You may think you can save money by rolling your sleeves up and getting stuck into a building or refurbishing job on your property. How hard can it be to replace a few wobbly tiles? Or to clean the property’s stonework?
Be warned - it can be more problematic than you think. It is far wiser to hire a professional building contractor. Indeed, it is often cheaper to get the job done properly in the first place, rather than calling someone in to fix your mistakes.
Save yourself problems in the long run by making crystal clear what it is that you want the builder to do. Use sketches and photos of examples to make sure there is absolutely no confusion. If you leave even a tiny margin for error, you might end up paying for something you did not request.
When can I employ a building contractor?
Whether you have just moved into a new property, or want to have work done on your existing house to increase the value before you sell it, building contractors have a vast array of skills at your disposal. If you want to refurbish your home, make sure you do your research and find out the services on offer.
Builders do not only construct extensions. Stone cleaning, paint removal, pointing, painting, plaster work, joinery and masonry are just a few other services for which you can employ a building contractor.
Building restoration is a skilled profession. If you live in a very old or listed property, and you want the external stonework cleaning and restoring, it is vital you hire a professional firm which is used to dealing with similar properties. The contractor should be able to tell you about traditional and more modern techniques, and will be able to discuss the most suitable method for your property.
For instance, B Williamson & Daughters Ltd is a Surrey-based company which specialises in restoring, repairing and cleaning stone, brick, stucco and ironwork. When you've found a company who specialises in the desired field, be sure to look at their website and read about examples of previous work – for example, B Williamson & Daughters Ltd have carried out restoration work for Hever Castle in Kent, The British Museum and Westminster Council, as well as private customers.
Investing in refurbishment work sooner rather than later can save you money in the long run. Your roof in particular can be an expensive liability if it suddenly starts to leak. If you know it is looking a little worse for wear, call in a professional now to highlight problem areas. It may be cheaper to patch them up now, than paying for a re-tiling job next year.
Ask the builder if he has many other jobs on at the moment. It is a good sign if his skills are in demand. However, if he is juggling three jobs and trying to squeeze in your work too, your job may not have his full concentration. It is also likely to take longer than if he was solely working on your property.
How much will they charge?
It is impossible to say how much a builder will charge for work without knowing exactly what is being done. However, for the lowest quote, it is absolutely vital that you shop around. If you know someone who has recently had work done on their house, ask them if they would recommend their builder. With big jobs, especially when structural work is involved, it is obviously very important to hire a professional. Personal recommendation is the best way to find one.
If you can not find a word of mouth recommendation, have a look at the MyBuilder website to find an expert in your area. Ask if you can see or a portfolio of photos of past work.
While previous work is a true demonstration of skill, it is a good idea to be on the safe side and ask if the builder is a member of the Federation of Master Builders. This will reduce the risk of you hiring a 'cowboy'. You can search for a professional on the FMB website.
Do not always accept the first quote you are given. Have a budget in mind, and if you feel the builder is trying to overcharge you, and you have grounds to believe the job should be cheaper (lower quotes from other contractors), it may be worth explaining this. The contractor will not want to lose your custom, so if he can do the job for less than the original quote, he may be willing to compromise.
Most builders ask for a deposit. Make sure this is agreed before the job is started and is written in your contract. For ongoing jobs, you may also be asked to pay the agreed cost in installments. Every time you pay, make sure you have written confirmation from the builder. Agree on payment dates before the job is started. Furthermore, before you sign anything, make sure the builder has insurance to cover any defective work or damage.
Don’t forget to ask…
- Can you see any references or a portfolio of past work?
- Does the quote include materials?
- How long is the work likely to take?
- Does the contractor offer insurance for any problems which may arise while they are carrying out the work?
- Is the builder a member of the Federation of Master Builders?
- Does he have many other jobs on at the moment?
- Does the fee include clearing up debris when the job is complete?