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Hiring a Builder

Today while walking my dog in the park a fellow dog walker unproptedly started complaining about their builder. The cause of the irritation was the lady homeowner wanted wooden window frames to be fitted in her Victorian house - fair enough. The argument from her builder was very forceful in favour of PVC and that in his opinion professional builders would not even consider fitting anything else, the argument ended with the builder insisting on speaking directly to the man of the house - oh dear...now that's really not going to help matters is it!

The real issue wasn't the builder's preference for PVC windows it was that he made an assumption that PVC would be chosen and had already ordered them! So now the Architect is humiliatingly teaching the builder how to install wooden window frames (something the builder propably knows already) while the builder is probably thinking about how he needs to return the PVC windows and how much money he will lose. The worst part is that the homeowners and builder need to continue to work together for months more and now resent eachother!

The lesson from this story is that communicating regularly and clearly about what we want and expect helps projects run smoothly and avoids conflicts - even better if you actually like and trust your builder.

Services provided by Builders

  • Brick - Wall, Pointing, Flashiings, Chimney
  • Convert & Extend - Kitchen Side Return, Loft, Basement, Conservatory
  • Damp Proof - Condensation, Water penetration, Tanking, Dry & Wet Rot, Mould, Woodworm
  • Door & Window - Folding sliding doors, Double Glazing, Sash, Roof Light, Velux
  • Floors - Carpet, Wood, Screed, Concrete, Resin, Asphalt
  • Glass - Window, Double Glazing, Roof Light, Structural, Mirror, Splash Back
  • Ground - Drains, Demolition, Foundations, Underpinning, Piling, Concrete, Diamond Drilling
  • Paving - Driveway, Path, Patio
  • Refurbish - Kitchen, Bathroom, Other
  • Roof - Lead, Slate, Tile, Gutters, Drain Pipe, Cladding, Insulation
  • Steel - Staircase, Railings, Gate, Window BArs, Balustrade, Balcony

How much does a Builder cost? – Rates & Prices?

Hourly and daily prices are generally highest in London and the Home Counties and can be considerably lower elsewhere. Use HaMuch to search in your area and you will see a graph of what Builders charge. Location, qualifications, overheads (office staff to answer your calls, appropriate insurance, clean vehicles and clothing etc) and how busy builders are all affect the price you will pay and the lowest or highest prices are not necessarily the best value for you. Getting an excellent builder for the right price while avoiding additional cost due to poor workmanship or cheap substandard materials is a challenge every homeowner regularly faces. It helps a lot if you communicate clearly what you want and treat your builders respectfully (they have mortgages, families and bills to pay too). If you get on with the building company you hire then you are more likely to avoid disagreements and have their ongoing support in the future should a problem occur.

Buillders have undertaken training, worked hard to build a repuation and take pride in what they do and so they are generally very professional and honest. What often leads to arguments is when unexpected problems and costs occur. To avoid these disruptive disagreements both the homeowner and builder should communicate before, during and at the end of a project so everyone understands what the expectations are, what is happening and what the outcome is meant to be. If at some stage something unexpected appears with the building works then together and calmly a plan of how to proceed (including additional costs if relevant) can be agreed without tearing each other’s heads off and everyone feeling hard done by.

Paying Cash - there used to be a big culture of paying cash to builders to avoid taxes/VAT etc and generally not receiving an invoice in return. Apart from being illegal it also leads to arguments and lack of on-going service. If you want honest people in your home then don’t encourage them to be dishonest.

VAT - Most builders are VAT registered because all the materials they buy/sell quickly takes them over the VAT threshold so normally you will be charged 20% VAT on top of the bill - check whether your quotes include this as it makes a big difference. Some building works have reduced or no VAT depending on current laws e.g. works which improve efficiency or are Eco friendly. Your builder may not be a VAT expert so if you think your work is exempt check for yourself and then point it out.

Materials Mark-Up - we can all google the cost of everything nowadays but the lowest price isn’t necessarily what your builder will be paying. They cannot spend days shopping on different trade websites if they are to finish a project on time plus they need to be on the tools working. When they arrange, collect and sometimes even return materials it costs time and money so it is natural that they build in a margin to cover this. If you want to organise buying expensive items yourself to save not paying a Mark-Up then many builders will work with you on this as long as you allow them to earn a fair income overall.

Payment schedule - is made up of 3 stages; deposit, stage completion payments and final completion payment. It is important that the expected amounts, timing and conditions for payment are written down and agreed by signature so everyone knows what to expect and arguments are avoided.

Deposit - It is fair to pay a deposit to cover materials which is often 20%

Stage completion payments - this should be simple as long as you have a written agreement.

Completion payment - the amount held back for completion should be significant so that it is worthwhile the builder enduring any snagging process where together you look at any details of the job which require completing prior to the final payment.

