By Frank Davey, a chartered building surveyor
based in Norwich.
The best builders don’t advertise and are always busy, that’s why you can never find one. So what do you do to find just a good one? Well, word of mouth is a decent start, and look at what they’ve done before, a good builder will have pride in what he does and will encourage you to speak to previous clients. But make no mistake, having building work carried out is not fun, whether its a repair or a major extension your home will be taken over and you’ll get to eat grit sandwiches. The very nature of building work is that you will discover there’s more to do than you first thought, it will take longer and cost more. That’s why the builders never turn up when they say they will, but its not entirely their fault. Every customer asks “can you just…(triple the size of the job)” and its easier to turn up late elsewhere than it is to leave someone’s roof off in the middle of a rainstorm. So what can you do to make the experience less miserable? Once you’ve found one who seems ok, make sure you have a written agreement- a contract on larger jobs, but then I’d recommend professional help too, you will save the fees in grief and probably even save on overall costs. Get a quote with a breakdown of what it includes, and NEVER pay for work up front (unless you’re paying direct for materials). You should pay for work done as it goes along though. If you do find a bad builder think twice about suing them, cut and run if you have to as they’ll have seen a court more times than you and will know there way round. Sometimes court is the only option, if so get help, I know my way around too (for different reasons).
Have you noticed that when one builder looks at another’s work they can’t stop themselves from taking a deep breath before saying “I wouldn’t have done it like that”? Ignore it, it comes from the first year at builders school when they also learn about sky hooks and other impossibilities. If you’re happy with it, that’s good enough. But take care of your builders and they’ll take care of you, treat them badly and you’ll come off worst and the job will drag on… its not a fallacy, its worth investing in a new kettle and shares in a tea company, give them a warm place to eat their sandwiches and a loo too somewhere where they don’t have to traipse dirt right through the house . Don’t fall out with your builder over trivialities, try to see it from their point too, if you’re too unreasonable you might find that they’ll remember that roof and won’t turn up tomorrow….. Good luck with the project!
Frank’s with Allman Woodcock on 01603 610243
©Frank Davey March 2010