As you know renovating or building a home can be daunting, time intensive and confusing. There are many big decisions to be made and not all builders are equally skilled. Often it is much easier to find something that you like online than it is to manage the expectation of your builder. It doesn’t help when you hear horror stories from the local residents and on social media. This is why it is important to interview a builder.
Choosing to renovate your home is a big decision. It won’t come cheap! Before you start, sit down with your builder to discuss what you want in your dream home. Far too often, I come across people who have had a renovation done, and are left disappointed. They have had arguments with the builder or the builder has ‘disappeared’.
Ask Your Friends?
Capturing the knowledge of renovating a house for future generations is a formidable task, without having much experience or knowledge of your own. You could ask friends, but you’d likely to get “oh it was horrible – I never want to do that again” type answers. It’s much better to learn from people who have already been there and done it.
The most important part of any renovation is the construction partner you choose. Don’t let the pressure of renovating blind sight you to this fact.
Short of holding an interview with a builder, the best way to get what you want is to ask questions. And if you don’t know what questions to ask, you can end up paying for something that should be included in the quote (and should probably have been specified in the original contract).
Here are 10 questions to ask your builder.
1. Are you a limited company?
You can view their details on companies house. Being a limited company gives them the personal protection against their business. It also makes them look professional rather than being a sole trader.
2. Are you VAT registered?
The VAT threshold currently stands at £85,000 taxable turnover. This basically means that the building contractor must be VAT registered if they are costing for large projects. It would be worrying if you find a builder who is not in the threshold of £85k or more and not VAT registered.
3. Have you done a renovation like mine before?
There is no point in hiring a builder for your loft conversion if he has never done one before? Find someone who has carried out similar scale size projects and type of work before.
4. Is your team sub-contractors or employed by you?
This answer will give you an indication on whether he hires his own team or uses other contractors to carry out works in your home. Depending on the answer, you may want to research further on who the sub-contractors are.
5. What insurances do you have in place and is it within date?
All builders should have insurances in place to carry out works in customers homes. The insurances they will mention is Public Liability (necessary for any accidents or injuries during the building works being carried out towards you and them), Professional Indemnity (protects them against any compensation claims and towards any advice, specification, quotes and drawings they put forward), Contractors’ all-Risk Cover (covers the replacement of anything that may be damaged or go wrong). The builder should not have any problems in sharing his insurance paperwork.
6. Can I speak to any of your past clients and see their work?
Seeing the quality of their work and speaking to past clients will reassure you whether they are a good builder to work with. Try and speak with the past client without the builder present so you can ask questions relevant to their working relationship, how the communication was with the builder, mannerism and if there was any problems.
7. What type of contract will you be using?
All builders need to have a contract in place. Once the contract has been received, check it has their company details, address, contact number, company and VAT number. If you are unsure of the type of contract, ask someone independent (architect or designer) or legal (solicitor) to check over it with you too. Contracts and terms can be a lot of pages to go through but when something goes wrong, that is when the small print has the most importance. Don’t forget to read it thoroughly. You can get a RIBA building contract from the RIBA website or a JCT contract.
8. Do you have a project manager or a site foreman?
This question is really based on the size of your project. If I was extending my house, I would definitely want one in place so they are managing the project and are in charge. If the building contractor doesn’t have one or will be running a few projects on the go then you may wish to come to an agreement of how often he will be checking in on his team whilst works are carried out. If you have an architect involved, they may offer to project manage the project too.
9. Do you have any health and safety policy?
Building and construction works are a dangerous game. It is vital that the building ontractor has the necessary documents and policies under the CDM 2015 in place to ensure they can work safely with no risk to yours or the building teams health.
You can have a read here of all the roles and responsibilities of the contractor
Remember, the building contractor MUST make you aware of your duties to follow under CDM2015 BEFORE any works commence.
10. When can you start?
This question has so much meaning behind it. Most builders are busy to start any new projects on average 6-9 months if not more. Some builders are even busy to come and meet you and quote for the job. This can be a good sign that they are busy and it also gives you more time to plan, research and get organised. If the building contractor says they can start in a few weeks, it may raise a few alarm bells as to how they are free all of a sudden.
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