Extra Costs - Even with the best laid plans and years of experience extra labour or materials can be required on top of those budgeted for. The potential for argument would be where the labour or materials is not perceived as ‘Extra’. Try to both be fair and if these extras were not agreed then often it is appropriate to have a discussion about what is an additional fair cost – however this should not be an opportunity to charge excessively.

Availability

Good builders are always busy so start selecting your building contractor months in advance. Everyone wants projects finished by Christmas but the usually take longer than expected so either plan to finish by October and possibly be in for Xmas or set a few extra seats at the table a put on a smile for your builder guests who should be happy to eat the first meal from your just in time finished kitchen.

Guarantee

Make sure you agree what you expect the guarantee to be and how long for.

Reputation

Some builders have ratings on their profile page or you can ask them for past customer’s contact numbers and speak to them directly about their experience.

Insurance

All Builders need to be covered by Public Liability Insurance which covers everything from a personal injury claim to damage to your property i.e. if your builder breaks something in your house or has an accident, the insurance company will pay for it. Your builder should either have their own policy or one from their employer which covers them – ask to see a copy. The amount varies from £1 to £5 million etc dependent on any potential claim size.

Choosing Products, Brands or Specifications

If you are installing a Sky Light or Doors then most likely you (the home owner) will have selected it. Once you move away from the visible products to functional things like bricks or window frames etc then the builder is more likely to be guiding or outright making the decisions. There will be cost and installation time differences for different brands or systems eg maybe you would like a wall built from old yellow London bricks rather than standard red ones and if you do not discuss your preferences then you may end up with the cheapest and easiest to install which may not be ideal for you a couple of years later. Ask your builder what the benefits are of each system and then decide whether you want to pay extra, this way even if you pick the cheapest option at least you know what you are getting.

Questions to ask a Builder

  1. May I see your relevant building qualifications?
  2. May I see your Public Liability Insurance cover paperwork?
  3. May I contact one of your previous customers to get a direct reference?
  4. What product brand/design (e.g. Sky Light and Window Frame) options are available for the project we are discussing and what are the benefits and cost differences of each?

Addtional Building Services Required

For large projects you might need to hire an Architect or Structural Engineer.

Builder: Average Hourly and Daily Charges in UK Cities

LocationHourly Cost / RateDaily Cost / Rate
London£34£216
Birmingham£25£201
Leeds£25£187
Glasgow£33£244
Sheffield£29£248
Bradford£25£185
Liverpool£26£179
Edinburgh£28£214
Manchester£30£189
Bristol£26£196
Kirklees£25£186
Fife£32£235
Wirral£26£180
North Lanarkshire£27£197
Wakefield£24£185
Cardiff£24£169
Dudley£24£192
Wigan£25£183
East Riding£20£151
South Lanarkshire£23£207
Coventry£25£200
Belfast£20£133
Leicester£24£181
Sunderland£25£196
Sandwell£24£192
Doncaster£24£178
Stockport£31£195
Sefton£25£177
Nottingham£34£208
Newcastle-upon-Tyne£26£196
Kingston-upon-Hull£18£139
Bolton£27£190
Walsall£24£197
Plymouth£29£204
Rotherham£27£227
Stoke-on-Trent£30£176
Wolverhampton£24£193
Rhondda, Cynon, Taff£24£166
South Gloucestershire£26£199
Derby£32£196
Swansea£23£185
Salford£29£186
Aberdeenshire£25£250
Barnsley£27£225
Tameside£30£194
Oldham£30£189
Trafford£30£198
Aberdeen£25£250
Southampton£30£209
Highland£19£190
Rochdale£31£189
Solihull£24£186
Gateshead£26£194
Milton Keynes£30£207
North Tyneside£27£204
Calderdale£23£167
Northampton£79£463
Portsmouth£27£195
Warrington£27£195
North Somerset£27£208
Bury£31£195
Luton£31£206
St Helens£25£174
Stockton-on-Tees£37£199
Renfrewshire£35£257
York£26£186
Thamesdown£27£200
Southend-on-Sea£35£194
New Forest£32£228
Caerphilly£24£169
Carmarthenshire£21£164
Bath & North East Somerset£25£197
Wycombe£39£223
Basildon£34£204
Bournemouth£32£223
Peterborough£34£220
North East Lincolnshire£22£174
Chelmsford£31£208
Brighton£27£209
South Tyneside£27£200
Charnwood£29£181
Aylesbury Vale£33£224
Colchester£28£194
Knowsley£25£176
North Lincolnshire£20£157
Huntingdonshire£34£213
Macclesfield£30£181
Blackpool£21£159
West Lothian£22£165
South Somerset£29£219
Dundee£25£204
Basingstoke & Deane£48£226
Harrogate£24£183
Dumfries & Galloway£22£180
Middlesbrough£41£197
Flintshire£24£182
Rochester-upon-Medway££
The Wrekin£24£197
Newbury£44£228
Falkirk£21£157

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