If you are planning on renovating or extending your property and have builders booked in to give you quotations, you are probably wondering what questions should I ask my builder?
Our first piece of advice is to get at least three builders or design and build firms booked in for a consultation and quotation. Then you can compare what they have to offer.
The main purpose of your meeting will be to identify
- Is this the best builder to carry out my project?
What options are available and how will they benefit me?
What will be involved in the build, how will it affect me and my family
How much will it cost and what will I be getting for my money?
What problem do you need to solve?
You might have decided that you want a loft conversion or home extension but WHY do you want one?
- Is it because you have a baby on the way and want an additional bedroom for the baby?
- Are your children getting older and they need more room?
- Have you decided that you want to work from home and need a home office?
- Perhaps you want an open plan kitchen/diner to enjoy dinner parties and socialising
Explain to your builder what you are looking for and the reason why you want it and then see what work they suggest having done to achieve it.
Ask you builder for the pro’s and cons for each option.
For example – you may decide you need a home office but do not have the space to fit it in. The builder could look at your house and explain your options available to expand.
Option 1 – Your house may have potential for a side return extension, loft conversion or even a garden office. Perhaps a garden office might be the cheapest option and a loft conversion the most expensive.
However, the loft conversion could add x amount of value to your home, you could turn it into a master bedroom with en-suite and use the downstairs box room as an office. This way your house has increased by x amount of value, you have a large master bedroom with en-suite and you get the office you need. Cons, it is more costly.
Option 2 -you have a garden office installed. There would be no disruption to the house and it would be cost effective. Con’s will not add as much value to the home
Option 3 – A side return extension would be somewhere in the middle for budget, will add x amount of value to your home and give you the office that you need.
You can then weigh up the pro’s and cons and decide on the best solution for you
Take advantage of the knowledge the builder has, they are the experts and will be able to advise on options you may not have even considered.
If the builder is not willing to suggest any ideas and will only quote on what you specify, take a mental note of this, as it may mean that later in the build they will not point out potential problems and will go ahead with designs or plans whether they work or not!
How reputable is this building firm?
Find out as much information as you can about the builder to see if they are reputable.
- Get their website address
- Retrieve copies their insurances,
- if they are VAT registered (and what the VAT number is).
- Find out if the builder has done many similar projects to yours before. For example, if you want to have a basement conversion but the company has never done a basement conversion, only loft conversions then consider if it would be worth taking the risk as there are very different issues that can arise throughout you project and you want a builder that is experienced in dealing with these.
- Check the reviews on the company and ask to see some examples of their work.
- What are their health and safety procedures? (particularly for you and your family)?
- What is their attitude towards mess and keeping the site as clear as possible?
- How will the company respond to problems if and when they arise? How do they do quality checks.
- Do you have a contract we will both sign?
- What guarantee’s will be provided at the end of the build?
- How long will it take to turn around your quotation?
What type of workers will be at my property?
- Do they sub-contract?
- Are their electricians fully qualified or do unqualified people carry out some of the works?
- Is the plumber gas safe?
- Will they provide certificates at the end of the project?
- Will there be an on-site supervisor?
- What about a project manager?
- If there is a Project Manager how often will they visit?
- Also, if you have children find out if their workers are DBS checked. Not many companies will have these checks in place but if they do, this can be an added bonus for peace of mind knowing that the workers near your children have had these checks done.
Money, money, money
Firstly, you will want to ensure the quotation is detailed and explains exactly what is and isn’t included.
- Each building firm will have a different way of taking payments. Some require a payment each week, If this is the case you need to find out what happens if the project falls behind? Other builders will only send the next payment at key stages within the build.
- How much will they take up front?
- What happens if they go bust and are holding your deposit?
- What are the payment terms?
- How will you agree on a price for extra’s?
- Will there be new quotes to be signed off?
- How will you be able to keep track of costs?
- What methods of payments do they take? Some companies will allow you to purchase extras on your credit cards which might help later in the build if you are running out of cash.
All of these questions should be raised and the answer should help you in your decision. Ensure you protect yourself as much as possible.
A big concern people have is how will their neighbours react? And what they can do to ensure the impact on them is minimal. They also worry the neighbour may be able to object and stop the works. Ask your builder
- About a party wall agreement?
- What disturbances will there be to the neighbour?
- Do you need planning permission?
- How long does planning permission take?
- What will they do to try and get the neighbour onside?
- What days and hours do you work?
A worry people have is will their build run on time? Many projects can run over for various reasons, unavoidable issues could arise during the project that cause delays or a Project could be poorly managed, materials ordered late, workers not turning up and your project starts taking a lot longer than the original plan.
- What assurances will your builder give you that this project will be managed and organised well?
- How long will the project take? How can you measure if it is taking longer than expected?
- How will you know when certain items neds to be ordered?
- What will happen if you run overtime?
- Will they be providing a timeline/schedule of works?
Some builders will offer a deduction for each week the project goes over, this could be a good bonus to look out for when deciding on a company.
Things to bear in mind – Adding extra’s means additional time. Many clients add additional works throughout the project and then expect the builder to finish at the same time as the original completion date. This is unrealistic, if there are additional works required the likelihood is this will take additional time. However, agree with the builder how they will relay this to you. Will they update the schedule of works?
Surviving the Build
- Find out if you can live at the property during the build
- Will you need to take time off work?
- What access will the builder need?
- What inconvenience will they experience? there may be periods where you cannot use your kitchen, your bathrooms, your driveway, your power. What disruption do they see likely to occur and how will they manage it to cause the least disturbance?
The Design and Regulations
- Does the builder also have a design department or know a good architect they can put you in touch with?
- Will they apply for planning permission on your behalf?
- How can you maximise the space?
- How will building regulations affect my project?
- Will the builder manage the building regulations aspect and give you the sign off certificate at the end?
- What are my options for fixtures and fittings?
- Does the builder get trade discounts they can pass on?
- How much advice can the company give with the design and where to source things from?
If you run through all of the questions above with the builder or estimator who comes to visit you and analyse the quotation that you receive, you should have a good indication of which firm will be most suitable to carry out your project.
Choosing the cheapest builder can cost you a lot more in the long run if you choose the wrong builder and there are many cowboys out there so be sure to do your research and you can rest assured you will know what to fall back on if the project does not go to plan.
Jeffery & Wilkes are one of London’s leading and award winning design and build firms specialising in home extensions, loft conversions, refurbishments and basement conversion. We can carry out the whole project from design right the way through to completion and will take the stress and hassle away. Call us for a non-obligatory, free consultation and quotation.