Do you need help choosing a builder?

With so many “Builders” ( and i use the term loosely ) advertising their services, how can you determine which is the right one for you?
Recommendation is always a good source – preferably from somebody you know first hand, not a friend of a friend of a friends aunty fanny and uncle dick! but in addition, we have prepared a few questions / steps to take that may help you to choose a builder in stoke on trent, staffordshire or cheshire.

Q. Will you provide me with a detailed quotation and will you include everything on the drawings or specification?
Our answer – Yes, each one of our free building quotations is very detailed, there will be no doubts as to what is or isnt included, and we will make every effort to include items that we believe you will need regardless of whether they are on the drawing or not…that way we can do our best to avoid any unforseen costs.

Q. If you are awarded the project will you give me a start date, a completion date and are you prepared to offer compensation for each week that the project takes over this agreed timescale?
Our answer – Yes, we usually start a project within 3 weeks of instruction ( we use that period to gain brick matches, tile matches and finalising minor details ) at the outset you will be given an estimated completion date, and yes we are prepared to put our money where our mouth is and offer compensation if your project takes longer than we say. (excepting circumstances beyond our control such as weather, ground conditions etc )

Q. Can you give me references from other clients that have had building work carried out by you, and can i see your work?
Our answer – Yes, we can give you as many references as you like form clients past, present and prospective. We are confident that you will receive the same positive response from any of them. In addition we are quite happy for you to jump in the car with us, and we will drive you to any number of projects that we have completed so that we can demonstrate our ability to you.

Q. Are you adequately insured to carry out building work on my home?
Our Answer – Yes, ( ALL builders should have the minimum of public liability insurance ) We carry employers liability, public liability, product liability, and in addition we carry an additional “project work” policy that provides cover for projects upto 1/4 million pounds.

Q. Is your builder VAT registered?
Our Answer – Beware the VAT-free ‘deal’ A VAT-free deal means one of two things. Either the builder does not do more than £47,000 worth of business per annum, or alternatively he is avoiding his legal tax liabilities. You need to ask yourself – Is this builder large enough to be able to complete my work, Will he be around if any of the work requires repair?, How can I have a valid contract if there is no proof of payment? Of Course, Mason & Mason Construction Solutions Ltd is VAT registered.

Q. How and when will your builder require payment?
Our opinion – If your builder has to ask for payment up front then they dont have the depth of financial integrity to provide a reasonable guarantee that they can complete your project without you funding it!. As a professional builder we NEVER ask for payment up front, we usually agree a schedule of payments prior to the building works commencing. We usually ask for 4 or 5 payments throughout the project only representing an amount less or equal to than the value of works that are complete at that stage. The final balance is payable upon satisfactory completion and signing off by the local authority building inspector ( or other inspectors as appropriate )

Q. Will my building works affect neighbouring properties? and how will your deal with this?
We say – If your property has adjoining neighbours we would investigate your obligations under the “Party Wall Act” and assist you in dealing with this if required. We recognise that your relationship with neighbours is longstanding and you have to live with them long after we have left site. Prior to commencement we usually visit neighbours, offering our business card and contact numbers should they have any concerns whatsoever. We do our utmost to keep relationships at their best whilst your works are carried out and that means being sensitive to traffic in the street, protecting boundaries, keeping dust and noise levels to a minimum….Oh, and we dont wolf whistle!!

Q. Who manages the builders, organises the workforce, inspects the quality of work, liaises with the architects etc etc?
We say – WE DO, for each project there is one specific point of contact at Mason & Mason, you do not have to deal with the workforce on a daily basis as they will have clear instruction on what they are doing ( that doesn’t mean you cant offer them a cup of tea if you like though! ). We find that each client is different, some like to be very involved, watch whats going on and to be kept informed daily…others have other commitments and put trust in us to carry out the works unsupervised. We are happy with either or a mix…apart from key decisions on detailed matters, ie window design, socket positioning etc etc we are quite capable of carrying out the works without input, or your project manager is very happy to have daily contact with you keeping you fully informed of whats happening today and tomorrow.

Q. Does your builder have a permanent base or offices?
We say – would you entrust your home and a substantial amount of money in the hands of a builder that works from home or the garden shed?
Our offices are located in Hartshill, Stoke on Trent, and you are welcome anytime for a cup of tea when we are not out on site. When we are out of the office, our secretary will be happy to take any messages and inform us of your call. We will of course respond as soon as possible. Our Mobile phones are on 24/7 and should you have any concerns out of hours we are happy to be called. If we cannot answer we will return your call as soon as we can.

Q. Are you a member of a Trade Body?
We say – Yes, We Are Full NHBC Members, this means that we have undergone a personal technical interview, our financial status has been vetted so that we are financially secure, and on NHBC registered projects our work is inspected at key stages. There are other Trade organisations that assist in offering the client peace of mind, ie. FMB (The federation of master builders ) and they provide a similar level of vetting. Beware of how much weight that you put on certain trade bodies though, as there are some memberships schemes that only require a fee paid, and 3 references and then you are a member and can use the logo..our personal opinion is that they could be open to exploit.

Q. Is your price an estimate or a quotation?
We say – Beware!, as an estimate is open to change. Remember “the devil is in the detail” your builder should be able to provide you with a fixed price quotation based on the drawings and specification you provide. With Mason & Mason Construction our building quotations are exactly that, there is usually only 2 areas subject to review, The first being foundations ( we always quote for a standard foundation unless instructed otherwise as most builders would), ground conditions cannot be seen until works commence and occasionally require review if the conditions are poor. Make sure you ask your builder what they would charge if a situsation arose where extra dig was required or worse.
The second area open to change with Mason and Mason would be PC sums ( where we include an amount of money withinh our quotation to purchase something like a bathroom suite, or wall tiles etc ) we always include a realistic sum, but your personal taste may mean that you wish to spend more ( or less ) than we have included.

“The devil is in the detail”

There is one definate way that you can help yourself when approaching a building project, and that is to employ the services of a quality Architect. Trying to skimp on costs at this stage may mean that you end up with a poor drawing with little detail, therefore leaving the door open for cost items to be missed or misinterpreted. Plan your requiremenst in detail, giving your architect as much information as possible, that way he can include this on the working drawings.
In todays modern age, most architects use CAD systems – this may save you money in printing costs as you could request your drawings in PDF format for your builder to print out.
If you do not have an architect or you require some advice, our partnered Architect JPK Design would be happy to offer a initial consulation free of charge.