How to find a builder you trust

Here’s how to sort the cowboys from the cream of the crop…

We’re approaching that time of year when you might be thinking about home improvements. Sometimes a spring clean and clear out or lick of paint will do the job. Equally, you might have been thinking about more major changes, which could add extra value to your home in the long run.

Perhaps you’re thinking about how to maximise on your property investment, or simply wanting to enjoy your time at home more with some extra space. Either way, you’ll want to work with a builder with the right skills, knowledge and approach, who can meet your ideas and budget.

With so many traders to choose from, and so many places to search, how do you go about finding the one you want to work with? We’ve decided to put together some handy tips to keep in mind, before you start your home renovation.

Where to search for a builder or contractor?

It’s not a challenge to find a builder – but it can be hard to find the right one for you. Not only do you need firms that are accredited, with the right insurances and experience for the work you want doing, but you need to find someone you can trust and get along with. After all, for some projects, you’ll need to let them into your home for days, weeks or months. If you don’t feel comfortable about that, then it’s a bad sign.

So, what positive indications and red flags do you need to look for? Well, a good sign of a reliable builder is one that’s more than happy to show you their past work, and can provide testimonials from previous clients. Endorsements from friends and family are great, as you can even ask to see the builder’s work in person and get details about their communication style, punctuality, and ability to deliver the project on time and in budget.

Don’t forget to ask people you’ve used for other work in your home, such as a plumber or electrician that you know is reliable. Why not ask them for any trusted builder contacts?

Be aware of how a builder presents themselves – after all, they’re running a business. Do their tools, equipment and vehicle seem in good condition and quality? Are they professional and courteous? Do they show knowledge of current building regulations and can they provide feedback on your ideas if something needs to be altered? This would indicate a sound understanding of the labour involved – don’t just go for a ‘yes-man’ who promises everything but can’t actually deliver!

These can all help you decide whether a tradesperson is reliable and you would agree to a contract with them. And talking of contracts, when you do find the right builder, have a contract drawn up with specified staged payments. Never pay in cash, and stick to the staged completions agreed in this contract.

Most good builders are going to be busy, so won’t need to advertise, and you will have to wait for them. Be cautious of anyone who can start straightaway. Yes, you’re excited about your project and can’t wait for the final result. But if a tradesperson isn’t in demand, that might tell you what you need to know.

Remember, don’t rush into deciding who does the work for you. Take your time, consider all your options and most importantly be relaxed, happy and 100% confident in who you get to do the work for you.

Do you need specific house insurance while building?

No matter what work you’d like carried out, building sites are hazardous. With builders going in and out, heavy machinery and materials being delivered, doors and windows being replaced and everything from wiring to gas and water works being worked on, you’ll want to know that your home, and its contents are covered.

Did you know that you could also be liable for injuries that may be suffered at your home as a result of the building work?

Assuming you’re employing a professional building company, you’re likely to be tied into some legal obligations in your contract with them. One such obligation may involve insuring your home – both in its present condition and for the work you’re having done to it – in a joint insurance policy with your builder, so check the wording of your contract carefully.

When you enter into a joint contract like this, insurers aren’t able to recover costs from your contractor even when they’ve been negligent, so many insurers may be hesitant to maintain your insurance cover at its current level. What’s more, contractors are meant to ensure that they have insurance cover for the work they’re doing, but if they don’t, you’re likely to be left in the lurch if something goes wrong.

Another dilemma is a builder holding invalid insurance – one example is a builder who failed to declare their CCJ to their insurers which voided the cover in the event of a claim! Always ask to see documentation, respected builders will be familiar with producing this and won’t have a problem with the request. And where possible, consider purchasing your own cover.

How to get home improvement insurance?

Another element to consider is the higher price of building materials. It is critical to ensure that building cover is sufficient to fully reinstate the build if the worst should happen.

If you do add any big investment to your home, whether it’s new home cinema equipment, an electric vehicle charging station, or a full-blown kitchen extension, it’s important to protect your liability, and investments in the event of fire, theft or damage.

If you have any questions about an upcoming build, or investment into your home, contact your local Howden branch who will be happy to guide you.

Sources: Federation of Master Builders, Good Housekeeping

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