If you’re worried about your home becoming a cowboy horror story, or struggling to make sense of the options near you, listen to the expert advice from our Connect team. This gang of Resi professionals are responsible for finding the best third parties to recommend to our customers, and know a thing or two about spotting a great contractor from a dud.
Here’s their top tips...
One of the reasons finding a good contractor can be so hard is the lack of qualifications required to become a builder. In fact, anyone is able to call themselves a builder - regardless of licensing.
However, there are accreditations that contractors can apply for, in order to prove themselves to be a trusted professional. Two such schemes are…
TrustMark is a wonderful scheme, as its the only non-profit scheme that’s been set up by the UK government to help homeowners find trusted trades people.
FMB, and other similar schemes, can also be worthwhile, but these are for profit. This means contractors have to pay in order to join the scheme. So though they’ll be held to a set of standards, the money involved can make you suspicious of how rigerious the checks have been.
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Another positive sign to look out for is whether or not your contractor has won any awards.
This won’t be a must for you, but having a recent award to their name demonstrates the quality of their work, and gives them a high profile reference.
Of course, many professionals who win industry awards do use this to justify quoting their services at a premium. Meaning you might end up paying more for these quality professionals.
Because of the length of time required to complete a build, many contractors are booked up many months in advance - or at least, good contractors are.
Contractors who are able to start work next week on your home should raise an eyebrow or two. For instance, it could mean that their services aren’t in demand, meaning other homeowners have seen some off-putting signs to their work. Or, even worse, it could be a sign that this contractor is taking on more work than they can handle.
A contractor juggling multiple projects, without the proper team in place, puts your home at serious risk of delays, poor craftsmanship, not to mention the building company going bust before construction is complete.
At Resi, we recommend using the rule of three. Meaning, you want to be scoping out at least three contractors, and you want to be visiting three references before committing.
When it comes to checking references, ideally you’ll want to talk to previous clients away from your considered professional. This can either be done over the phone, or ideally done by visiting the site to see the work for yourself.
Make sure you see both something recent, and a project that was completed at least a year ago. This will give you the best idea of their current skill level, and show how their work stands the test of time.
Getting the right insurance in place is the best thing you can do for your home.
By neglecting proper insurance, homeowners put themselves at risk of huge costs, court proceedings, and all the legal fees and damages that go alongside this.
To make sure you’re protected, at a minimum, you should have…
- Public liability insurance - this will ensure that you’re covered in the event that someone is hurt on your site, or if the property is damaged.
- Employers’ liability insurance - it’s against the law for any contractor, who works for a company (whether someone else’s or their own), to not have this coverage. It’s there in the event the contractor is hurt on the job.
- Developer insolvency insurance - not essential but certainly recommended, this will protect you in the event your contractor goes bust, which is common amongst builder rogues.
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You probably don’t need us to tell you this, but knowing how long a project is going to take is a huge help. This is especially true if the construction work forces you to either rent a new place, or live off-site in some other form of temporary accommodation.
An experienced contractor will be able to give you the best idea of time required.
Alongside when the work will be finished, you’ll also want to look into the day to day timings of the build. Do certain elements need to be completed by a certain point? Say foundations being laid before a change in seasons. And what working hours will your contractors keep? If you’re paying a day rate, it’s worthwhile to establish about many hours who you both expect to be working in a 24 hour period.
Another timing issue to consider is delays. Sometimes these can be unavoidable, but what is your contractor doing to avoid them, and what safeguards have they in place should they arise?
If your contractor is unable to commit to timelines beforehand, and more important, within your contract, alarm bells should start to ring.
Setting up the right payment plan is another vital stage to hiring a contractor.
Remember: never pay upfront from a builder’s services.
A good contractor will have the funds to upfront the costs of the project, and then get that money back when work has been completed. Those who need payment upfront are at risk of going bust and should be avoided.
Our recommended way of structuring pay is to find a builder who will fund the project, and then pay them based on evaluations. You would give them a deposit to get started, then the contractor will work for an agreed amount of time, at which point you’ll get a contract administrator (with your project manager, architect, or you can do this yourself) to assess the work that has been done, and a payment will be released. This encourages your contractor to keep to a schedule, and provide work of a high standard at every stage.
Another way to do it would be to get a JCT homeowners contract. These allow you to pay your contractor in stages, rather than big lump sums. However, the danger with this is tied to your own knowledge of the construction industry. Without a professional there to check the work, or to advise on timings, you might end up paying money at the wrong time and for work that’s not of a good quality.
If you have the money to spare, one way to keep your whole build on time and within budget is to hire a project manager. However, having a project manager can be expensive, so you’ll have to work out if this is an expense you're willing to pay in order to give your construction security.