Choosing the right Builder
Warning – Ignoring the advice on this page could potentially cost you tens of thousands of pounds, months of heartache, stress and worry.
Here’s the good news, reading this page will almost eliminate the risk of employing a cowboy builder or incompetent tradesman.
Unfortunately the domestic building trade is completely unregulated, anyone can claim to be a professional builder and set up in this business with no questions asked.
The majority are without any formal trade qualifications or professional training and many start up in business without any prior work experience whatsoever.
That’s worrisome when you have someone knocking ten bells of you know what, out the back of your house when adding your new extension or slicing through the face of your bricks with an angle grinder when re-pointing your home.
Now you’d think that selecting a builder who’s signed up to a trade accreditations such as the FMB, would be a safe bet – but even still, you’re not safe.
Let me tell you why…
Accreditations such as these are paid for by builders at a yearly cost, builders sign up to be seen as credible to unsuspecting home owners. No previous physical checks are carried out on their work and the sales agents who meet with the builder are paid a commission to sign the builders up.
One couple from south east London lost £30,000 by selecting a builder from a trade accreditation, that particular builder made off with no less then £100,000 from four unsuspecting families. Read the full story by clicking here
“One couple from south east London lost £30,000”
You would also think that building control would pick up on problems when building works are being carried out on your property – so you’re safe. But again there are gaping holes in this way of thinking. Here’s why…
Building inspectors will visit your property in 4 stages when carrying out a house extensions build, the first when the foundations are excavated. This is to check ground conditions and that the foundations will be the required depth.
Secondly when the over-site (floor slab) is ready to be poured or when a block and beam floor is being constructed. This is to check the required base (ground make-up) including the specified insulation and damp proof membrane.
The third time they return is roof plate height and the fourth is finish to sign the building off.
The correct strength of the concrete used in the foundation is not checked, whether or not the walls underground have been back filled with concrete are not checked, nor that this is done to the correct height… neither the cleanliness of cavity walls which can cause damp in future, nor the correct amount of wall ties which can cause walls to bow later are checked.
A visit from over-site to roof plate is too big of a gap. Frankly there are too many aspects that can be carried out incorrectly, many of which… are almost impossible for the building inspector to see. The visits and the checks are not frequent nor are they thorough enough.
With all this uncertainty it’s not surprising there are so many cases of people left devastated by what they say are bad builders carrying out work on their homes. Many won’t even know they are doing these things incorrectly, because they have no professional training or qualifications.
So how about smaller building jobs from trusted website which hold reviews about the company and tradesmen. Sorry to say that, it doesn’t get any better on that front either. As you can read her:
And then there is the investigation that the consumer Tv program Watchdog made into arguably the most well known trust type website CheckaTrade.
Fortunately there is a way to put your mind at rest, dramatically reduce the risk and know you’ve chosen a competent builder to carrying out your new build correctly, no matter which part of the country you reside.
Always carry out these 6 steps.
1. Ask to see their CSCS card (Construction Skills Certificate Scheme)
This is more important then any trade accreditation that exists because a CSCS card provides proof that the individuals working within the construction industry have the required training and qualifications.
CSCS is a not-for-profit limited company and qualifications are cross checked with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). You cannot obtain one without a real trade qualification.
The card states the individuals qualifications on the reverse and you can use the telephone number on the card to call CSCS and check the card is genuine, do this by using the tradesmen’s unique registration number on the front of the card. For more information see our helpful article (How-to check a tradesman’s / builders credentials)
You wouldn’t let an unqualified plastic surgeon remodel your face – so why let unqualified builders remodel your home? – It’s a funny comparison… yet true!
Best to carry out the check. All our staff hold CSCS cards which we show our customers in advance to prove our qualifications.
2. Ask to see real proof
Ask to see real proof of similar jobs you’re planning, photo’s with the builder in them, previous contracts, previous building plans and references.
Piece it all together to make your own judgement. Listen. You could ask to view their previous work, but let’s get real here – would you really want your builder turning up on your doorstep six months later with a potential customer in toe asking to look around your house?
With that said. There maybe previous work the builder can show you around without disturbing previous customers. For example: we can drive our customers to houses we’ve built all over Kent and supply the building plans we used to build those houses as evidence along with contracts and photo’s during the build.
3. Make sure the company has an address on their paperwork and their website
You want to know you can go and get them should a problem arise in future. Also look for a land line or office telephone number. The last thing you want is someone ditching their mobile phone and ignoring your calls halfway through your build.
4. Ask questions about previous jobs
Question the builder about previous jobs, ask them what’s gone wrong on previous jobs and how they got over the problems. Construction is rarely ever a smooth process there are almost always unforeseen problems and stories to share with others. Good builders get over problems quickly with minimal fuss, cost or effort, this is where their experience and knowledge shines through. You’ll get a good indication on whether he knows his stuff or not.
5. Check they’re insured to carry out the work
Public liability insurance is a must. Last winter an architect was telling me about one of his clients. Their builder excavated the foundations and the over site ready for a new extension. When they returned over the weekend and after a heavy down pour the ground had gave way and buried the machine.
To get the machine out, which was now laying side ways they used a crane and needed to demolish part of a neighbours garage to reach it. The builder had no insurance and the customer footed the bill for the crane. That’s not all… they were also left with the cost of re-building their neighbours garage, after which they had no more funds to build their dream extension. That’s a true story.
6. Trust your instincts
Check they’re qualified to do the work, piece together the evidence of previous work, make sure you have their address and land line telephone number and ask them questions about their previous jobs when you meet face to face. Most of all trust your own instincts with the information you have on them.
Carry out these six steps and you will give yourself the best chance of not only choosing someone competent to carry out your build but also a company that will make the entire process as stress free as possible.
If you’re looking for professional builders in Ashford Kent and the surrounding areas view our list of building services here: Builders In Ashford Kent