With the builders all done and dusted David and I had time to reflect on the whole process, what went well and what we might have done differently.
Here are our few lessons learnt:
1. Do your research.
Do not choose a builder because they are cheap or can start straight away. Do not choose a builder because a friend of a friend, of a friend recommended them, although recommendations are a good place to start. Do your research, make sure you get a minimum of three quotes and choose your builder because you feel comfortable with them. You are trusting them with your home and your money, so take the time to choose wisely. You can read more about how we chose our builders here.
2. Get a detailed schedule of works with a clear breakdown of the costs.
This was one of the things that made our builders stand out from the rest when they originally quoted for the work. Their schedule of works was so detailed, every aspect of the job broken down into separate components. It was so clear and we knew exactly what we were getting. Having this document was invaluable and we used it as a tick list throughout the works.
Each component was separately priced so we knew exactly how the final costs were calculated and it was easy to adjust to fit our budget. We had a clear payment schedule and did not have to start paying until the works were fully underway. Most good builders do not ask for payment upfront, I would be very dubious of paying for any work that not been completed.
3. Have regular on sight meetings with your builders/project manager.
David and I both work full time and normally had left for work by the time the builders arrived in the morning, and got home after they had left in the evening. We were ships passing the night and by week two decisions started be made without us.
For example, we have plans for a high spec exactor fan but the builders installed low spec ducting. We quickly realised that we needed to have regular on sight meetings, even if it was just once a week to make sure we were being kept in the loop.
Annoyingly our project manager tried to convince us that the ducting they had installed was fine, luckily David had done his research and stuck to his guns. After replacing it three times they finally got it right, at no extra cost to us. Which leads me nicely to my next point…
4. Never assume.
Never assume that your builders know best and never assume that you are on the same page. Do your research so you can talk knowledgeably about what is going on and do not be afraid to question what they are doing.
We wrongly assumed they knew what ducting to use and maybe if we had been clearer in the first place it would have saved them having to redo it, twice.
5. Find out upfront if they going to subcontract any of the work.
Our builders subcontracted the plastering and unfortunately he did a poor job. When we hired our builders we did so because we liked them and thought they would do a good job, but we had never met the plasterer and had no idea if he was any good or not. In hindsight we should have requested that if they were going to subcontract the plastering anyway, they use our plasterer, as we know he would have done a good job.
In the grand scheme of things, it is not that bad, but it would have saved us a lot of sanding and filling!
6. Make sure you are in control of building control.
Although our builders did liaise with building control, we did not leave it entirely in their hands. We made sure that we were up to date on what was going on and that the necessary checks were being done. After all it was in our interest to make sure all the certificates were issued.
Things will go wrong, there will be extra costs and it will take longer than you think. Your house will be messy, dusty, dirty and nothing short of chaotic but if you worry about every little thing you will go mad, so try to relax, go with the flow and know that it will all be all in the end.
On the whole we were very lucky with our builders, it is always a risk paying to have work done in your home and you do hear some terrible horror stories. So we are pretty pleased with the outcome and are looking forward to starting the next phase of the project.