Dudley Council cannot recommend specific builders, however we can offer the following advice.
Prepare a written description of the work required. For extensions and larger projects, getting plans prepared beforehand is advisory so the builder is fully aware of the design.
Ask for written quotes from at least 3 reputable companies with reputations to maintain. Get referrals from family and friends or your architect wherever possible. Seek recommendations and references, and ask to see examples of their recent work. Make sure that the work referred to is of a similar type as the work you want doing. For instance a builder who specialises in small extensions may not be able to handle a loft conversion. Don't choose the first trader who knocks at your door! Avoid cold callers.
Find out whether the contractor is a member of a trade association that may give extra security should a dispute arise, or has been approved by the Quality Mark Scheme. Check these claims are genuine by contacting the relevant bodies or organisations. It may be that the contractor's membership has lapsed. What qualifications does the builder provide?
Establish that the company has permanent base, and be wary of companies that only provide a phone number. Increasingly companies are using freephone numbers, but these give no indication of where the company might be based, and could be linked to a mobile phone. Find out how long the business has been in operation.
Don't be hurried or pressurised into making a decision. If a builder does so, then simply look elsewhere.
Finally, make sure the company you choose has insurance that covers any damage the trader might cause to you and your neighbour's property. Also make sure that either the contractor's or your own insurance covers death and personal injury.
Firstly, make sure that you get all estimates in writing along with an outline of what works are to be done, start and completion dates, security and safety, waste disposal and hours of working. For larger jobs there is an industry wide contract available in the form of JCT 2005 (Joint Contracts Tribunal).
Avoid cash deposits. In most cases these are not necessary.
Some builders will want to be paid 'cash in hand' to avoid payment of taxes. If they are prepared to act dishonestly in that respect, can they be trusted to deliver a proper service? In addition, if there are no paper records, you may not be able to prove that payments have been made in case things go wrong. An invoice proves a relationship and can be helpful if a dispute arises.
Ask for details of the required payments. For all but small jobs, the builder may ask for payments at specific stages of the work. The payments should reflect the amount of work already completed.
- Make sure that your builder is calling out the Building Inspector at all relevant stages if they have agreed to do so on your behalf. Some builders do forget from time to time.
- Take plenty of photos of the building work as it progresses, as these can provide a good record of the work should any query arise. They could also provide evidence if things go wrong.
- Check to see that the building work has been completed to Building Control satisfaction and that a completion certificate has been issued before making the final payment.
This list is not exhaustive and should not be inferred as any form of recommendation