Tips for Choosing a Contractor

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By Alan Draper | May 2015

Here are a few simple points for you to consider when preparing for your work and choosing your contractor.

Before you start

  • Contact your local council planning department to check whether or not you need any consents to be granted – Planning and/or Building Regulation approvals. Don’t assume a contractor will possess this knowledge

Choosing a contractor

  • To begin, shortlist your choice of firms by recommendation, past use or local knowledge. (See the useful contact information below).
  • Seek written quotations from at least three of your short-listed contractors. It is always useful to contrast price with the builder’s reputation for quality of work.
  • Obtain references from previous clients.
  • Meet with your prospective contractors. Do they spend time looking around and trying to anticipate problems? How do they respond to your questions? Do they turn up on time? TOP TIP: Does the contractor ask about any of the following? How do I access the site? Do you have a water supply? Is their access to electricity? Less savvy contractors will not ask these questions.

After you have selected a contractor

  • Draw up an agreement that covers; work to be carried out, agreed price, start and finish dates and methods of payment.
  • Do not be pressurised into undertaking additional work or modifications that could prove an unexpected extra cost.
  • It may be advisable to take out an insurance-backed guarantee against the contractor falling into receivership part way through the work.
  • Never pay deposits or advance charges. Always stagger payments evenly over the duration of the contract to keep work progressing. Retained payment is the most effective way of ensuring defects discovered after completion will be corrected.
  • Be as clear as you possibly can about the way you intend to deal with any dispute arising over the work.
  • Always be fair with the contractor. Pay bills promptly if satisfied to avoid unnecessary ill feeling.

Useful Contacts

  • Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Tel: 0121 233 2321
  • Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Tel: 01203 694757
  • Federation of Master Builders Tel: 0121 421 2241
  • National Cavity Insulation Association Tel: 01428 654011
  • British Wood Preserving and Damp Proofing Association Tel: 0181 519 2588
  • British Plastics Federation Tel: 0171 457 5000
  • Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF) Tel: 0171 403 7177
  • National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting Tel: 0171 582 7746
  • The Council for Registered Gas Installers (CORGI) Tel: 01256 372200
  • National Register of Warranted Builders Tel: 0171 404 4155
  • National Association of Plumbing, and Mechanical Services Contractors Tel: 01203 470626
  • National Federation of Roofing Contractors Tel: 0171 436 0387
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