Choosing a builder is pretty hard work. You keep hearing about cowboy builders so you want to make sure you get a good job and most importantly you want to make sure you don't get ripped off.
Recommendations - This is the best place to start. If you know of someone who has had work done by a builder,is happy by their work , better still if you can see the work start there.
Mybuilder.com Is a great website to source a builder if you haven't any that has been recommended to you. You post a job, builders apply to you to do the job. You shortlist 5 and then they quote you. Builders have feedback on mybuilder.com from jobs they have done before so you have some reassurance of the quality of their work.
I used a mixture of the above.
Before approaching a Builder
I had plans drawn up. I was clear in what needed doing and what I would provide. To make it a level playing field I said I would provide the following:
Heating System - Boiler , Rads, Valves etc
Bi-folds - supply and fit (to ensure the warranty was honoured in case of any problems I opted for supply and fit rather than have something go wrong and the suppliers to blame my builders for fitting)
Plug points ( I want brushed steel)
Juliette Balcony and doors
Glass Balustrade for staircase
I've left it for the builders to supply the building materials like bricks, roofing, plasterboard , guttering.
I asked for a complete break down of all work they would be doing and to supply costs per job. This made me see who was more expensive than most.
For example one builder quoted me £5000 to remove a green house and a thin rackety garage. Most others were quoting me £1000.
Another builder insisted on supplying the boiler and rads- it was then I noticed in his quote he had allocated £9000 for this. Where as I had managed to find the same system and rads for £2700.
Where problems start with builders I think is when the client can start adding things on to a job and expect for it to be included in the build at a later stage. Or the changes can add days to a job and delay the builder on completing the job and moving to a next.
Make a plan and try and stick to it.
I was upfront with all the things I wanted like building out the chimney breast and sound proofing the party wall.
I let the builder know many plug points I would want per room as well as if I was adding spot lights.
Be prepared for wild quotes.
I approached 17 builders. I didn't want them all to do a site visit and asked them to give me a rough quote from lots of photos , plans and a detailed spec list. All the builders were happy to do this and then from this I would shortlist 4 or 5. 4 I shortlisted did a site visit before giving me an exact price.
Out of 17 builders 4 didn't get back to me- 2 of which were builders who had done work for close family- so goes to show don't solely rely on recommendations.
The most expensive quote was 160% more than the cheapest quote!
It's not a good idea to go with the cheapest quote. Especially if it is miles under what everyone else is quoting. They could be cutting corners somewhere.
I went with someone who had done an extension for my mum, 2 aunties and has been know to my family for years in the end. He wasn't the most expensive or the cheapest but the fact that he can clearly do the job ( he mainly does extensions and loft conversions) and has previously done work to a high standard for various family members filled me with confidence.
Get a Contract
I had a clear contract drawn up as well as payments made in installments at various stages. This way if the builder walks off at any point I will have enough money to carry on the job.
There is no reason a builder needs 50% of a job cost upfront. If he needs it for materials offer to pay for them direct to the supplier and have them delivered to you.
These are my tips. Wish me luck!