find at least three builders you can ask to submit a quote. Websites like www.Mybuilder.com are a good place to start, alternatively you could ask around in your friends and family for recommendations. You can also use resources like the House Extension Online Forum to get good, impartial advice. The members of the forum may be able to suggest a specific builder or to answer any specific questions you have about the hiring process.
Getting quotes from builders
It is a good idea to get at least three quotes, and make sure that they are for exactly the same specification. If possible, you want to get fixed quotes instead of rough estimates, and make sure that the quote clearly states the builder’s name, address and phone number. Ideally, you want to know the daily rate and exactly how many days the work is likely to take.
Before agreeing on a quote with a builder, make sure that there is a contingency plan should something go wrong. Beware of builders that are too cheap or ready to work immediately. Both could be signs of future trouble. If the quote is unrealistically cheap, the builder may not fully have understood the amount of work that will be involved. A good builder is very unlikely to be available to work straight away. In most cases, expect to wait at least a few months before your builder is ready to start working for you.
Checking builders’ credentials
Before deciding which builder to choose, you must check their credentials so that you can be reasonably confident that they will do a good job on time. Qualifications that a builder may have include NVQs and HNDs in construction, for which they should be able to show you certificates. Ask to see other work they have completed recently and, if possible, talk to other people who have used them previously. Find out if the builder is a member of a trade association like the Federation of Master Builders or the Guild of Builders. Although these aren’t guarantees of good work, membership of associations like these can be an indicator of a builder’s credentials and professional standing.
Also, and this is very important, ask to see the builder’s insurance certificate. You want them to be covered for public liability in case there is an accident on the site. You also want them to be covered in case there is any damage to your property and in case they go bust or have an accident, so that you will be able to pay someone else to do the job.
Entering a contract with a builder
By making a contract with the builder before the work begins, you will each be able to agree on exactly how much is paid and when, and when the work will be completed. The contract needs to outline what the work will be, the cost of any materials, the use of sub-contractors and what the payment stages are to be. It also needs to include stipulations in the event of a dispute.
You should never pay for all of the work up front, and only pay for a specific stage when you are sure that it has been completed satisfactorily. By signing a contract the builder will be committing his time to your project, but also make sure that he is willing to deal with any remedial work which may crop up. Don’t pay cash in hand; always ask for an invoice. This will help you to keep a record of the work that is paid for and could be useful if there is a dispute. Also, check before entering a contract if the builder is VAT registered, as this could make a big difference to the final cost.