How to find a good builder
When interviewing a potential builder, it’s important to know that they’re the right fit for your project, but what questions should you be asking them before you commit? We’ve compiled some helpful tips on what information you’ll need from your builder to ensure your project is done the way you want it to be.
Ask about qualifications/experience – what is their trade?
Depending on what type of project you have, you may need a general manager or a builder with a specific trade, such as a plumber or roofer. General managers tend to have excellent organization skills, but if you have specific questions in regard to your project, they may not be able to answer those.
Find out how long they’ve been in business.
Your builder may seem like they’re an expert in their field, but if you find out they’ve only been in business for a few months, you may want to consider someone else. Being in business a short time isn’t always bad, though; it all depends on how they respond to your questions. For example, they may have become recently independent. If a builder has been in business for a long time, they may be so busy that they won’t be able to take on new projects or finish yours on time.
Who manages the builders, oragnises the workforce and inspects the quality of work?
The last thing you want is a manager who monitors your project from behind a desk. Someone needs to be on the site managing the builders to ensure the right work is being done by whom and when. Let the company you’re hiring from know that you want the manager to be on site as often as possible.
Have they worked on a project like yours before?
Don’t assume your builder has worked on projects like yours before. Ask for previous examples and what they’ve done. Ask to visit the site they’ve completed to see what you can expect from them. Be wary of what your builder boasts that they can do. They might not be entirely truthful with you.
How many projects do they take on at one time?
You don’t want a builder that bites off more than they can chew. Having too many projects going on at one time can be distracting, and the builder may not be able to give your project the time and attention it deserves. It can also lead to a longer wait time for your project to be done.
Check whether or not the builder uses subcontractors.
Your builder may need to outsource for special skill sets. Hiring a roofer is common, for example. If they need to hire subcontractors, ask if they will organise it themselves or if you will need to do it. If the latter, ask for referrals. If all builders are in-house, find out if they have employer’s liability insurance (see next question).
Does your builder have insurance?
The last thing you want is a drawn-out lawsuit over insurance claims. Ask to see their certificates for employers and public liability insurance. He or she should be able to cover up to £2 million in public liability. Notify your insurance of building projects, as this may affect your Building and Contents policy.
Are they a registered member of a Trade Body? If they aren’t, why not and see their responses.
Notable ones include the Federation of Master Builders, Guild of Builders and Contractors, National Federation of Builders, the European Builders Confederation, and Trust Mark Approved. They may have legitimate reasons why but watch out for defensive answers, they may be avoiding tax and do not want to show their books.
Inquire as to when they expect payment. Do they require a deposit?
If this is the first time you’re working with this particular builder, it’s common for them to ask for a deposit (usually up to 50%). Ensure your builder gives you a price quote and not just an estimate; a quote is a set price, whereas an estimate can change anytime. A typical payment system for projects is two or three staged payments. Make sure to withhold amount until all snags are rectified and you are happy.
What kind of payments do you accept?
Avoid paying in cash; cash doesn’t leave a paper trail, so it will be hard to resolve disputes should any arise. Not all builders accept credit cards due to the transaction fees but this could help in the event of a dispute as the card provider would be jointly liable. Pay with either credit card or bank transfer to ensure everything is documented.
Are they VAT registered? If not, why not and see their responses.
If they are, this indicates that they do enough business to be able to pay for materials upfront and as the project progresses. If they aren’t registered, ask why not; it could be that they’re planning to add extra fees on to the price anyway, or worse, could be tax avoidance.
If awarded the project, would they provide a firm start date and a completion date? Do they offer compensation for time taken over the agreed timescale?
A builder should be able to visit your site within three weeks of being awarded the job and give you an estimate of timescale. Barring troublesome weather conditions and any force majeure, the project should be completed on time. If they fail to do so, have an agreement in place so that you are compensated for extra time needed.
Get a guarantee on the project.
This is standard procedure, so make sure you get it in writing. Look for one year guarantees on labour and certain installations. Also, would they take up complaints on behalf of the customers with the manufacturer?
If you were recommended someone, suggested questions to ask to the referee:
Have you worked with them before? When and for what project? Have they started and finished on time, kept the site tidy, cleared up at the end, stuck to the agreed price and overall, did a great job?