Top Tips for Employing a … Builder or Tradesman
Having building, general maintenance or home improvement work done can be difficult and stressful. But there are certain things you can do before you employ a builder or any tradesmen to try and make sure the job goes as smoothly as possible. It is important that you develop a positive and honest relationship with those undertaking work for you; the tips listed below will help you achieve that. Do not be afraid to ask lots of questions, do your research and know exactly what work has been agreed to be done and for what price.
If you are undertaking minor maintenance or repair work requiring the services of a plumber or electrician, for example, some of the points below are still of benefit to follow before making your decision.
It is recommended that you check to see if your building work requires planning permission, also check if your work needs to meet building regulations and consider whether you need to use a surveyor, architect or quantity surveyor. Visit the Planning and Building section on www.gov.je, which gives information and guidance regarding property development.
Be clear about what you want
Write a detailed description of the work that needs to be done as far as you understand it before talking to tradesman. If you are undertaking building work have a clear idea about what you want, draw a picture or cut out something from a catalogue or magazine to show the builder what you’re looking for. The more specific you are, the greater your chances of getting an accurate quote for the work, and there is also less chance of any misunderstandings occurring between you and the builder or tradesman.
Find out what you should pay for the work
Get written quotes from at least three tradesmen. Make sure these are quotes and not estimates. An estimate is a rough price a guess that could change. A quote is an exact price, which can’t be increased later without your agreement. Make sure the quote is in writing, breaking down the cost of doing the work and the cost of materials. Sometimes tradesmen may charge for providing quotes ñ check this out in advance.
If the tradesman uses particular terminology for example as good as new, clarify exactly what this means ñ does it mean simply in working order or that the final product will be the same in every way as if you had purchased it new.
Ask how long the builder has been trading and what experience they have. Get references and ask to see recent examples of their work if possible. This is better than just getting written references, which can potentially be faked.
In Jersey we have the benefit of being able to get personal recommendations easily; ask around amongst those you trust.
Ask if the tradesman has NVQ or HND qualifications in the appropriate field i.e. construction, electrical work, plumbing etc and if uncertain perhaps ask to see copies of their certificates. You could also contact a trade association to see which qualifications are relevant to the type of work being done if you are not sure. If you’re having electrical or gas work done in particular, you will need specially qualified people to meet safety standards. Professional associations can often help you find suitably qualified people.
Agree costs and how long the job should take
Agree as much with the builder as possible in advance to avoid problems later on. It is best to get this agreement in writing:
Agree a fixed total cost, or daily rate of pay and at least a firm estimate of the number of days the job is likely to take. Make sure you’re clear about how many hours work a builder will do per day for the price quoted. Bear in mind that if you pay a daily rate, this makes it easier for a builder to potentially take longer completing the work and so charge more money, so agree what you will do if the job takes longer than expected. For example, agree that the tradesman will contact you to discuss the job going beyond a certain deadline/limit and to explain why.
Don’t pay the builders fee up-front and before the job starts. Deposits are usually only payable where custom-made materials are needed or where the project will take a long time to complete. If the project is a large one, agree staged payments, which will keep the work progressing. That way, any problems can be put right before the final payment. Make sure that it is clear at which point in the work the payments are due and what work you expect to have been done by that time.
Go through the list of materials to work out prices. Or you could go to a builders merchant or electrical supplier etc. together to see what you can negotiate to make the price cheaper (or ask the builder to do this).
Check whether the tradesman has insurance
Check that the tradesman has appropriate insurance cover, and that it won’t run out while they are working mid-way through your job! Tradesmen should have public liability insurance, which is needed in case someone gets hurt on site. They may also have cover in case there is damage to your property; they go bust, or have an accident, so that arrangement can be made for another person to finish the job.
Ask when the tradesman can start
This could be up to a year in the future, particularly if they are good and have a lot of other work lined up.
Many projects require a blend of skills ñ electricians, plumbers and builders for example. You will need to establish who is organising the different tradesman and ensuring that the right individuals are in place to ensure that the work is undertaken in a logical and timely flow. Ensure that each party knows what is happening and where the responsibilities lie (including as to payment) and how prices may be affected.
Get a written contract
If it is a large or complicated job, make sure you get something in writing. This could be a contract, a letter of agreement or a written quotation; the Federation of Master Builders example building contract for home-owners or occupiers could be used as a basis for your agreement. This covers standard contract details and is downloadable from www.findabuilder.co.uk
On occasion your tradesman may find that you require additional work if once started there are unforeseen difficulties ñ you will need to renegotiate the contract and price, and if necessary ask for some additional quotes. If you change your mind and alter some details or requirements you will need to explain in detail the changes and renegotiate the contract and price.