What Questions Should I Ask My Builder?

Hiring a builder or contractor for your home improvement projects, whether for a loft conversion, a home extension, refurbishment, or even a new build is not as easy as going into a car lot and picking the car that you want. For obvious reasons, there is no “car lot“ for contractors or builders.

As dramatic as that example sounds, your home is a temple, a sacred space of love, hope, and big dreams, and it is essential to take caution about the contractor you let into this sanctified or set apart space.

With every Tom, Dick, Harry and Larry setting up shop and going through the shenanigans of claiming to be a home improvement expert, the million–pound question becomes how do I choose the right builder for my loft conversion or home extension.

When you think about it critically, hiring a builder for your new build or improvement is more than committing scarce resource to a stranger – it is committing the hopes, future, and aspirations of your family into the hands of a stranger, and this is a decision not to be taken lightly.

In this article, you will find 10 critical questions you should ask your builder before signing a contract and committing your resources. In addition to these questions, you will get an idea of the kind of answers to look out for.

Question 1 – Do You Offer Free Site Visit and Consultation?

Answer – You SHOULD Expect: Yes, we provide you with a “free, no-future financial obligation or commitment to use our service“ consultation and site visit.

Why You Want to Hear this: A builder who offers you a site visit is more concerned about meeting your needs and putting your project first than lining their pocket. Also, by providing a free site visit, they have a “boots on the ground“ view of what the project entails and can give you the right estimates and warn you of the challenges involved to ensure you get a completed project.

Question 2 – How Long Have You Been In the Business/Industry?

Answer – You SHOULD Expect: We have been here long enough to accumulate the right experiences and delivered projects to over twenty to fifty references who we can happily share with you, just in case you need to contact them.

Why You Want to Hear this: With companies on the internet creating their testimonials by themselves, it would be foolish to take the builder’s words for what it is. Any builder willing to share references with you, and not just a portfolio has credibility, and yes, you should speak with the references. Again, the key indicator you are looking out for is not how long in terms of experience (experience doesn‘t always guarantee a better service), but in terms of track record and history.

Question 3 – Tell Me About Your Last Job

Answer – You SHOULD Expect: We just completed a project a few months ago that entails XYZ (details of the project)

Why You Want to Hear this: the building code of the UK has been updated, and you want a builder who is current, and conversant with these changes, to avoid stories. Again, asking this question gives you an insight into the builders‘ work style and modus operandi

Question 4 – Can You Provide Me with a List of Reference for Your Most Recent Jobs?

Answer – You SHOULD Expect: Sure, this is a list of our reference you can contact.

Why You Want to Hear this: If you see the builder become uneasy when you ask this question, please take flight and head in the opposite direction. Checking references is a sure way of seeing the builders‘ expertise from a client’s eyes as you, while also ensuring that the builder can get the job done.

The questions you want to ask the references before hiring the builder includes; how well the builder communicated, the job schedule, there was no cutting of corners, and were you delighted with the work. Like the saying, previous performance is an excellent pointer to future performance.

Question 5 – Do You Carry Insurance?

Answer – You SHOULD Expect: Yes, I have insurance for my employees, and insurance for your home just in case anything is broken or tampered with in the renovation or construction process

Why You Want to Hear this: What you are looking out for is who is responsible and for what should in case anything goes wrong. While no builder enters your home to destroy anything or to get injured, accidents happen.

If the builder doesn‘t have insurance, guess who pays when a tradesman falls from a ladder and breaks his back, or a water pipe is broken, and the ground floor of your Victorian is flooded, guess who pays if the builder has no insurance. You thought, right, You are fully responsible. You want to ensure you are protected from any liability as a result of accidents.

Question 6 – How Much Will it Cost?

Answer – You SHOULD Expect: A specific amount

Why You Want to Hear This: Homeowners who have embarked on an extension or conversion project have complained of spending almost 30% above their budgets because of hidden fees. Where the amount is not specific, please use the door. Find out if they follow a budget strictly. You should never pay entirely for a project, the right builder can deliver your job with just a commitment from you which is usually between 15 – 30%

Question 7 – How Long Will this Project Take?

Answer – You SHOULD Expect: This project should take this specific amount of time

Why You Want to Hear this: While it is possible that unexpected challenges and unenvisaged problems can occur, an experienced builder will give you a specific period for your project to be completed. You cant live in your home during the renovation or remodelling, so you need to plan for how long you will be gone. Also, you want to find out their reputation for keeping to time.

Question 8 – Do You Have a Time and Materials Contract?

Answer – You SHOULD Expect: Yes, and we are more than willing to sign with you.

Why You Want to Hear this: A contractor who promises to be penalised for not keeping to time, is the builder you want to work with,

READ ALSO – What Are The Building Regulations for Loft Conversion?

Question 9 – Who Will Pull out the Necessary Permits?

Answer – You SHOULD Expect: We will

Why You Want to Hear this: Builders are fully aware of the applicable regulations and permits needed for a Loft Conversion or Home Extension. Since builders are the professionals, they should pull up the permits (in most cases, they add this to their quotes)

Question 10 – Which Part of The Project Do You Outsource?

Answer – You SHOULD Expect: We are a full–service company and have an experienced workforce to handle your project

Why You Want to Hear this: while it is not uncommon for builders to outsource some part of the project, this decision drives the overall price quoted for you. You want to work with a builder that offers a complete service.

Conclusion

What you end up with as the completed home renovation or conversion rests squarely on the kind of builder you contracted, and you want to ask the right questions.