How to find a good builder for your extension project
Before you can find a good builder to undertake your extension project you first need to consider the type and scale of the project as different builders and organisations are better suited to different projects. You also need to consider the various risks of undertaking building works and ensure you are covered for every situation.
Types of builders
The first thing you need to consider when looking for a building firm to undertake a project is are they the right fit for your project? When it comes to home extensions there are 4 types of builders that commonly undertake these sort of projects:
- The individual builder – Usually an individual with a specific trade (joiner, plumber, electrician etc) who operates out of his/her van and brings in friends to help get the project completed.
These individuals are typically capable of small projects such as porch extensions and some single storey extensions. You can get the work done on a shoestring budget, but you should expect to be involved in some level of project management.
Be sure to check references very carefully as there are plenty of rogue traders operating at this level and as the old saying goes “buy cheap, buy twice”. This type of builder should only be considered for a small project where you can be on hand to supervise very closely.
Be very wary of paying cash up front and check that they have the appropriate insurance for the size of the job being undertaken.
- Small team – A small team of tradesmen again usually operating out of a van who all work together on a daily basis, usually one person is in charge and employs one or two others however sometimes all are self employed and they split the profits from a job between themselves.
Again they will bring in subcontractors to carry out the specialist works and you should expect to get involved in the project management to some degree if it is a larger project as these guys are working on the site during the day and trying to plan the next days activities on the fly.
Once again be wary of rouge traders and check references and insurances carefully. Both the individual and the small team are the sort of people that can be found on websites such checkatrade.
- Home Improvement Companies – In recent years we have seen a huge increase in the number of home improvement companies offering to undertake small extension projects from a porch up to a side or rear extension.
These organisations often have a background in a specific trade such as double glazing, roofing or kitchen and bathroom installation and therefore have more stability to their offering when it comes to the guarantees and finance options they can provide. In addition to this they will also have a physical office location with staff dedicated to project management and resource planning so you should be able to get in touch when you need to.
Most of the trades involved in an extension project undertaken by a home improvement company will be subcontractors however if the company do their job right this should not be an issue. The home improvement company will definitely cost more than the individual or small team of self employed builders as they have higher overheads and have to maintain higher standards.
One of the big positives with using a reputable company is that they should hold adequate insurance. This is definitely worth checking before agreeing to any work, if something goes wrong on your job and the individual or company don’t have suitable insurance then you could be liable for the costs, damages and legal fees. See the advice from Citizens Advice.
- Construction Companies – A construction company is set up to specifically handle larger extension projects, they will have all the relevant insurances and deposit protection in place to ensure you have no risk. They typically have a yard and storage facilities to hold materials allowing for just in time deliveries to site and storage of specialist equipment.
Where a construction company really stands above the other types of builders is the team they employ to undertake the work. This will consist of key tradesmen and women, a team of project managers, resource planners and administration staff to ensure each and every project comes in on time and within budget.
A construction company will be able to undertake any house extension from the smallest to a full demolition and rebuild or new build on a plot of land. While a construction company is capable of handling small extension works such as a porch of single storey kitchen extension it is often not cost effective as the overheads of a construction company are much higher, unless of course you are willing to pay the price for a superior service.
Get recommendations for a good builder
- Friends & Family – Once you know what type of builder is best for you the ideal situation is to get a direct recommendation from a family member, a friend or even a friend of a friend. These people should have first hand experience dealing with the builder, although you should make sure that the job they had done is similar to the project you are considering.
- Social Media Recommends – If you can not get a direct recommendation from friends or family then turning to social media and reaching out to your wider network of friends and acquaintances and mention that you are trying to find a good builder is the next best step. Most suburbs, villages and even housing estates now have Facebook groups that you can join and ask for recommendations.
- Online Reviews – Failing that, checking the online reviews on popular review websites such as Trustpilot is another way to find out what experiences people have had with your chosen builder.
Make sure your builder has the right insurance
This is vital as all building works carry a certain degree of risk no matter how experienced or careful your builder is. As mentioned earlier if something goes wrong and someone gets injured whilst working on your property and it is later discovered that your builder did not have the correct insurance then you could be held liable. The following insurance policies are a must
- Employers Liability Insurance – If your builder has employees then they must hold a suitable Employers Liability Insurance policy to cover their workers in the event of an accident.
- Public Liability Insurance – This is critical and your builder must have adequate cover on this policy, a minimum of £5 million of cover is recommended. This policy would cover you, your family, visitors and sub-contractors if an accident were to occur.
- Deposit Protection Insurance – If you are paying deposits for any of the works or materials then you need to make sure the builder has deposit protection insurance in place as this would cover the money you have paid in advance if the worst was to happen and the builder went into administration.
Always have a contract or signed scope of works agreement
A clear scope of works and prior agreement on the costs and estimated timescales of a project is non negotiable if you want to have transparent communication throughout the project.
It doesn’t have to be fancy but a breakdown of the stages and when payments will fall due will suffice. However we would always recommend that any good builder should provide you with a detailed scope of works to ensure everything runs smoothly.
If for any reason the builder you are talking to is not willing to sign a contract of works agreement or contract then walk away. Failing to get the scope and agreed prices documented is just going to cause you huge headaches in the future.
Best of luck in your search to find a good builder.