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Choosing the right builder

Builders come in all shapes and sizes (quite literally) so it is important that you employ the right size contractor for the works in question.

Many of you reading this will be embarking on projects and are about to go looking for your builder, and builders come in one size fits all don’t they?..... well no they don’t!

Over the past nine months, I have been called in to assist issues on two occasions where a builder had been employed by the clients (and in one of the instances at the recommendation of the architect), and was clearly punching above his weight. In both cases, the issues hinged around procedure, management and program capabilities rather than work quality as such, which of course inevitably causes financial problems/punch-ups in one form or another. Also in both cases, the builder was just as convinced as the client that he could cope with works at that level.

There is a potential problem in employing a builder to say complete major refurb/alterations works if he is more at home building a small extension or knocking a few internal walls down. His quote might seem attractive, and that is the point; it is entirely likely that due to his lack of experience he has not interpreted the requirements and confused ambition over knowledge. More often than not, his quote would be peppered with provisional sums, which means that it is no quote at all in real terms, and due to his lack of familiarity of works at that level would probably not have included for the fundaments such as supervision and CDM (Health and safety) requirements.

A builder who is in reality too small for the works will almost inevitably bring heartache to the table. Irrespective of his motives and integrity, it is not about the individual trades associated with the works, but more about whether or not he can cope with say the agreed program and management, not to mention understanding the potential problems associated with that level of works.

The other end of the scale is the builder who is actually geared up for larger works than your renovation/refurbishment/extensions job. A larger builder will have a staffing infrastructure to support along with their own plant and vehicles which all has to be included when quoting for works. Therefore it is inevitable that his quote will come in high.

There is definitely a niche for builders who are suitable for medium sized works that require say strip out and renovate the entire house with extensions, new plumbing and heating, rewire, etc etc. Whilst there is little point in me indicating values for such works since geography plays a large cost ingredient, I am referring to the size of works where the house cannot be lived in at the time and a contract of some form would be used. This size builder would perhaps be also building smaller new builds.

So on to the point I am making;

When you are going out for quotations, it is worth your while doing homework on the size of the builder and works he is comfortable with, just as much as his credentials and track history. No point in going out to tender with the wrong size builders since it will firstly be wasting several peoples time (including yours) and secondly delay the proceedings whilst you then go looking for others when the quotes come in wrong. That of course is assuming that you do not make the mistake of being seduced by the cheaper quote of the smaller builder and take his word for it when he tells you he can cope with works of that size.

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