Finding the right builder for your next project be it new build, extension, refurbishment or repair can be daunting and due to the expense of the task any advice is helpful. Many individuals find it extremely difficult to trust builders due to the industry’s unfortunate reputation. Programs like Cowboy Builders can help by giving the right sort of advice on how to spot the dodgy ones but it can also scare you, not all builders and tradesman follow the cowboy route. I thought I would give some advice direct from a contractor/builder perspective.
Why my advice can help
I am a Contracts Manager at a reputable building firm which concentrates on new builds, refurbishments and extensions. I know that there are many builders who do an honest days work at reasonable cost and I feel with a little guidance I can help you find them.
Where to find a trades person:
- Online search
- Social Media
- Through an acquaintance by Recommendation
There is a multitude of other sources but for the sake of direction I will focus on the five mentioned above. Let’s start with a website which has grown in stature over the last few years.
Many people have asked me if they should use checkatrade.com, “of course you can” is usually my reply. Working in the industry day in and day out I have seen an increase in trades persons registering with the site as you can see the advertising on vans in builders merchants. There are many reputable trades persons on there as a few of the sub contractors we use are registered with the site however do read the reviews and don’t base your judgement on this site alone. Have a look at the trades persons website if they have one, do a Google search to see if there are any adverse reviews or information on them.
Newspaper searches is a slightly old approach and to be honest it is extremely difficult to tell if any of those you have identified are any good. Many reputable trades persons I know do even bother with Newspaper Advertisement anymore as they can get free advertising elsewhere often with more effect. Don’t completely rule it out though as often the more traditional builders and those with more experience still choose to go the newspaper route, many small firms may not be techno savvy thus and online advertising can be a little above them, even in 2018.
Online searches are good but searches can become overwhelming and similar to newspapers, it is difficult to tell if they are any good. Checkatrade.com does at least offer you the best of both, you will be able to find a local trades person relatively easily but you still need to dig deeper to satisfy your doubts. You will get a wide search, often those at the top of the search have just done a little better on their Search Engine Optimization than others so go through the websites properly. Don’t judge them on the design and use of the websites though, many builders I know don’t update images often enough and others just use it as a contact point and only set it up as someone told them to, again this is more true than you can imagine.
The four big players on the social media front. You will get a multitude of images to look through and no doubt you can seriously minimise your list of candidates as decent quality photos can tell a great story. However photos can show design and capabilities of scale however it does not always show the quality of the finish. A great example is plastering, take an image of wall from a few metres away, 9/10 you will not spot the the imperfections on the image however close up may tell a different story. I am not saying not to trust images of works but again to dig deeper, use you best detective skills to make a decision. Facebook is a great example of reviewers with the ability to comment etc, take soem of this with a pinch of salt though. I have seen fantastic recommendations on the comment sections before for trades persons I know to be at the lower end of my choice scale. Often these comments can be family and friends of the person looking for work as they may be desperate….a real worrying sign in our industry as the best ones are always busy, even during recessions.
Houzz has been around for a while, I see it as a combination of social media, product shopping and checkatrade.com with some professional opinions included all rolled into one. It sounds like a jumble sale but it works very well. I started using it for design ideas but then for product ideas and sources. Again like checkatrade not all trades persons are on Houzz but you will find some of the more established fine quality builders, contractors and companies at the higher end of the industry on Houzz.
Recommendation is the best option you should aim for if you can, as the person who recommended the trades person to you knows of good reason why you could trust them. Recommendations should however be taken with some careful consideration as to whom recommended it. If a friend of yours at your local public house knows of someone who does a bit of building work and that you should consider them (whatever you do, don’t agree to anything, do a bit of research on the company/person to see if anyone else knows of them and if they seem above board if you catch my drift). Often the best people to approach are those whom you know have had building work done to their property. If the final result from their build was either a good or bad experience at least they may be able to give you some advice, from the customers perspective.
I have however often heard conversations which contain ” our builder was ok but I wish I used…”.
Two things: 1 – Ask why, if the person making the recommendation insists that the work was good but they had issues with the builder due to their own indecisive nature, this should not put you off the builder. We are all human, we don’t get along with everyone. You may not have got along with “Einstein” but he was still brilliant…I think you get where I am going with this. 2 – Ask who the builder was that they should have used.
Once you have your recommendation/s, again do more research by finding out from other previous customers what the builder was like. Use checkatrade.com as well to find out more. Don’t be put off if the builder is not on checkatrade.com as not all builders are registered with the site. From my experience and knowledge the busiest builders are generally the best. The only downside is that you may have to wait longer to have the work done on your own place. The upside is that busy builders generally do well through word of mouth and recommendations thus they are most likely to do a good job for a fair price.
What next? Get a few quotes!
Getting quotes from builders is simple. Invite them round to discuss your the work in order for them to give you a quote. The visit will very often give you an indication of the builders persona and if you will actually be able to work with them. Depending on the scale of the work some may give you a ballpark figure however most will say that they would prefer to work it out first, this is a good thing. If however you need a large amount of work done and they give you a guaranteed figure on the spot, alarm bells should ring but be stern and ask for it in writing. If I was you, I would invite the recommended builder to visit and quote first as you may find that their comments and quote will be the most honest and will give you something to work from. After a while you will get the quotes back. This is where the most difficult bit comes in, choosing the one for you. Now to start off I would recommend concentrating your efforts on the the builder which was recommended to you, their price is most likely to be the most honest and most importantly you could negotiate as they were a recommendation.
Blog post on understanding quotes to follow in due course.
You will note that I focused on the recommended option. There will be other decent builders which may not have been recommended but you will need to do a lot more self convincing that they are suitable. If you are new to the whole building project scenario I would concentrate on the advice of the trusted seasoned acquaintances, they will probably save you time and money.
The link below from the citizens advice bureau also gives good advice as with building projects it is important to understand what you are letting yourself in for.
Any comments on choosing a builder or related advice is very welcome, remember good constructive advice is helpful to everyone…including myself.
Credit to Raykon Construction for letting us use the main image on this post.
For more images on the Rock Canyon Residence please visit http://www.raykonconstruction.com/raykon-homes/portfolio.html