Not all home improvement projects are created equal—some call for a little DIY magic and some inspiration from the Internet, while the more elaborate ones can be entrusted only to the hands of a reliable builder. Finding a builder doesn’t have to be intimidating; the key is knowing where to look. Kst Building Services Ltd, a company of builders in London, has shared some important tips to help you get started.
Be Wary of Cowboy Builders
Hiring a cowboy builder may seem like an attractive idea, with fees up to 50% lower than professional builders. Cowboy builders are able to charge less, as they did not receive any formal training, have no professional license, and have to proposition themselves as a viable option to licensed builders. However, the money you save on this cheaper option will eventually catch up with you by means of substandard work, which, in reality, could mean even more expensive repairs in the future.
Turn to the Internet
Finding a builder in the UK is made easier with reliable directories published online. Leading news and media organization The Guardian has published a list of websites that not only serve as directories, but also display real client reviews with both good and negative feedback.
Such sites allow homeowners to post jobs, to which builders can send their bids. This feature allows both parties to prepare for the project by being able to negotiate the cost and evaluate the scope of work required. Having access to a wide database cuts homeowners’ research time and almost always guarantees good results.
Shop Around for Recommendations
Ask for recommendations from family, friends and neighbors, as you will more likely trust the recommendation of your peers over that of strangers from the Internet. The great thing about this is that not only will you be able to secure contacts, but you can also inspect previous work. Some of the questions you can ask when getting recommendations are: 1) kind and scope of work done; 2) duration of the project; and 3) possible issues encountered with the builder.
Pro tip from Homebuilding & Renovating: ask your designer for help. People in the construction industry, especially those who have been in it for a long time, have already built their network of who’s and who’s not, and would gladly recommend other contractors with whom they have had a great working experience.
Treat It Like a Job Interview
Treat your search for a builder the way a company would if they needed to hire an employee. The person you are looking for will do the extremely important job of building/rebuilding/remodeling your and your family’s house, after all.
Make a list of the traits that you are looking for in your prospective builder, write down the job requirements, and get ready with your offer. When you meet your candidates, don’t be afraid to ask the important stuff, such as where they received their formal training, how long they have been in the home building industry, what tools and equipment they use and their completed projects. This encourages your builder to treat the project as important to him as it is to you.
Prepare to Wait Four Months for a Good Builder
In an article published on House Beautiful in 2017, Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry explains that there is such an incredibly high demand for building work that about 50% of the time, builders won’t be able to start on a new contract right away and require four month advance notice.
“The workloads of builders have been rising steadily over the past two years and there’s no shortage of work. That’s why we’re urging home owners who are keen to crack on with their build or renovation projects to start getting in touch with prospective builders as soon as possible. Otherwise, they risk disappointment delaying their projects or worse still, working with a dodgy builder. So many building horror stories start with a client approaching a builder who’s free to start work sooner than the more professional builder who is really busy,” Berry explained.
Look at the Paperwork
In the same House Beautiful article, Federation of Master Builders shared the alarming findings of their research: 90% of builders report that most homeowners do not ask for a written contract; 80% of builders report that homeowners do not ask them for an agreed payment schedule; and less than 10% ask about pertinent insurance policies.
As a homeowner, you should not hesitate to ask builders for the necessary paperwork, as it will serve as your protection against substandard jobs and fraudulent contractors. Another pro tip from Brian Berry: “These protections really are essential to helping clients weed out the cowboys and mitigate against any issues that could crop up during the build. A quality builder will insist on these things and if they don’t, consumers ought to question why.”