TIPS - Get the Best From Your Builder

TIPS - Get the Best From Your BuilderPhoto Credit: Adrian Stewart (Chortler) on Flickr.com

Why do builders get a bad name? The truth is that for every bad story you hear there are hundreds of happy customers. So how do you get the best out of your builder? Improving your home doesn't have to result in contractor chaos says the Federation of Master Builders, the UK’s largest building trade organisation. If you are about to start a major home improvement project, following a few simple guidelines to ensure that you get the best from your builder.

Check them out
Do your research. A building firm could be in your home for several weeks, so it is important that you trust them. Get references, which a good professional will be happy to provide, and check them out. If the builder claims to be a member of a trade association such as the FMB, check what that membership means and find out if they really are members. Scrutinise their credentials before going ahead. Don’t just rely on Yellow Pages, search for a vetted local builder at the FMB’s website, www.findabuilder.co.uk.

Get a quote
You need several detailed written quotes and not just "It'll cost around £10,000". A good builder would prefer this anyway; it gives them time to really think about the job and what it will entail.

Eager legals
Be aware of the legal requirements you must fulfill when having major improvements done. This is not up to the builder, unless you specifically ask him to do it. The work may require Building Regulations approval as well as planning permission, which can be a lengthy and complicated process – your local council will advise you.

Draw up a contract
As 'project manager' you need to ensure that you know what you want and how you are going to get there. For example, what type of shower or boiler do you want? The cost of the product and installation may vary a great deal depending on the system chosen. A contract is a 100% necessity on every job to prevent misunderstandings, Draw up a written contract, with an agreed timetable that both you and the builder are happy with. The FMB has standard contracts for use by anyone using its recommended builders in “Crystal Mark approved” plain English.

Think about insurance
Extending your home may cost tens of thousands of pounds, so it’s worth protecting your investment. The MasterBond warranty provides cover against faulty workmanship or materials for up to two years and against structural defects for 10 years. Should you move during that time, the insurance stays with the property and is passed on to the new owners.

Keep talking
Help your builder to understand the look you are going for by showing them magazine pictures of similar projects. Make sure you fully understand every step of the building process and don’t let jargon put you off. A professional builder should explain things clearly to ensure that there are no nasty surprises! If you’re unhappy about the work, talk to your builder immediately. Most things can be amended before they are finished.

Monitoring the job
Keep tabs on how the job is going; if it's complicated arrange a regular half-hour with your builder on agreed days. If you have personal requirements, such as no radios or smoking, or you’d rather not share your toilet or kitchen facilities, make sure that these are known before the job begins, but bear in mind that having happy workers may help achieve a successful outcome, so try to compromise.

Always discuss how the builder's rubble will be disposed of, and when.

Finally, you don't necessarily want to be walking to and from the kettle all day. One solution is to set up a small area near the worksite with tea and coffee-making facilities that builders can use without going into your kitchen.

Dealing with problems
If you do encounter difficulties mid-build:
  • Be realistic - Builders aren’t mind readers, so if your project is not going to plan you must spell it out and explain what you do want.
  • Talk to the ‘main person’ - Telling sub-contractors to change things mid-construction will not only cause problems within the team but also confuse everyone as to what it is you really want.
  • Contact the FMB - If you still can’t resolve matters with your builder and they are an FMB member, the FMB service includes advising customers and working with both parties to reach a solution.
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