We already touched on what role an architect can play in your chosen build, from coordinating with contractors and quantity surveyors, keeping the project running smoothly and producing an attractive, functional building. It’s entirely possible (if not probable) that your architect will know a builder they like working with, and would be happy to recommend for the project. However, for smaller builds you can always go the route of trying to source a builder yourself. Just keep in mind that it may prove a challenge you weren’t expecting.
Famous TV builder Tommy Walsh had these words:
“Get recommendations from friends and professionals, but bear in mind the old saying ‘one man’s meat is another’s poison’. Endorsements are subjective, and you must check them out, judging not only the finished work, but also how the builder handled the whole process, from running the budget, logistics, attendance, on-site facilities and regard for neighbours in terms of noise, mess and dust. You must ask your potential builder for a list of previous clients – contact them direct and prepare in advance a list of questions to ask them.”
As Walsh touches on, to best judge a prospective builder ensure that you have a proper conversation with previous clients. They will be able to give you a much more rounded idea of how the experience went. If it becomes apparent they have an axe to grind, find out why!
The Federation of Master Builders has its own very helpful search tool. You’ll be able to use it to find all manner of tradespeople in your area of the country, as well as discover their past experience and read any references. To become an FMB member isn’t easy, requiring a thorough vetting before they’re allowed in. Included in this process is a check on the insurances that the builder carries, which offers peace of mind as you make your search. All of this means that the builders you find through the FMB are likely to be ones you can trust to do a good job. That said, you should still do the research we mentioned above.
To get the best builders, you’re probably going to have to wait your turn. Anyone with a building project wants to hire the right personnel, and they’re using the same sort of ideas when making their search. You may have to wait six months or even a year for your chosen builder to find the time to fit you in—but that’s okay. As long as you can afford patience, this popularity is a decent indicator of their professionalism and quality.
The opposite should make you suspicious. Obviously if your research shows them to be excellent, you can make your own decision. But if a builder is able to take your project on immediately it may indicate he’s not pulling in much work, hinting at poor customer experiences.
When you contact your builder and choose to move forward, remember that a reputable professional will insist on contracts being signed. According to the FMB, most clients don’t arrange agreed payment schedules or warranties on work, either. This should be among the first things you discuss, and if a builder reneges on the work at the mention of binding paperwork they’re not worth your time.