How to find a good builder for your self build home
Your plans have been approved, your dream house or renovation is about to become a reality, so how do you find and choose a great builder? You want to choose a building company who works to a high standard, will be easy to work with, and reliable so your dream house doesn’t become a nightmare! Here are my 16 tips on choosing a builder and not a cowboy!
1. Ask around
There’s nothing better than a recommendation from a friend or family member who’s had building work done. It’s a fact that we are more likely to purchase or engage a companies service on the back of a personal recommendation than on the claims of the company itself. If in doubt, ask about!
2. Find a builder working on local projects
One of the best ways to find a builder who’s currently active near you is to find local building work that’s going on. You don’t have to march on to the building site and strike up a conversation but they should have a board up with their details or signage on a van. You also don’t necessarily need to like the style of work they are currently carrying out – a builder can only produce what’s on the plans in front of them.
3. Ask your architect
Even if your architect is offering no more than a fixed price design service, they remain one of your few early contacts who will have experience of the local building scene and they should be happy to recommend someone or at least give you a few names.
4. Find a Builder other Tradesmen recommend
Tap into the local tradesman community and you’ll quickly be able to find a builder whose name commands local respect (and the ones with a less than golden reputation). Most tradesmen get used to seeing the same familiar names around the sites they are working on and often have preferences for who they like to work with — and who they see as a good source of work. If you can engage with one of them, you can open up a whole network of local, reliable names.
5. Check the Federation of Master Builders
Find a builder on the Federation of Master Builders website. Members are checked and inspected at the point of joining, and can offer you a warranty on your work.
6. Prepare a brief
This is your project so make sure you get exactly what you want. Produce a written brief, including detailed drawings where possible, and give a copy to each builder who quotes.
It’s important to know exactly what you want, your builder is not psychic so the chances of them knowing what you want if you don’t know yourself, are slim to none. Do yourself a favour and nail down the details before engaging a builder. This will prevent difficult conversations later on.
7. Get quotes in
Ask at least 3 builders to quote on your job and don’t just go with the cheapest. Going with the cheapest quote is likely to be a false economy. Look at the breakdown of costs, if some seem a lot cheaper than others ask how they will achieve it for the price without cutting corners.
8. Check what’s included in the price
Read the quotes carefully and check that they include everything you would like done including the removal of rubbish, site waste and the specification of any fixtures and fittings. Make sure the quote matches your budget! Read more about how to plan and stick to your budget.
9. Get references
Go and visit some of the builders’ previous jobs. Most reputable traders will be more than happy to show off their previous work and while you’re there you can get a personal reference from a satisfied customer.
10. Ask their previous clients questions about their service
- Did they turn up on time?
- Were they polite?
- Did you have regular meetings with the site manager/boss?
- What were their labourers and trades like?
- Did they clear up after themselves and keep the site tidy?
- Was the project was brought in on budget and on time?
- Were there any extras or hidden costs?
11. Don’t be fooled by the badge
There have been a substantial number of cases of bogus builders fraudulently claiming membership of trade associations, so call and make sure they are a genuine member .
12. Check they are VAT registered.
Avoid a ‘VAT-free’ deal. You will not have a valid contract if there is no proof of payment.
13. Be straight about money
Agree payment terms clearly in writing with your builder and this way you will have it in black and white in case of any disputes because these can be stressful and very costly to your self build.
14. Avoid paying upfront or a cash deposit
It should not be needed unless you request specialist building materials or the job is likely to take a long time to complete.
15. Get a guarantee
Does the builder offer a guarantee on a large scale job? If it is a new build property you will need a guarantee on your property.
Is the builder insured? They should have cover to protect themselves against property damage and personal and public liability to protect you and the general public in the event of an accident or injury. Don’t take their word for it, ask to see the paperwork.
This list is by no means exhaustive and feel free to add a comment if you feel there is anything I have missed out that ought to have been included.
There are few financial investments that are as significant as building your home so make sure you get it right. A huge chunk of your budget is going to go to your builder so ask the questions and do the checks.
It’s better to get it right at the very beginning than to wish you had when you’re halfway through the project.