Choosing the right building contractor for your house-building or renovation needs isn't as simple a task as it may seem – it can be incredibly difficult finding the right person or company for the job.
It's also a big decision, particularly if you're looking to have a large-scale project like a conversion or extension completed. Not only do you want the job done to your own expectations and vision, it's also critical that it's up to standard.
Shoddy workmanship and corner-cutting on projects of this scale can result in costly issues further down the line, and can irreparably damage the value of your property…
The problems with finding a good building contractor
Struggling to find a good building contractor is by no means a new issue. For many homeowners, finding a reliable tradesperson, whether it's for building work, property repair or an emergency call-out following a boiler breakdown, has been fraught with complications.
First and foremost, it's imperative to find a contractor that you trust and can envision yourself having a good working relationship with. It's often worth going with your gut on this – if something seems a little off, don't be afraid to say ‘thanks but no thanks'. It's true that the best building contractors are often booked up months in advance. However, it's far better to wait for the contractor you want than to make do with a sub-standard one.
Even if you do find a good contractor, builders and their teams are notoriously poor communicators. This is understandable to a point, as they generally have incredibly hectic schedules. However, a prolonged drop in communication is never a good sign, particularly if your builder is juggling multiple projects and leaves your own work partially complete – no one wants the issue of a half-finished extension with winter closing in. And while poor communication is frustrating in the midst of a project, it can also throw a spanner in the works in the early stages, when contractors can take months to return to you with a quote.
There's also the issue (which we're all familiar with from the media) of disreputable 'rip-off' contractors taking customer deposits, never to be seen again. This is more of a problem in larger cities, where it's easier to retain anonymity.
Similarly, losing money can be an issue when contractors go out of business unexpectedly, which can mean leaving work only partially complete, and a longer process to validate warranties on building and restoration work.
However, the fact remains that some builders are cowboys
, which is why it's crucial to check out their credentials before handing over a deposit. Considering the average builder day rate in the UK comes in at £150–£280 per day
it's likely a deposit will involve a substantial amount of cash that the majority of us can't afford to lose.
How do you find a good building contractor?
We don't mean to put you off completely here – there are many excellent contractors out there! So where should you look, and what should you look for?
Word of mouth is always a good place to start. Otherwise, the best course of action is to head online. A quick search will bring up builders in your local area, and online forums or social media groups are also an excellent way to find a good contractor. Similarly, there are companies that partner with a carefully selected network
of builders and tradesmen, and they can help you get the job complete from start to finish.
The first things you should look for are project experience and qualifications or certifications. Any reputable building firm should be ready and willing to provide you with credentials and examples of previously completed work, as well as testimonials from satisfied customers. This goes for any external tradespeople they might work with too. If they don't have their own in-house plumber or electrician, for example, they should be happy to confirm the qualifications of the firms they partner with.
Customer reviews are an important area to research before choosing a builder. A simple google search can put your mind at rest or prevent you from employing the wrong contractor. Those firms with an online presence (which, to be honest, is the case for most businesses nowadays) should have this information on their site or page.
Money is always a key consideration. It's important to establish early on not only how much the builder is going to charge, but if there are likely to be any additional costs, and whether these will push you beyond your budget. Most builders will offer a free quote when they visit your home to discuss the work you have in mind.
A quote is essentially a 'promise' from the contractor to do the work at a fixed price – get it in writing if you can, and try to get written quotes from at least three different contractors before you decide. Comparing the quotes will help you establish whether you're getting the work done at a fair price.
If you agree to a quote, be aware it's a binding agreement between you and the contractor, whether written down or not. Having the quote in writing means you can check what was agreed, and prove it if there's a dispute later. If a contractor is reluctant to put a quote in writing, it's a huge red flag, as is receiving a price that's a lot lower than other quotes you get. It might mean they don't have the right skills or experience, or they're being dishonest.
You'll also want to know that the builders you choose are fully insured for any accidents, damages or other problems that could arise during the building process. Ask to see insurance policies, and check they don't expire before the date the work will be finished. If it's imperative they have the insurance – such as Public Liability and Employer's Liability insurance – they're obliged to let you see the policy.
Some contractors seem like the full package, but when the work begins, it becomes very apparent that they're not up to the task. If this is the case, again, don't be afraid to call a halt to proceedings – better to intervene as early as possible. While there isn't a legal requirement to have a written building contract in place, a clear contract outlining expectations and the scope of the work can be useful, so that in the case of any disputes you're legally on firmer ground
At On The House, we strongly believe that no homeowner should suffer ludicrous hourly rates, sub-standard work and untrustworthy ‘cowboy' tradespeople. We offer all trades under one roof, nationwide. Our prices are upfront and transparent, and our skilled team is fully vetted.
Get in touch
for stress-free property repairs today!