10 Steps to choosing the correct builder for your extension

When choosing a builder it is VERY important to select a firm that is up to the task. It is first up to you to decide the importance of your project. If you need a garden wall building or a bit of pointing then you can be a little bit more relaxed about the builder you choose. If something goes wrong it shouldn’t cost you too much to put right. Also, as the job is small a smaller building firm or “one man band” should be up to the task. As your job becomes larger the importance of selecting a good builder becomes vital. This is especially true of your extension.

“many clients spend longer deliberating the colour of the paint for their new extension than they do choosing the builder who will complete the work”.

Your extension is a large structure that is going to be attached to probably the most valuable asset you own and yet anyone, including yourself is allowed to build it. However, if you were to build it yourself you would take your time, research the best building practices, use the best materials and would certainly not run off with your own money. Yet you are expected to trust a perfect stranger to do the same. There are obviously building regulations that every build has to adhere to that are monitored by your local council, but there is no regulation to govern who can call themselves a builder. With this in mind it falls to you to take care when selecting the building firm to construct your home extension.

The main thing to remember when reading the steps below is this isn’t a finished product that you’re buying. When you find a TV or a car that you like the only differential is the price and maybe the lead time. With an extension you are purchasing a builder who will build your extension. Don’t assume each builder will build you the same product to the same spec, especially if they are charging a lower price.

With this in mind, when selecting a builder this is the process you should consider.

  1. Try to select a builder through recommendation

    This is a point that you probably already know and have considered yourself. This, however, comes with its own problems. You have to know someone you can trust who has had a recent extension. And the building firm they used must then have been a good firm. It’s no good hiring a building firm just because you know of them. This is not a case of “better the devil you know”. It’s better to skip this part if you cannot find a friend who has had a recent extension by a quality building company. Instead, try to find a local reputable builder through other means.

  2. Collect quotation request letters

    If you cannot find a builder through recommendation do not panic. When you or your architect submit your drawings to the planning office you will start to receive request letters from builders who have seen your planning permission application online. Collect these letters and research the builders that you like the look of. If they have a website then take a look at any past projects that they have put in their gallery. Select 3 builders and approach them for a quotation. More than 3 and you may get confused, fewer than 3 and you may not find your ideal builder.

  3. Obtain quotations in plenty of time

    It is important that you give the builders plenty of time to compile your quotation and then if appointed place you into their schedules. The best builders will be booked up many months in advance, especially in the summer, so remember it is not always on your time-frame. If you are in a hurry to start work on your project then as soon as you have drawings in your possession call builders and arrange visits. Do not wait for your plans to pass planning permission. If you have appointed a good architect then he should know what will pass, so your plans should be adequate to obtain estimates. Always make sure your architect prints you plenty of drawings so that you can pass them out to the chosen builders

  4. Be patient

    You will probably be very keen to know how much your project will cost, but even the longest serving builder can be caught out by details that he has overlooked until he has analysed the plans thoroughly. Resist the urge to ask the builder for his best guess while he is making his preliminary visit. An over-estimate may put you off and an under-estimate may get your hopes up. A good quote should take a few weeks to compile. It’s also important to remember that many builders have to work on their quotes in the evening after a days work, so be patient.

  5. Choose a builder you get along with

    This can only be judged by you. The builder and his team are going to be spending a lot of time in close proximity with you and your family. It is important that you trust them. They will be working in your home and much of the time unsupervised. You can do all the background checks on the company’s work and feel that the price seems very fair, but if you don’t trust them then tread carefully.

  6. Obtain a clearly defined written quote

    Your extension is very important to you and should be treated like the individual project that it is. A clearly defined written quote should be essential. Not only because it ensures that everything that you’ve specified has been allowed for, but it also shows that the builder has placed adequate effort into your quote and not simply multiplied the square footage of your extension by a figure that may have worked for a previous project. This latter method only increases the risk of additional extras as the project progresses. If you have plans there is no excuse for not receiving a written quote. A verbal price or even a very brief description of the job with a final figure should be avoided.

  7. Do NOT choose on price alone

    When you obtain your quotes read them carefully. I can not stress this point enough. Try to resist the urge to skip to the last page and choose on price alone. You should check that you are getting like for like quotes. A cheap quote may be cheap for a reason. Take your time to read the quotes making sure you are getting everything that you asked for.  Just because you have told the builder what you want and he has taken your architect drawings doesn’t mean that he has allowed for everything on your list. It has been know for some builders to offer cheap quotations and then add extras to the project as it unfolds on elements that the you thought were included in the original quote. At this point you will feel committed to continue and hope that the costs don’t get out of hand. This sort of quote is referred to as “a foot in the door quote” and should be avoided. It is better to admit that you may need a few extra months to save for your dream extension rather than opting for a cheap quote that may turn out to be more costly in the long run. The old saying “you get what you pay for” holds very true here. If a quote seems expensive it may be that there are elements involved that you could live without or leave ’til later. Talk to the builder and ask if he can tweak the quote to suit your budget.

  8. Choose a builder who IS VAT registered

    When you receive the quotes look for companies who are VAT registered. This may seem like strange advice, as you will seemingly pay more, but has some very sound logic attached to it. The VAT threshold for any company in England is £81,000. It would not take a competent building firm many extensions to surpass this figure each year. It could be argued that any builder who is not VAT registered has not completed sufficient projects large enough to have the experience to complete your extension. Only you can judge if choosing an unregistered company is worth the risk.

  9. Insist on viewing previous extensions

    When you have narrowed down your choice to the building firm that you feel is suitable to complete you project, insist on viewing previous projects that they have completed. This does require a little work on your part. You will actually need to visit a previous extension. But remember, you are spending a lot of money and this should be a small sacrifice to ensure you are spending it wisely. You would not by a car without a test drive. Visiting a previous job is about as close as your going to get when purchasing an extension. If the builder cannot provide previous projects for you to view then again tread carefully. Viewing previous projects can be a delicate process and should only be exercised when you are almost certain about which builder you have chosen so as not  to hassle previous clients without justification. It is also good etiquette to offer to show future clients around your project if your builder asks.

  10. Obtain a contract

    When you are sure about which building firms services to use get the builder to write up a contract. This ensures that everything is in writing before work begins so that there is little chance of any misunderstandings. A contract will secure your place in the builders schedule and protect both parties. This is a lot of money that you are about to part with. To undertake it on just a handshake would be very unwise.

    The process above is an overview that should be considered very seriously. However, there are probably many other personal aspects that may be important to you. You should use the list above as a starting point and add any considerations that you feel appropriate.

    If you are looking to build an extension to your home and live in the West Midlands or surrounding area, then fill in the Extension Enquiry form on the left or call 01922 624262 to book an appointment.




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