When building a house, getting a skilled and reliable contractor is essential for the entire project. You want to hire someone that’s qualified and has the craftsmanship to convert your ideas into a dream home. You need to be diligent when selecting a suitable builder, lest you’ll find yourself working with a cowboy builder. There are several ways you can get the right builder and asking the right questions is one way to go about it. Here are some of the questions to ask your contractor when building a house.
For how long have you been working as a building contractor?
Are you an accredited contractor?
Can you show me your construction project portfolio?
Do you have any ongoing projects?
Are you insured?
Can you put me in touch with some of your references?
Can you give me a comprehensive breakdown of the quote?
What’re your preferred means of communication?
Do you have a project manager?
Can you give me an accurate timescale for the project?
Do you offer any structural warranty?
Who else will you work with?
What happens if the project scope changes?
What planning applications will I need for my project?
For how long have you been working as a building contractor
Knowing the duration which your builder has been in business will help you get a rough estimate of the level of experience they have. The more they’ve been active in the industry, the more experience they gain.
This means the contractor will be having the craftsmanship required to transform your dream home idea into a reality.
Are you an accredited contractor
One way to know if you’re dealing with a professional is by working with an accredited contractor. Is the builder registered with any trade body?
Since most trade bodies have a strict code of practice and firm membership criteria, it would be an ideal way to establish whether you’re dealing with a reliable professional.
In the UK, the trade bodies you can check include the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), or the National Federation of Builders (FNB). When checking, ensure that your contractor’s membership is valid and up-to-date.
Please show me your construction project portfolio
A seasoned builder will have several projects to showcase in their portfolio. Having a look at their portfolio will give you an idea of the type of project the contractor can handle. According to Clara Annesley from Proficiency Design & Build, a building company in London, it’s advisable to hire a specialist compared to a ‘Jack of all trades.’
You also get to gauge their skill level and whether it would be suitable for the type of project you’re planning. It’s even better if they can show you projects they’ve handled that are similar to what you’re planning.
Do you have an ongoing project that I can see
If the contractor has an ongoing project, you can request to see it so that you can have first-hand experience on how they handle their projects.
A visit to the site will give you a great indication of how the contractor operates, communicates with the rest of the team, and how they carry themselves at work.
Are you insured
Being insured shows that the contractor has your best interest in mind. Instead of leaving everything to chance, it’s ideal to get insurance since you never know what can happen in the course of the project.
Your contractor should have public liability insurance, employers’ liability insurance, and contract work insurance. This will only show that they are indeed serious about their work. You should ask to see the insurance certificates they have.
Can you put me in touch with some of your references
Although having a look at the project portfolio will give you an idea of what to expect from the contractor, talking to some of the previous clients will give you more insight into how the builder works and handles their work.
Did they deliver within the agreed turnaround time? Did they work within the agreed budget? How did they treat the client? An established builder shouldn’t shy away from putting you in touch with some of their previous clients.
Can you give me a comprehensive breakdown of the quote
Your builder should give you a detailed breakdown of all the costs included in the quotation given. The breakdown should include each itemised cost from labour, material, to any skip hire if necessary.
This will help you establish where and how you can save on some costs. It will also help you come up with a more accurate budget and allocate any miscellaneous amount.
Do you have a project manager
A project manager supervises the project and works as the communication link between you and the team of builders/your contractor. With a project manager, it will be easier for you to express what you want for the projects and to request any adjustments or changes.
You also get to have one person who is accountable for how the project is handled from start to finish. The presence of a competent project manager ensures that the project is effectively managed at every stage.
Can you give me a timescale for when you’ll start working
Your contractor should give you an accurate lead time on when they’re likely to commence the project. Some contractors tend to give unrealistic dates so that they can get the job but you should aim at getting one who gives you a realistic timeline.
A reliable builder should give you a schedule of works and an accurate estimation of the project’s finish date.
What’s your preferred means of communication
Whether or not there might be a project manager to make the communication easier, it’s advisable to agree on a specific method of communication. Is it via email, WhatsApp, or phone calls?
Whatever it is that you agree on, it ideal to have more face-to-face conversations regarding the project. Considering you can’t go to the site every day, you should agree with your contractor when to make a site visit so that they can brief you on the project’s progress.
Do you have any end-of-day clean-up plan
How does the contractor plan on managing waste at the site? Your contractor should have a clear plan outlined on how they plan to manage the waste at the site and ensure that they leave a clean working area.
You should make it clear that they should do the clean-up at the end of the day, otherwise, you’ll be left with the task to do it yourself.
Do you offer any structural warranty
Different contractors offer structural warranties of different durations. For instance, if your contractor offers you a structural warranty of ten years, it means that they can repair any structural defects that may arise within ten years after completion of the project.
With a structural warranty, your contractor’s work-product obligations are clearly defined. Most contractors offer a structural warranty of up to ten years, but this varies from one company to the other.
Who else will you work with
Most builders tend to sub-contract other companies at different stages of the project. It’s essential to know who your contractor will work with and whether they are accredited.
You should also know who they will be directly reporting to. If there’s a project manager then they’ll most likely be coordinating with them.
However, it’s best to ensure that there are clear communication lines between all parties involved. Most of the time, you’ll find that the company uses the same subcontractors so that they can rely on them as they undertake different projects.
What happens if the project scope changes
A change in the project scope could lead to an increase in the budgeted amount. Your contractor should specify what’s meant to happen if there’s such a change or any delays in some of the tasks that need to be undertaken.
Is their cost fixed and all-inclusive or do they allow for revisions? The contractor should specify this in writing in case something doesn’t go as planned to avoid any complications or disappointments.
What planning applications will I need for my project
A qualified and experienced builder should be well informed on the legal documents needed before commencing the project. Will you need any planning permission or Party Wall agreement?
Are they well conversant with the building regulations and the Health and Safety requirements? Being up-to-date with such will help avoid any trouble with the local authorities while the project is underway.
Apart from asking the questions above, there’s so much more that you can do to ensure that you’re working with a trusted and qualified contractor. Most importantly, knowing what you want and having a clearly defined project plan gives you a better idea of what you should be looking for when searching for a contractor. Either way, a skilled and experienced contractor should effortlessly answer the questions without any hesitation.