Choose Wisely and Check Credentials.
One sure way to guarantee a successful and stress-free outcome to your home renovation or extension project is to have a really great contractor. Never make your choice based on a website or flyer posted through your door. The absolutely best way to select the right contractor is through careful research and if possible recommendations from trusted sources.
Ask for references. But make sure the people you are getting the recommendation from have the same standards as you! What someone else considers acceptable, you might not.
If you are working with an architect do consider going with one of their preferred contractors. Your architect will have a relationship with this builder – and the builder will be keen to keep the relationship intact as they depend on it for getting more work. A good contractor will behave like a member of the team solving problems rather than flagging issues.
Examples of work
Once you have identified a contractor ask to visit some previous jobs. If they take pride in their work and value their reputation, they’ll be more than happy for you to go and see two or three examples of their work. Speak to the people they did the work for. Find out if there were any problems. If there were problems how were these resolved?
If you are happy with what you see, make sure to find out from the builder if the same team will be involved in your project. Often contractors outsource trades such as tiling, plumbing painting etc. The standard of these trades can vary wildly so if the same team are not going to be involved in your project do bear in mind that a similar standard of finish cannot be guaranteed.
Investigate your contractor’s insurances before you start and make sure you have a written contract. This is good practice regardless of who is recommending the builder. Without any form of written contract you have no protection if a dispute arises. A contract can help you claim some if not all of your money back if the contractor does not do what you agreed from the outset.
If you already know a contractor you might want to ask them to do your project. Having a relationship with a builder is great but you need to make sure the kind of work you are planning is the kind they do.
Your contractor might have done relatively small jobs in the past, like a repair of a roof or bathroom fit-out, but might not have much experience with building an extension or a complete refurbishment. Similarly you might simply be planning a kitchen refurbishment and your contractor might be used to doing much larger projects. Either way they might not be the best choice.
If the job is too big they will lack the resources and experience to tackle it, making the likelihood of problems quite high. If the job is too small they are likely not to prioritise it and see it as a favour, meaning you might get frustrated and the project could take longer than it should. An existing relationship is not the best reason for appointing a contractor and if they are not the right person, giving them the work could actually damage the relationship.
And finally, whoever you decide on using, make sure you get along. This person is going to be spending a lot of time in your home and you will most likely be in contact every day. So you need to like each other! A good builder is a contact that you will have for life so it’s worth spending the time in the beginning to find the right person.