How to Choose a Building Contractor

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You have decided to undertake major building work on your home. Or maybe you are one of the rising number of people who are choosing the flat pack/self build route.

Beware of whom you appoint to carry out your building work. Appointing the wrong building contractor may cause delay in the construction and can work out to be costly.

Don’t rush making your decision as there are many rogue traders and cowboy building contractors looking to exploit you out of your hard earned cash.

If you are not confident in finding a building contractor yourself, ask your architect for some recommendations as they will have experience of working with many building contractors in the past.

Here are a few pointers that will guide you through the minefield of the construction industry to a successful conclusion.

Selecting A Building Contractor

Speak to family, friends and neighbours about experiences they have had with their building contractor. This can be a good source of finding a reliable building contractor. Alternatively you can look in the local newspaper, search the Internet, or construction governing bodies.

Ensure that the builder has had a wide and varied experience of the work that you are asking them to carry out for you; this will enable you to get quality construction. Ask the contractor to arrange a visit to previous customers to view the work that he carried out for them. Any good contractor would be happy to oblige.

If you are going down the flat pack/self build route make sure that you engage a specialist building contractor that has carried out this type of construction before.

Do Your Research

Once you have narrowed the prospective builders down to a shortlist, make sure you research the companies. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by going to the Companies House website. Here you can find out if specific companies have been filing their tax returns. While you are there do a search on the company directors to find out if they are involved with any other companies that may have any been made bankrupt. Carry out an online search for reviews; don’t be afraid to ask for references from previous clients that the company has carried out worked for.

Check Accreditation

Ensure the building contractor is registered with the governing bodies that they say they are. Simply go to the governing bodies website and search for the building contractor's details. Some governing bodies may not publish the address or phone numbers, and you may have to call instead.

Governing Bodies

Below are two of the most well known household names of governing bodies in the construction industry, and a brief description of what they do. For more information click on the links:

FMB

The Federation of Master Builders was established in 1941 to protect the interests of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms. The FMB is independent and non-profit making. The FMB represents thousands of firms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The FMB independently inspects and vets their members to provide credible proof of their quality. Find a builder

NHBC

NHBC is the leading independent standard-setting body and provider of warranty and insurance for new homes. If you are going down the flat pack/self build route it is strongly recommend that you establish that your builder is a member of this organisation. NHBC provide protection for new builds in the form of Buildmark warranty and insurance. Check the NHBC Register

Companies House

What they do

They incorporate and dissolve limited companies. They register company information and make it available to the public. Read more

Invitation To Tender

You are almost there... you have now narrowed your list down to your desired number of preferred building contractors. Invite them all to price the building work; give them all the same information to enable them to quote on the same terms and conditions.

Provide the building contractors with a set of the architects drawings; let them know what your expected completion date is, also inform them of any specialist items that you will be supplying along with the delivery date once the order has been placed. This information can be used in the scheduling of the build.

Ask for the quote to be broken down to their separate elements of the build, plastering, plumbing, decorating etc. It is also a good idea that electrical installation is quoted by points.

By getting a detailed quote, this will help in identifying additional cost in the eventuality you instruct them to carry out additional works.

This could help to put a stop to any delay in your build, as the prices have been detailed in the element break down and any additional costing will be easy to price as all the information has been itemised in the quote.

Invite them to a meeting where you can explain your design concepts and any specialist finishes that you want. Inform the building contractor if you are intending to supply any final fixtures. Good building contractors should be able identity and advise you of any flaws in your design expectations, and offer up a probable solution that can be discussed.

Ask if they will be using all their own labour to carry out all of the work, or subcontractors.

If they are using subcontractors ask if they can guarantee their work. Are all their insurance policies up-to-date? Can they provide evidence of subcontractor’s accreditation?

Finally…..

  • Agree a payment schedule in writing; never pay a large amount upfront.
  • Payments should be scheduled to coincide with specific completion targets in the build process. This will act as an incentive for the builder to finish the job as set out in the work programme.

Ensure the builder issues you with a detailed payment schedule with all the elements shown. Never make payment on any element that requires Building Control sign off until it has been signed off