How to get the best from your builder to ensure a smooth running construction project. Good communication, planning, firm decision making and budgeting discussed.
Ensuring your building project starts efficiently and runs smoothly
Once you’ve chosen the best builder for your construction project, you may think your role is over and you can now simply let your chosen professional get on with it. While your builder of course knows their job if you’ve chosen well, there’s still much you can do at the beginning and throughout the project to help them do the best they can for you.
The importance of communication
From the start, thorough and clear communication will pay dividends in getting things off on the right foot. Here are the important aspects:
The project brief – as part of finding a local tradesman suitable to undertake your project, proper plans should be provided when asking your prospective builders to quote for the work (at this stage you’ll likely be comparing the price and approach of at least three builders when deciding who to give the work to).
These should be proper architect’s plans for a project along with a full run down of what’s required down to the details of interior fittings. For example, if you’d like chrome light switches make sure these are specified otherwise your builder will understandably quote for standard plastic types.
Invite each builder to meet with you at the prospective site so they can take a look and make whatever notes they need to, and clarify specifics so they can go away and put together an accurate quotation and provide a time scale for you.
Clarify as part of the brief who will supply what items; is the builder supplying all raw materials including sanitary ware and door fittings?
Clarify the quotation – once your prospective builders have supplied quotations, clarify if everything is included and what may be subject to extra cost. Agree a payment schedule; it’s common for a builder to ask for some type of deposit to cover initial costs and for subsequent payments to be staged at agreed intervals throughout the project.
Have a ‘final check’ with your builder to clarify if there’s a likelihood of any extra costs being incurred. It’s recommended to allow for perhaps 5 to 10% of your total budget to account for variables, but an accurate quotation based on a thorough brief should keep costs on track.
Be aware that changes made during the process can see costs increase markedly. It’s not just the extra expense of adding, say, a few extra power sockets or putting a larger window in, but the possible upheaval of schedules changing to accommodate the extra work.
Ongoing contact – no matter how thorough planning is, there may well be aspects to clarify as the work proceeds and your builder might need to talk to you on occasion. Try and establish the best ways of communication, allowing for your day to day commitments such as working hours.
Agree when the builder can best contact you or maybe agree windows of time when you’ll ‘check in’ either by phone or in person.
Insurance, planning and divisions of responsibility
Insurance – while your builder should be insured for the work they’re doing, you should ensure you have the right levels of insurance for your property and notify your insurer you’re having specific work done.
Planning aspects – you’ll be responsible for securing planning permission and paying building regulation fees; your builder usually liaises with the local authority’s building control people at the appropriate stages of the work.
Health and safety – the CDM (Construction Design and Management) regulations are designed to maximise health and safety on construction sites; ensure you and your builder are agreed on how to best conform to these regulations.
Other contractors – your builder will ensure other contractors are engaged and that they’re suitably qualified, such as using Gas Safe registered plumbers for gas related work.
Along with a timetable of what work should be finished by certain stages and an agreed overall completion date, clarify the basic working routines with your builder:
Working hours – you’ll need to know when the builders are on site so you can notify your neighbours of the hours when work is in progress. Your builder should adhere to these for the sake of domestic harmony and notify you if they wish to extend them (perhaps to try and make up lost time) so you can let affected others such as neighbours know.
Breaks – if you know when the builder’s downtime is it’ll help prevent wasted time such as your popping home from work to have a word only to find he’s left the site for a lunch break.
On this point, your builder may prefer it if you set fixed times to discuss things with them onsite (see above) so as to avoid interruptions during critical times of their working day.
Access – agree on access times and limits to your house such as the builder getting water for their kettle of similar. Many builders are self contained to allow for the rest of the property being locked while the owners are out, but clarify this.
If you’re away a lot during the course of the work, or even if you aren’t but the idea of an expert acting as the link between you and your builder appeals, then using a project manager could be considered.
Your builder can provide some of the project management in terms of securing the services of appropriate specialists such as electricians, plumbers and bricklayers. Your architect may be able to provide project management services or put you in touch with someone else who can.
Whilst you understandably expect your builder to be professional, then you should also adopt a professional approach to your project. Clear communication, firm decision making and being considerate to your professional partner will go a long way to ensuring your building project goes as smoothly as possible.