Finding a builder and having home renovations can be a stressful experience for anyone. It can feel like a minefield if you’re new to the industry and preparing for the work to be done and picking the right person for the job is bound to be a tough decision. It is your home or business they are working on after all, and there’s a lot to keep in mind when choosing. As experts in architectural design, however, we’re here to help.

Our guide aims to set out everything you should have in place for building work to commence smoothly, and also what you should expect during the build of your project too. Once that’s out of the way, we also have our insightful builder checklist to use whenever you’re vetting contractors, and putting the two together can give you some much-needed clarity on the whole thing.

Builder Quality Checklist

The first step in finding the best builder for your project is with a good checklist for some indicators of quality. When you employ a builder, it is sometimes very hard to tell at first if they are trustworthy and reliable. However, there are some tell-tale signs which can help you spot the difference between a cowboy builder, who you should avoid, and a genuine trustworthy builder, who you should use.

1. References

A reliable, professional builder will always be more than willing to show off their best work and give references. Make sure to obtain builder references and verify the information using Companies House, Google Reviews and Facebook. Bear in mind very few builders will be successful in all projects due to variables on both sides.

2. Unrealistic Quotes

If something sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Quotes will vary from firm to firm, but always get at least 3 quotes when finding a builder so that you can verify the price. Sometimes a very cheap quote could mean they are not experienced enough to give accurate figures and could leave you either with a poor-quality job or a larger additional payment to pay at the end.

3. Contract Use

Alongside your quotation and or drawings, you need a formal contract in place. This can be a JCT, FMB or another form of contract. A contract should be aa 4/5-page document detailing working hours, defect variations, nonattendance advice, dispute procedures and payment schedule.

4. Payment Schedule

A typical payment schedule would be detailed in the contract before works commence. The usual structure would be a 10% deposit, 4 equal interim payments and 10% retention payment for completion and snagging issues.

5. Company Details

Check the official company details listed on the quotation are registered on Companies House. If there are no details of the company online, then does the company exist?

Pre-commencement Builder Checklist

After you have found a strong candidate for your build, the next place to start on is making things easy to get the project moving before they even arrive. This is a list of things that both you can be doing to make things easier as well as traits and tasks your builder should be doing too, all to make sure you’re the perfect match.

1. Gain Planning Approval

Make sure you are in receipt of planning approval (or PN/PD confirmation) in line with the building regulations drawings and all conditions on the planning approval have been adhered to. Also, check you have full plans building control approval including structural engineer works, water board approval etc.

2. Consult with neighbours

Have your builder provide their contact details to your neighbours and let them know the size, impact, and duration of the project. It is good to let your neighbours know what is happening, and you must serve notice under the Party Wall Act 1996 (if applicable).

3. Tender for build

Standard building regulations drawings are well detailed, but there will be several items outside of building control to be confirmed, such as heating, plumbing, electrics, kitchens, bathrooms, wall/floor finishes that need to be quoted for. Don’t forget this when you’re finding your builder and getting quotes.

The more you can itemise what you require, the closer the quotation can be and lessen the need for surprise extras or awkward conversations.

4. Builder Quotation correct

The detail on the builder’s quotation should be accurate and itemised to ensure you know exactly what you are getting for your money. Vague quotations leave a lot of unknown items out and will always end up costing you more. Make sure there is some agreement on any potential hidden items, such as deeper footing or drainage alteration. If you can agree approximate sums of any unknown items if they crop up, you will not be at the mercy of guess estimation. When builders’ quotations are limited you can use our drawings to tie in the quotation but agree on anything missing from the drawing/quotation before starting. It is advisable that communication with builders should be on email as much as possible.

5. Builder experience and references

Generally, builders usually come from a specific trade background and this can affect their experience in other areas. It is advised that you check they know how to build the project and have built similar projects. It is always worth a brief background check as this can be very informative on the service that builder provides.  Google Reviews, Companies House and Facebook are a good place to verify information. It is also important that the company have the appropriate accreditations such as CHAS, FMB, Gas Safe, NICEIC.

6. Builder to accept responsibility as principle contractor/ designer

Once work commences on site, your builder is responsible for all final designs subject to site measurements, excavations, and inspection. Changes and variations need to be agreed prior to commencement. We can advise when is appropriate to do this. See full details of the CDM 2015 below.

7. Builder to check any on site issues

The builder should check the drains, foundations, underground services, utilities, existing structure, and measurements before commencing. If they’re not sure on how to do this, consider going back to finding builders again.

8. Starting & Key Stages

Once all the above is in place, agree on the start date and talk through the project key stages. Before works go too far there will be some items to confirm. It is imperative you have a time set with your builder to decide these elements, such as floor finishes, switches etc prior to first fix before it becomes costly to change.

9. Inform the Insurance Company

Inform your insurance company when the project starts and finishes. Your builder’s insurance will take on responsibility for the existing house, neighbours, people etc from commencement to signing off.

10. Start and completion

Once work starts you and your family should avoid the area being worked on unless you are instructed it is safe to access them. Once completed you should at least retain the final payment until you have the building certificate and any warranties for expensive apparatus/appliances.

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