How to find a good builder for your extension or loft conversion

by | Aug 7, 2022 | Extensions, Inspiration, Loft Conversions, New Builds, Your Home

Finding a builder is pretty easy but finding the right builder for your project is another ball game entirely… Any type of build is a hefty investment and therefore finding a builder that will work to your standards, in a timely manner and build something that will stand the test of time is key. First, you should aim to look for a builder who is fully insured, has references and has experience in the type of build you are trying to achieve. When it comes to your home and your build, cheapest isn’t always best because a botch job today can lead to thousands of pounds in repairs tomorrow…

Get Recommendations

This is probably the best way to find a builder. Ask the people you trust – family, friends, work colleagues – about any work they have had done and how the process was for them. Ask them about any issues or challenges they faced and if they would use that builder again.

Observe Your Surroundings

Often there are building works on nearby roads or streets that you can keep an eye on yourself. Look around and if you see impressive renovations, then why not knock on the door and ask your neighbours if they’d recommend their builder?

Ask Other Contractors

Most of us have needed a plumber or an electrician at some point. If there have been contractors that you have used in the past that did a great job, then it may be worth asking them if they have any recommendations. Often builders work with specialist tradesmen such as these on projects, so there’s no harm in asking a tradesman you’ve worked with and trust.

How to Avoid a ‘Cowboy’

One of the first signs of a trusted builder is their willingness to show you examples of their work and allow you to contact or visit their previous projects for references. If a builder can’t supply these, that is a red flag – are their previous customers unhappy or are they too inexperienced to have enough feedback? In this digital age, doing an online search on the builder or their building company is also wise. Previous customers who are happy will often leave a review and sometimes, unhappy customers do also…

If you do get to chat with or meet previous customers, then have a quick checklist of questions you’d like to ask, such as:

  1. Was the builder’s communication timely, clear and frequent?
  2. Did they arrive on time – whether on a day to day basis or did they start when they said they would and finish when they said they would?
  3. Did they keep their word during the project? (If things didn’t go to plan, did they communicate this?)
  4. Did they communicate any delays and unforeseen issues quickly?
  5. Did they deliver the project on time and to budget?
  6. Did they keep noise, disruption and uncleanliness to a minimum?

In addition to these, a good builder should be expected to read and advise on your architectural plans and have correct and current knowledge of building regulations.

Ask your potential builder if they are qualified and don’t hesitate to ask for proof of their qualifications. Some builders may have NVQs in construction or a CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card, which is proof that they have the appropriate training and qualifications. Experience is key though – finding a builder that has experience in your project is crucial because building an eco friendly newbuild is very different to a bathroom refurb.

Get It In Writing

You should never go ahead based on a verbal agreement because if issues arise later on, they will be much more difficult to resolve. Ideally, a minimum of three quotes is necessary for any project, to allow for comparison. Quotes help by assessing how much you need to spend and how much time you need to allow for the project to be completed. At times, quotes can vary by hundreds or even thousands of pounds (!) but comparing them allow for any discrepancies and sometimes one builder will add in crucial steps or details that another has missed.

Never assume that something will be included if it is not written down. For example, will painting and decorating be included or is that something that you will be required to source separately? Is rubbish removal of old furniture included or will you be expected to foot the bill?

The quoting stage is also useful because it allows for you to see how quick and how detailed your intended builder is or if they are bothered by your queries and concerns. The quoting stage is also the perfect time to see if you can build a rapport with any of the builders you encounter – as they will be part of your life for weeks or months to come.

In addition to specifics about your project, you should have clear architectural plans from a reputable architectural company like Arkiplan. The plans need to be detailed and suitable for submission to Building Control. Arkiplan includes VAT in all of their quotes so that costs are clear from the outset and you should ensure that you cover this with a potential builder also. If one potential builder’s initial price doesn’t include VAT and others do, then you won’t able to compare costs like-for-like. Also a huge VAT bill at payment stage is a nasty surprise no one wants to encounter!

If you do decide to proceed with a potential builder, then be sure to agree payment terms and a schedule in advance and also contingencies should they delay due to unforeseen circumstances (such as the inability to source materials0. Building works can often be very disruptive and it would be prudent to have a plan in place should the work be delayed – storage of any goods, living arrangements etc.

Lastly, all the best! Building projects can be stressful but keep the goal in mind. If you’d like advice on your next project, if you need architectural plans or if you need guidance on the latest planning permission or building regulations, don’t hesitate to contact us or to get a quote here.