Not sure about the tradesmen that have been recommended by friends or neighbours? Want to make sure you get the best man for the job? Don’t we all, but it can prove a very tricky task, especially if you’ve little or no experience.
It is very important you know exactly what you are paying for when you get a quotation for a building job. It is extremely common for an inexperienced employer to find themselves looking at a ‘finished’ job and thinking to themselves, ‘I thought he was going to sort this out’ or ‘why didn’t he just tidy that bit up for me?’
More often that not the answer is simply because you didn’t mention that you wanted certain things done; the worker has done what he was told to do and nothing more.
There is no room for presumption in the building trade; if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and if you ask too late, you’ll pay more than you were expecting, which can be a nightmare for your budgeting.
Be precise in your briefing, as vague descriptions will produce unsatisfactory results. Put your ideas on paper if it helps, explain exactly what you want done and how you want it to look.
Agree on the timescale and the working hours, as you do not want your schedule to be turned upside down, instead you want minimal disruption to your everyday life.
Agree on everything down to the frequency of clean ups and rubbish removal, as you do not want to be living on a building site! Be a good employer and get a good result!
It can seem very tempting to go with the first quotation you get, and it is easy to meet with somebody who knows what they are talking about and be impressed, or confused (or both) and end up agreeing to something before you have properly thought it through.
Always get three written quotes from three different contractors. Don’t be afraid to let them know that they are not your only option and do not be afraid to ask them for references or following those references up by making contact with the previous employers.
It is very tempting to go with a builder because they have done a ‘decent’ job for a friend or neighbour, but it is still wise to stay open minded toward competitors as the perfect contractor may literally be round the corner!
Another thing to ask for is their builder’s liability insurance certificate in case anything should go wrong, peace of mind is underrated. It is also very worthwhile to look into supplying the materials yourself; it may well work out cheaper.
Once everything is agreed verbally it should be put in writing, a detailed account of what is going to happen, and when, and how much is going to be paid, and when.
You should always be wary of paying for anything in advance and you should discuss some sort of appropriate penalty clauses if the schedule is not met. The agreement should be signed, there is a temptation often to keep these things informal, but it can often lead to disaster.
Make it clear that any ‘extra’ costs that crop up due to the solving of unforeseen problems should be explained and verified before any work outside of the original plan is carried out.
Preparation is important; do not rush anything and be sensible in your expectations regarding mess, disruption, dirt and dust. If the area of your home being worked on is accessible via a cream carpeted hallway then put cardboard down, don’t expect the builders to take off their boots and carry them every time they need to pop to the van!
When the building work is finally underway, any dissatisfaction with the direction it is going in should be highlighted as soon as possible, before it is too late. Tradesmen will appreciate an ongoing dialogue as it leads to amicable problem solving and minimal disputes.
Bad communication generally leads to both parties ending up dissatisfied. After all, for every cowboy out there, there is a highly skilled perfectionist who takes a great deal of pride in their work and their customer’s satisfaction.