This is a really great question and a common dilemma when choosing the right building contractor for your home renovation project. Read on to see how you can unravel the confusion.
So, you picked your architect, worked through your extension designs, negotiated planning, and got to the easy bit – right? Wrong!
It would be great if there was an easy rule of thumb to follow to help you decide when choosing the right building contractor for your home renovation project and comparing building contractors’ quotes but unfortunately, there isn’t. It’s worth noting that the most expensive builder is not necessarily the best, neither is the average-priced one necessarily the right one to pick and you can’t assume the cheapest building contractor is the worst. How do you unravel this problem?
Comparing building contractors’ quotes: have they all got the right drawings?
First thing to consider is what did you issue to your prospective builders and did you give them all the same details? This sounds simplistic, but in fact is possibly the most common culprit for confusion.
Let’s just be clear, planning drawings are not building regulation issue or construction drawings. If you are asking building contractors to quote from planning drawings, you will never receive accurate quotes for your building project. In the absence of proper details, any builder quoting for an extension or renovation will be making a lot of assumptions about the way your extension, loft conversion or home alteration is going to be put together. If you have only provided your prospective building contractors with planning drawings, you may get very different numbers back for your building project and, unfortunately, they could all be way off the real number. This is a dangerous game and not one we would ever endorse. Pricing from planning drawings will only ever give you a budget costing. This is something worth remembering.
So, the first step for comparing different building contractors’ quotes is to give them all the same pack of drawings to price from, ideally construction drawings and engineer’s details as a minimum.
Define exactly what you want your building contractor to undertake
Make it clear what you are supplying and what you expect the builder to supply, so when you are comparing building contractors’ quotes you can assess them like for like. Common grey areas are lighting, electrical, heating and bathroom fittings. Ideally include schedules, specifications and/or plans for these. If you make a change, make sure you send them all the most up-to-date drawings. It may not look huge on paper, but it could impact your costs and you don’t want to be in with any nasty surprises.
Grey areas to consider include:
- Do you have your own decorator or landscaper, or do you want the contractor to finish off both the interior and exterior so all you have to do is hang your pictures and position your patio furniture?
- Are you supplying your own bathroom fittings, ceramic tiles, etc?
Make these things clear to all your prospective building contractors and give them all consistent details.
If your shortlisted building contractors all have the same drawings and the same clearly defined scope of works, you should end up with quotes that you can compare. If the quotes are wildly different, your architect should be able to help you read between the lines, or you can go back to the contractors to ask them to explain their pricing so you can understand the discrepancies to help you decide which is the best fit for you and which represents the best value and value for money (word to the wise: this may not be the cheapest!).
Where will you live during the building work? It could affect the quotes your building contractors supply
If you are staying in your property through the build, the job will take longer and cost your builder more to complete. Maybe your cheapest builder has assumed you are vacating? Check this! An empty house is an easier house. Dogs, cats, children, and furniture slow things down. It’s something to consider and discuss with your prospective building contractor’s before you start your project.
Check out the reliability of your preferred building contractors
So you have done the planning, got your pack together for your prospective builders, met the potential contractors, got your prices in and now you are ready to pick the contractor. Hold fire! Now you need check how reliable, trustworthy, and honest they are.
How do you do this?
- Check their paperwork – such as accreditations and insurance
- Check their online reviews – such as Check a trade
- Ask to talk to past customers – don’t just read testimonials (their mum could have written them!). Write down a list of key questions to ask them that tackle the nuts and bolts, such as did they keep the project on time and on budget.
- Ask to visit past projects – if they’re a great building contractor, they should have a catalogue of happy past customers who will be only too delighted to give you a guided tour of their home renovation (potentially a virtual tour while Covid restrictions are still in place) so you can see the quality of their work.