Questions to ask a potential builder

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reggieb
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Questions to ask a potential builder

Postby reggieb » Fri May 03, 2019 4:14 pm

Hi all,

I won't ask for recommendations for builders here, as I have a feeling 90% of the responses to those posts are the builders themselves. What I would like to know, is what sort of questions do you ask potential builders? This will be our first building project, and have just heard so many horror stories, I don't want to be screwed over. 

Insurance, I'm guessing... to what level of cover? Certifications or memberships to trade bodies? What about a removal license or anything? I want to be sure they're not fly-tipping our stuff somewhere down the road! Any other legal or financial questions? 

I've heard horror stories about some builders not having a set rota of employees, and them always looking for day labourers - is there a way to ensure this doesn't happen? What should I ask about their staff? (I don't really know if it's normal to have the same people through the whole project or not?)

Obviously recommendations, but how do you ensure they're legitimate recommendations? 

Anything else I'm missing? 
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BalhamLiz
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Re: Questions to ask a potential builder

Postby BalhamLiz » Fri May 03, 2019 5:20 pm

We’ve just gone through this and I have very little advice apart from asking them about how the manage communication, costs and timeframes. Sometimes the big companies seem professional (and expensive) but the reality is the same as with a small builder.

Any building job has its ups and downs, we’ve had some lovely builders a small firm which I’d Recommend without hesitation...but that doesn’t mean it’s gone perfectly.

If you’d like a referral (which we got from a friend) PM me.

Liz
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SW4al
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Re: Questions to ask a potential builder

Postby SW4al » Tue May 07, 2019 7:12 am

I agree with Liz that large companies may feel better organised when they pitch but in reality they can be as disorganised as a smaller one and, equally, both can be great. I’d certainly go with personal recommendations from friends and neighbours. Ask those neighbours about how the company dealt with issues and did they complete the project on time.
Re questions, in addition I’d also be asking for payment terms.. ensure the cashflow always lags the work (which is normal) and ask how much you can expect to hold back for snagging at the end - builders tend to lose energy for a project when it’s 95% complete and the final push can get quite frustrating.
I’d also be asking about how the project will be managed.. will there be a PM always on site? ..who is that pm, will he be a working manager on the tools or a chap with a clipboard.. make sure you meet him and feel you can get on with him as that is your main link with the project. Inevitably there will be some issues along the way and you need to feel you have a solid contact point who will listen and address your concerns as they arise.
I’d also ask if the builder will subcontract any of the build elements. Glazing, for example, will likely be subcontracted and they will charge you a management fee (probably 10%). If so then understand what happens if those elements go wrong (leaks or delays, for example), who is responsible and who will fix it. Also find out who they will be using and can you subcontract that element yourself.
Do also create a detailed schedule of works and run through this with the builder - it’s a good way to see how thorough and fair they are. It’s also a record of exactly what they will do.
Good luck and if you need any advice just pm me.. I run a couple of projects a year (Architectural Design) and often act as a sounding board for friends and neighbours.
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szerma
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Re: Questions to ask a potential builder

Postby szerma » Tue May 07, 2019 11:36 am

Sorry to be one of the naysayers, with our first project we did it by the book, had a contract, checked references etc... and it was a disaster - builder from hell we ultimately had to fire, sued and won but never got a penny as the company folded.

I was even smarter the second time and asked for recommendations- ended up going with someone who struck out on his own and was recommended by a big and well known company (ours was a smaller job). Again a disaster - the guy went off the rails during the project, I think he had a drinking problem. The only thing we did better this time is we were paying in arrears and had a lot of money for the last payment, which meant that after getting rid of him, we had enough left to pay someone else to remedy the work (including leaking pipes and uneven floor in the bathroom so we had to rip the en-suite shower out and redo the floor as it was leaking through 2 levels to the kitchen and impossible to install a shower).

We now have used good builders for 3 projects - two small and one biggish. I would use them again 100% but it’s not to say it was perfect.

My advice, beyond the obvious, is therefore: make sure to check several references, get a referral, make sure that payments are not too front-loaded, and ideally, get someone independent to inspect the quality of work (I have paid an architect and structural engineer extra for that) throughout the project.

Best of luck,
M (please PM me if you would like our builders or structural engineer or architect recommendations)
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CherylatRedBox
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Location: Fulham, London

Re: Questions to ask a potential builder

Postby CherylatRedBox » Wed May 08, 2019 12:01 pm

Hi Reggieb,

Here's a few tips for your help with your potential builder search and questions to ask/things to check.

1. Which? Trusted Traders website and Houzz are good tools for contractors and tradespeople - and you can check out verified reviews and so forth.
2.  Obviously seek recommendations also from other people having similar work done - but you should also enquire with the builder you're speaking with about previous jobs they've completed - can you see photos or a site visit?  Do they do return checks? If something goes wrong will they come back to fix it - and how long is that valid for and so forth. It can often take around a year or so for building work to settle or any cracks to appear, so preferably ask about jobs around a year or so old etc.
3. Ask them about their credentials and insurance - check they have the relevant liability insurances.
4. Staffing, find out if they are using their own regular staffing, or subcontractors to complete projects- if they are using subcontractors - make sure someone will be checking the progress, and there is a project manager you can liaise with for any issues - who's responsible for errors?
5. Payments - Ask them about their payment structures, get it all in a schedule in writing begore you agree any work.
6. Ask them what they need from you to start the project? I.e plans/specifications - the more information you can prepare before the job/quote the more accurate the finished product will be to your vision.

Hope that helps a little good luck with your project!
Give us a shout at www.redboxlondon.com for more information on your next home improvement project
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A+ Tutors
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Re: Questions to ask a potential builder

Postby A+ Tutors » Thu May 16, 2019 9:45 pm

Hi there,

So I used a really good plumbing company recently to renovate a bathroom. I was also worried that I would be ripped off as in the past, I've had builders leave work half way through jobs. While they are a small company, this was not the everyday work for them as they are used to do doing much bigger jobs including many high end restaurants in the city (I'm sure that they can tell you about these of you would like to know). They were an Irish company and I swear, I've never seen people work so hard and so quickly.

I know that you don't particually want to look for people on here but am happy to give you their details of you wish and I know that they come with good referencing (as followed this up myself!)
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