How to research and choose the best builder in Essex for your project. Using personal recommendation, online resources to find suitable tradesmen and how to assess them.
How to choose a builder you can trust and rely on at a sensible price
Choosing certain types of tradesmen can be a daunting task, and by some it’s considered the stuff of nightmares. Horror stories concerning people who have fallen victim to shoddy practices at the hands of rogue firms and individuals often feature in the media, so you’ll naturally be keen to make the right choice.
While inept operators abound in most trades, there are plenty more who do a very good job at a fair price and can be relied on. The key of course is finding the latter while avoiding the former.
Here are some pointers to help you make a sound choice:
Perhaps the most reassuring method of all; it you know of someone who would confidently recommend a builder they’ve recently used then this is a positive sign.
It may not just be a friend or associate either; perhaps your plumber or electrician can recommend a builder they’ve worked with and would endorse.
There was a time when you’d have to rely on a line entry or perhaps the odd small display ad in publications such as the ‘Yellow Pages’ or local trade directories. These days there’s plenty of options online enabling you to locate and learn more about certain builders.
Along with searching locally using Google or other search engines and viewing builders’ websites, specialist online services are available to find local tradesmen. You simply enter your location, the type of builder (or related tradesman) you require and a selection of local companies will be shown.
Some will have paid to appear on websites like this and, if so, will have been given more virtual space to carry more details about their service. There will be links to testimonials from previous customers and you can, if you like, submit the details of the work you require to let interested builders provide a quote without you having to approach them individually.
If the builder is a member of one or more trade bodies then this is a good sign. The NFB (National Federation of Builders), Federation of Master Builders (FMB) or the Guild of Builders and Contractors are three to look out for.
The government backed TrustMark scheme offers some peace of mind. It’s a locate a tradesman facility that only lists vetted traders who have been assessed for adhering to sound trading practices and high levels of technical ability and customer service.
Business set up
Ensure they have a proper business address, preferably properly sign written vans and other work vehicles, and a phone number. Many quote a mobile number but an accompanying landline number offers extra peace of mind.
They should use proper business stationery when providing quotes or other written communication, and it should have their VAT number clearly shown (if VAT is being charged).
Any builder you approach should be able to readily provide testimonials from existing customers, and the means to get in touch and speak to these people if you’d like to.
When dealing with your chosen builder – or builders
It’s advisable to initially deal with a minimum of three builders to compare their approach and, of course, their quotes. You may decide you’d like to use the services of one builder in particular who comes highly recommended, but it’s still wise to compare their quote with one or two others.
When speaking to builders on your shortlist, look for the following:
Financial – none should insist on payments up front although staged payments at agreed intervals may be negotiated – but ensure this is done before any work starts.
None of your shortlisted builders should insist on cash payments.
Quotes and written communication – ensure you provide the builders with a full brief for the work so they can quote you accurately. By turn, their quote should show clearly what is included in terms of materials, labour and other chargeable tasks such as waste removal.
Contracts – the builder should be happy to sign a contract. With no contract signed you could be in a weak position legally if anything goes wrong.
Insurance – check that any builder you’re thinking of using is properly insured such as carrying adequate public liability insurance – most trades need public liability insurance.
A word on price
While you’ll naturally be seeking a competitive price for the work, be wary of a builder providing a rock bottom quote for the job. If they do, check they’ve included everything they’ll be charging for.
If they have and their price still looks rather low, proceed very carefully – especially if your other two or three builders’ quotes are significantly higher. Decent quality workmanship costs and firms majoring purely on price should arouse suspicions.
Finally, take your time in choosing and don’t let a builder try and cajole you into making a rushed decision. Tradesmen worth their salt understand it’s an important step for you and should allow you to take the time you need to arrive at a decision you’re happy with.