Frequently Asked Questions – Choosing & Working with a Builder ? 

1. Generally What sort of things should I be Looking Out For?

According to the Office of Fair Trading, 'cowboy' builders have cost UK householders a staggering £1.6bn in shoddy workmanship that has needed rectifying.

For large or complex projects, a standard form of building contract that requires a Contract Administrator is definitely the recommended route to follow. As a RIBA Chartered Architect, Jonathan Braddick can provide this service for you.

Some important things to consider:

  • Hours of working: how many days a week, what time they start and finish

  • Use of facilities & services: toilet facilities, water supply, electricity, telephone etc.

  • Access and storage: agree where the builders can store their materials and how they access and secure the site etc.

  • Regular meetings: it is good to agree to meet formally to discuss progress every week or fortnight.

  • Foreman: agree whether you will have a full time foreman on your project from start to finish - this is generally a good thing but might make the price more expensive.

  • Additions and extras: agree how any additions or changes that you might want after work has started would be agreed and priced.

  • Over running: agree what happens if the work takes longer than the builder has indicated up front.

It is recommended to use a JCT Contract as this will cover all of the above considerations and many more. This will help to ensure that you project runs smoothly and hopefully avoid expensive and lengthy disputes or excessive unforeseen costs.


2. How do I choose a Builder?

Start your search for a good builder by getting a referral from family or friends who have recently had work done. You can also obtain a list of local builders through organisations such as the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) or the National Federation of Builders (NFB).

However, do not be fooled by a badge! - there have been cases of bogus builders fraudulently claiming membership to official trade associations. Call and make sure they are a bona fide members.

Jonathan can also recommend a number of good builders that he has successfully worked with.

 

3. Should I ask for References?

Yes, definitely. Ask each builder you have selected to provide at least two or three recent references - then check them. Contact the people who provided the references and find out how happy they were with the quality of the workmanship and the builder's conduct; Did the builder keep to budget? Did the builder complete the works on time? Was the quality of the workmanship and finish a good standard? Was the builder considerate and tidy?


4. Should I ask for Anything Else?

Yes. Ask to see 2-3 examples of previous work they have recently completed that is of a similar type and size to your own project. If the builder cannot do this perhaps they are not the right builder for your project.

It is also standard practice on medium scale projects (and larger) to request the last three years worth of accounts, to ensure that the Builder is financially stable. This is more pertinent today than ever before, and just as valid on a small project. You do not want to be part way into a construction project only to find the builder goes into liquidation.  

5. Should I get Quotes from more than One Builder?

Yes. It seems obvious but many people do not realise that Builders prices will often fluctuate depending on how keen they are to carry out the work. If a builder is busy he will tend to quote a lot higher than a builder who is not as busy. Builders expertise also differ and some builders will be keener than others to undertake your project, this will be reflected in their price. Therefore once you have a shortlist of builders you should formally obtain quotes from 3-4 builders on a like for like basis, this is known as 'Tendering'. Jonathan specialises in different construction procurement routes and can carry out this process for you. Jonathan will then produce a report, known as a 'Tender Sum Analysis' that compares the returned Tenders and points out any anomalies and makes recommendations to help you choose which builder you may wish to enter into a Contract with.

6. What Contract Should I Use?

Jonathan usually advises his clients to use a JCT Contract. There are several different types that can be used depending on the nature of your project. Jonathan can advise which one is right for your project.


7. What is a JCT Contract?

JCT Contracts are produced by the Joint Contract Tribunal, an independent organisation established in 1931. They are well known throughout the construction industry for their unbiased contracts and have a reputation that all reputable contractors will recognise and trust. 


8. Why Should I Use a Contract?

By using a JCT Contract you will clearly establish, in writing, your agreement with the Builder ensuring there is no misunderstanding, miscommunication or difference of expectation. Some of the key benefits of using a traditional JCT Contract are listed below:-

  • The Contract will list the drawings and specifications that have become Contract documents. Anything not included within those documents will not be provided, so it is very important to spend time preparing detailed Tender drawings and a written specification.

  • The Contract will agree a fixed time scale in which the Contractor is to complete the works. Usually failure by the Contractor to do so will result in compensation to the client of a pre agreed amount of money, per week, (to be reduced from the contract sum) until the works are deemed to be have been practically completed. This should reflect your real costs as a result of the project not being completed on time.

  • The Contract will agree payment dates and terms. Payment will be made based upon the Contract Administrators assessment of the works completed at regular intervals.

  • The Contract clearly records agreed working arrangements, working hours, access, security, safety, catering, lavatory arrangements, disposal of waste materials etc

  • The Contract will clarify what the Builders and your requirements in terms of insurance will be. It is important to ensure the builder is fully insured in regard to personal and public liability, as well as in regard to your property and neighbouring properties.

  • The Contract documents will clearly define minimum workmanship standards.

  • Most JCT Contracts will define a pre-agreed schedule of day rates for a range of different trades should any extra or unforeseen work be required by the client.

  • The Contract will agree each parties responsibilities in regard to Planning and Building Regulation consents and compliance.

  • The Contract will agree methods for dispute resolution in the unfortunate circumstances that this is required. Often minor disputes or differences can arise on site during a Construction project. The Contract will pre agree ways in which these can be quickly and relatively cheaply be resolved without the need for full litigation. 

  • The Contract will clearly agree the Contractors responsibility for co-ordination of the project and all of his sub contractors.


 9. What is the Architects Role Under the Contract?

Your Architects does NOT supervise the building works; this is the role of the builder. Your Architect will:

  • Liaise with the builder to assess quality of work at key stages and ensure that the Contract and specifications are complied with.

  • Keep you informed of progress

  • Approve, with you, any Variations (changes).

  • Impartially certify progress payments

  • Identify defects and administer their rectification.

  • Decide when Practical Completion occurs for occupancy.

10. Should I Pay the Builder in Cash?

Avoid a 'VAT-free' deal - you will not have a valid Contract if there is no proof of payment. Be straight about money - with your builder. If you use a JCT Contract, payment terms will have been clearly agreed in writing. Avoid paying a cash deposit - this should never be needed or requested by a reputable builder. If the Builder cannot afford to fund his business why should you? Only ever pay for materials and woks onsite. If you use a JCT Contract that is administered by a professional such as Jonathan, you will be able to rely on those Valuations.


11. What Drawings Will I Need for My Builder?

Many Builders will happily offer to build from your Planning or Building Regulation drawings. This will almost certainly lead to disappointment and dispute. What you are imagining and what the builder is imagining will be two different things. For example there can be a huge difference in quality and cost between items such as: doors, ironmongery, floor finishes, wall and floor tiles, roof tiles, light switches, skirting boards, mortar colour, grout colour, window types and performance, sanitary ware, etc etc ... In order  to clearly and accurately describe the end product, ie what you are effectively buying from the builder, it is necessary to have a detailed set of Tender drawings, produced along with a detailed written specification. This document accurately describes and specifies the products and materials to be used as well as minimum workmanship standards. This will avoid any misunderstandings and miscommunication between you and the builder.

For examples of completed projects please visit the Projects page of this website.

For a summary of the services that Jonathan provides and how he can help you with your project please visit the Services page of the website. 

Contact Jonathan on: 01395 265768 or email: jb@riba.co

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Copyright 2012  Jonathan Braddick  - RIBA Chartered Architect. 44a Wverley Road Exmouth Devon EX8 3HJ    T:  01395 265768   W: www.architectdevon.com    E: jb@riba.co