Research, recommendation, and more research!
Before you even go looking for a builder or main contractor, begin with preparing a plan of what you would like, be as detailed as you can be. Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what you want at this stage, a good builder will be able to guide you, but try to list the main things you are after and what you want the project to achieve. Make some notes and even a rough sketch will help.
If you already have plans and a spec then great, that will allow you to convey exactly what you want to your prospective builders and your quotes will then be comparable with each other, ‘apples with apples’ as they say.
Ask for recommendations from family and friends.
This is a great way to find a builder and you will also learn who to avoid, everyone has a story of a ‘cowboy builder’.
Another good place to start is the Federation of Master Builders ‘find a builder’ service www.fmb.org.uk/fab
Get 3 Quotes
Its a good idea to select three builders to quote for the project, any more than that can get confusing. Ask for references, speak to their previous clients and see some of their work first hand.
We regularly post our work in progress on our site and on our Facebook page, potential new clients can then get real sense of how we work.
Making A Decision
Once you have your three quotes take some time to consider the following:
The price is important – definitely, but its not the only factor. A single penny spent on poor quality work is a waste, where as spending a little extra to get the job done correctly can add substantial value.
You must choose a builder you get on with, this person and their staff could be in your home for a long time. In that time there could be times of stress and upheaval, the builder will be there through all of it so be sure you have picked the the right character to have around. You also need a builder who communicates. So many issues can be traced back to simple misunderstandings through breakdowns in communication. A good indication of their skills in this area is to look at the presentation of the quote, the attention to detail provided and the time in which it was produced. These are all good indications of what a builder my be like during a project.
The Small Print
You’ve chosen your builder, now time to get down to the details.
Before they start you need to get a final agreed price, at this stage an estimate is too vague. Get a fixed price.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make additions or changes and the builder may come across additional works that need to be done, but if that happens, a cost can be agreed before additional work is done. This way you avoid any unexpected bills.
Agree a timescale, a payment plan and a contract.
The timescale should at the very least give a start and estimated finish date. For a larger project, ask for a week by week plan of what will be happening on site.
A payment plan can be done in various ways. For our projects ranging between 20K and 70K we would design plan based on payments due when certain elements are complete. For example
Deposit in advance 30%
Payment 1 due on completing of groundworks and exterior walls
Payment 2 due on completion of roof
Payment 3 due on completion of interior fit out
Completion payment due after sign off from building control
However you agree to work it, make sure it is clear and you have the agreement in writing.
A contact should also be agreed, you can access a plain english contracts through the Federation Of Master Builders but this should be provided by the builder.
Make sure you fully understand the contact and are happy with all the terms, if in doubt seek advice.
In summary, keep everything black and white, and avoid any confusion. If you are clear what is to be done and the builder has been clear as to costs you should have a successful project, and alway keep good communication between you both.
For more advice on choosing the right builder visit The Federation Of Master Builders