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Choosing a builder

Finding the right builder to carry out your work is central to the success of any building project. It must be somebody who is competent to do the job and whom you can rely on to complete it in reasonable time. So how do you go about it?

Personal recommendation

This is one of the safest ways to find the right builder, you can see for yourself the standard of work achieved and get an honest opinion of what the builder is like to work with, was he on time, within budget, easy to talk to and so on.

Look at work being done locally

Look out for local properties that have been renovated and approach the owners to ask their opinion of the builder they are employing.

Always look at the site, is it tidy, or is everything just lying about.

A good builder takes care of his materials and keeps them protected from the elements/opportunists when not in use.

Professional Associations

There are several associations that exist to maintain good standards within the building industry, they have directories of members and will send out copies on request.

The better known are the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the Chartered Institute of Building and Guild of Master Craftsmen.

Members are vetted for standard of work, financial stability in many cases and professionalism.

Do not assume that the builder using a logo on his headed paper actually belongs to an association, always check out first.

In addition some associations offer warranties, the FMB for example has a very competitive warranty that is available for a small percentage increase on the contract price which will give you peace of mind and adequate insurance cover.

Quotations versus estimates

When comparing the prices your builder submits it is crucial to understand the difference between a quotation and an estimate. A quotation is a firm price i.e. what you can expect to pay for specified works.

Whereas an estimate is much less specific a best guess of what it will cost to do what the client wants subject to change as and when the nature of the job does.

Most builders will submit a mixture of quotation and estimates, this is fine as long as you get a complete detailed written breakdown of every aspect of the job.

The specification

You should be provided with a full written specification document detailing the work to be done and what it will cost.

This document is vital as it effectively forms a contract between you and your builder as to what will be done and how.

It should be sufficiently detailed on all aspects of the job showing price and materials to be used so that you can compare one builder against the other when making your decision.

Approvals and completion

Do ensure that your builder has all the necessary approvals in place for the project, these can include building regulation approval, planning permission and covenant consent from your landlord or former owner.

Planning permission can only be obtained from the council but some building regulation approvals may also be obtained from approved inspectors.

In all cases where formal building regulation approval is required do ensure the necessary inspections are carried out by the building control surveyor and that a completion certificate has been issued prior to you settling outstanding balances on the project.

Cowboy alert

The following points are often telltale signs of the sort of builder you would not wish to use on a project. You will often find the following are not properly dealt with:

  • Not registered for charging and paying VAT
  • Not offer properly written quotations
  • Not have an office address or headed notepaper
  • Not be able to offer good references
  • Not carry third party insurance
  • Not want to sign any sort of contract but liable to wish being paid in cash before the project commences
  • Not employ properly trained labour
  • Not provide the standard of workmanship expected
  • Not provide an address in the event of complaints
  • Not comply with Health and Safety Regulations

Beware if you choose to use a builder that falls within any or the majority of the above categories you are likely to end up with a more costly yet lower quality job.

Do not necessarily go for the cheapest quote always check builder credentials.

South Tyneside operates a Safetrader scheme and some builders may be registered on this scheme. See Safetraders

Professional associations

Unfortunately we cannot recommend builders however, those who are members of a relevant trade organisation can be considered including the following:

The Federation of Master Builders
National Federation of Builders
National Federation of Roofing Contractors

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