One of the most important decisions when planning your dream home or extension is choosing the right builder. At fluent we will recommend a number of our trusted builders to each of our clients; we pick the ones that we feel best suit the location, the client and the type of project.

Research

There are many ways of finding builders that can quote for your project or dream home. Online review websites, recommendations from your architect, friends or you may have seen a build been worked on along your road. There is no right or wrong way of how you find them, but it is important to find the one that is right for you. Most people will focus on the price which I agree is important but on most projects the builder will be in your house and working around you for at least 8 weeks, so it is important that you get on with them.

Recommendations go a long way, if you have friends or family that have had building work carried out and had a good relationship with their builder then this is a good start, likewise if your architect or designer has a good relationship with local builders ask them for recommendations. It is likely that they would have worked on a number of projects together and have a good understanding of what types of project suit the builder.

Online review sites can be a good place to look for local builders and get an understanding of the types of project the builder takes on and what feedback their customers have been leaving.

If you have some builders passed to you take a look through their websites to see what projects they have built, what areas they work in and what the quality of their work looks like.

Once you have selected some builders, we would say speak to three. You want enough to get a range of prices and advice but not too many as you will likely get so much information, prices and opinions you will spend the next few months trying to make a decision.

If you speak to three and do not hear back from them with a quote or didn’t get a good feeling from your meeting, then contact a few more. The builders can price from your planning drawings but for more accurate quotes it is better to have structural calculations and building regulation plans, this way you will be more likely to get a more detailed breakdown of the builders costs and for the prices to be more accurate.

We have seen in the past clients receiving quotes being thousands of pounds apart from one another. It isn’t uncommon for there to be differences but if it is 10s of thousands apart then speak to your architect or designer for their opinion. Most designers will give you a ballpark build cost during the design stage which should normally be fairly accurate depending on the complexity of the build.

If you get the prices back from the builder try and get some sort of break down on where the costs have been allocated, not only does this make it easier to compare prices it gives you an indication if builders have missed items off the quotation which could be making them appear cheaper.

Checking

There are companies that offer a checking service for this type of thing or that will put a tender document together and deal with this process for you. Like everything you will have to pay for this service, but it can end up saving you thousands in the long run.

One point that I find disappointing is the decorating and finishing of some projects, it doesn’t matter how well an extension is built it can look awful if it has been decorated or tiled poorly. Some people will decide to decorate the new extension themselves rather than the builder doing it as it will be cheaper, but we would recommend if the budget allows let a professional do it as it makes such a difference.

With this in mind go and visit some of your builders completed projects to see what the finish is like. Do the tiles or flooring line up, are the walls level and no lumps and bumps, make sure there aren’t large gaps behind skirting board and architraves. Also spend some time speaking to the homeowners and ask how the builder was to deal with, how where the site staff, did they have any issues during the build? It is likely that if the homeowner is letting the builder take new clients to their home, they have a good relationship but if nothing else you can get an Insight into how the builder works.

We would recommend doing some research online, make sure there aren’t too many negative comments on review sites or local groups on social media. Another check well worth doing is having a look on companies House to make sure there are no pending financial issues or any historical issues.

You can also search the owner’s names and see if they were listed as directors at other businesses. It isn’t always a negative but it one person has had multiple businesses in the same field it could be a sign that something has been going wrong in the past or a business has been made bankrupt. There isn’t always a negative reason it could just be a re-branding, but it would be a good idea to ask the question if you have any concerns.

Finally

I mentioned it before, but I cannot stress how important it is that you feel comfortable with your builder and feel you can ask questions or make requests. I know from the builder’s point of view if the client keeps asking questions it can slow a project down but from the other side, I have seen what could have been a simple question or concern not get dealt with and then it builds and escalates.

If you have a concern during the build just ask as it could be so simple to sort out at the time but a huge job to change something later. If you don’t feel from your initial meetings you can have this type of relationship with the builder, then I would urge you to try and find another one.

Please never feel intimidated or inferior to your builder. They are supposed to know more about the build than you but don’t feel like you shouldn’t be asking questions. I have heard clients say I know this is a stupid question but… If you feel the need to ask the question, then it is likely it isn’t stupid. You can’t know everything, if your builder came into your place of work, he would likely not know everything about your job and would need to ask questions.