How to choose a builder

Posted 15th April 2020

If you’re planning some building works in your home, you’ll need to find a reliable builder.

So far so obvious. But how to go about it? Well, we’ve put together some advice to help you.

We’re all smart these days.  We’d never be fooled by cowboy builders, would we?  Sadly, this can and does happen.  Despite our consumer-savvy world, there are some shockers out there.  Cowboys who ruin the building sector’s reputation.

Despite the popularity of “Rogue Traders” on TV and all the rules, regulations and accreditations supposed to protect us all, bad builders walk amongst us. They deliver terrible results.  We know they do.  We’ve seen them.

And, not unlike cowboys of the Wild West, they ride off into the sunset, never to be seen or heard of again.

Don’t Pay Twice

Unless you’re razor sharp on the sector and know what to look for and the right questions to ask, you could be left in the lurch.  Some unscrupulous builders are very persuasive.  They promise nirvana and deliver hell.  Ending up out of pocket with half-finished, shoddy and downright dangerous work would be a nightmare for you and your family.  You’d have to pay for it all to be done again.

So, here you are.  Here’s our user-friendly guide to choosing a builder.

Firstly, make sure that you get at least three quotes.  Yes, this is a pain, but being able to compare and contrast a few construction companies, in person and in writing, could save you a great deal of stress overall. But how do you go about assessing your quotes?

Some quick tips to start. Then, we’ll go into a bit more detail.

Definite No-Nos

Someone knocks on your door and asks for work. Hey, guess what, they’ve just spotted something that “needs fixing”.  No, it doesn’t.  Politely decline.

Your builder has no references.  That guy who wants to demolish whole swathes of your kitchen – the most important room in your home? Well, he should be happy to let you see examples of his previous work and for you to talk to his other customers.  If not, just don’t go there.

The estimate is unbelievable.  Unbelievably low, that is.  Also, look out for people who knock off the VAT and who want to work “off the books”.  It won’t end well.

There’s no contract and you need to pay everything upfront.  No, and no.

You must have legally binding Ts and Cs.  Why?  Because there could be disputes on the work involved, and there could be a mysterious ‘ad on’ to the project that costs you much more. Be sure you know up front exactly what you’re going to get and how much it’s going to cost you.

Also, whilst it’s standard practice to pay a deposit, settling the whole invoice before work starts is not OK.  You may never see your builder again.  And yes, we’ve heard of his happening. All our customers have staged-payments, so they only pay us once work has actually been carried out.

There’s no registered address.  Avoid, avoid, avoid.  You need to deal with a legitimate construction business that’s fully registered.

The Castle Construction Mantra:

It’s about homes.  Your home.  We never forget that this is where you’re bringing up your family, your safe space, where you come home after a busy day to shut the door on the rest of the world.

In fact, we focus on HOMES.  In other words, Honest communication, Operating procedures, Management skills, Expertise in our field and Staying power.

Always look out for these essential qualities when you’re choosing a building business.

What do we mean?

Honest Communication

Legitimate builders are genuine, open and authentic. They will let you know when, how and even IF the extension of your dreams can be built in your property.  In other words, whether it will “work”.  You’ll be shown pictures of their previous projects and of course, you’ll be able to speak to former satisfied clients.

Everything with them is direct and above all, trustworthy.  From returning phone calls promptly, to professional estimates and quotes.  All costs must be agreed, including payment terms and delivery dates.  No nasty surprises.

Operating Procedures

Ask your builder how he works; the processes he follows from start to finish.

There are certain elements that make up the whole project. Such as? Well, your works must comply with local council regulations, for example, and a good builder will know all about this.

Moreover, a good builder will be fully and correctly insured.  (Check your own insurance, too.)

You should also ask the following:

  • How long will the work take? The builder should know this.
  • What will happen if there’s really bad weather, or if unforeseen changes occur?
  • How will you receive updates from them? How they communicate is super-important
  • Do they take health and safety seriously?
  • What hours will they work? Punctuality is a Thing. A Big Thing, in our opinion.

A lot to know, and to check.  Don’t get caught out.

Management Skills

Great builders are, overall, a likeable bunch of happy, motivated people who enjoy what they do. And, who are proud to deliver great results.  In our experience, this boils down to how they’re managed.

When you choose a builder you’re not selecting a single person – you’re taking on a bunch of guys who will be working in your home. In our opinion, if they don’t work as a team, or if there’s no direction, there could be a problem.

So, ask about the builders involved.  Does the business outsource its work?  Or do they work with people they like, trust and know?  Guess which one we’d recommend.

Expertise in their Field.

Experience and expertise count for so much in the building trade. Never under-estimate the importance of technical knowledge, particularly when having structural work carried out on your home.

Your bona fide builder will have amassed a wealth of knowledge about basements, extensions and conversions.  Not unlike a stonemason “seeing” the finished sculpture, they’ll be picturing the end result, with an understanding of the skills, resources challenges and processes involved.

It goes without saying that your builder should manage your expectations.  We’d rather someone delivered a realistic result, rather than an epic fail due to over-promising.

Staying Power

How long has your would-be builder been trading?  Longevity an industry beset by reputational problems (we’re just being honest here) could mean the difference between standard and sensational.  Why?  Because a professional construction company will thrive and grow through referrals.

It makes good sense. Reputation is everything.

Castle Construction has been around for over 20 years, and there’s nothing we’ve not seen.  The good, bad and the downright ugly.  If you’d like to avoid construction calamity, get in touch. 

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Castle Construction, March 2020.

Speak to us today, call 01273 329965

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