Home renovations can become a significant investment of people’s time and money – and can also have a considerable impact on domestic life and well-being. With such high stakes, you want to be sure you choose the right contractor for the job. Maximise the return on your loft conversion, kitchen refurbishment or extension by following these top tips.
Doing your research
If you can find a contractor by referral from family or friends, so much the better, but take these points into consideration in any case:
- Choose companies with premises you can visit as they’re more likely to be experienced and well-established.
- Check their reviews on Google and weed out any that don’t look good to you.
- Drive past a few of their existing sites to see if they are tidy operators.
- Ensure they guarantee the price won’t escalate unless you add finishing items such as built-in wardrobes.
- Ensure the stage payment process has maximum 10% deposit and the stage payments give you peace of mind. The payments should not exceed 20%.
- Check their accreditations and certification: NICEIC approval for electrical work, Gas Safe registration for gas work and Velux or FENSA credentials for windows.
- Ensure they have public and employee liability insurance and ask for a copy. Although most legitimate companies detail their guarantees and insurance on their websites, it’s also worth exploring just how far their guarantees and insurance go in covering your own project. Do guarantees include construction materials, labour and quality of work – so if problems arise you can be assured that the company will rectify things? Does insurance include unexpected events which might occur during the build, such as extreme weather conditions, damage to other parts of your property, or accidents that might occur with any equipment used or stored at your home?
- Check they have an underwritten 10-year warranty guarantee in case they cease to trade.
- Ensure they help you with your party wall and relevant notice(s).
- Make sure you have a single point of contact for all questions and support. Although most companies do use mobile numbers, these should be offered as well as a dedicated landline number and premises address. If the company offers a mobile number but no other point of contact, then this should raise questions about the legitimacy of this company’s practices.
- Make sure their teams are long-term members of the company. If not, you can’t be sure that previous work will be any guarantee of a good job on your project.
- Check their specification thoroughly and ensure all your requirements have been included.
Arranging a site visit
Once you’ve eliminated some contractors and identified a short-list of potential professionals, it’s important to get at least three companies round for a site visit and a quote.
Site visits are important to help identify all aspects of your project and will inform both design possibilities and the costs involved. For example, a site visit for a loft conversion can identify whether a water tank needs to be moved or whether extra head-room is required. The site visit also provides a good opportunity to check measurements and the condition of the roof and rafters, to allow realistic thinking about the design type, finish and likely costs.
When you meet with each company, take note of the following three pointers below.
Payments and quotes
Most reputable companies buy materials “on account” through builder’s merchants, so they should not require “money upfront” for materials. However, some reputable professional companies do offer payment plans which may require a small deposit. Any quotes should cover all aspects of the project – so if anything is missing, do check so that you know exactly what is and isn’t included. There should be no hidden extras, but you would be wise to check with each company about possible contingency budgets.
Each contractor making the site visit should:
- Provide a fully detailed quote.
- Take the time to go through it with you.
- Answer all questions clearly.
- Not pressure you in any way.
Ask about who will be doing the work so you can ensure that it’s the company’s specialist team, not outsourced individuals. Remember to also ask to meet with the project manager. If the company doesn’t have one, then think again whether this is the right company for you.
Those face-to-face meetings with each of your potential companies are when you should be asking specific questions about your renovation project.
Think about the following:
- Is your property in a conservation area and will it involve additional planning consent?
- Will there be domestic impact (such as timescales and any potential disruption) or budget contingencies?
- When will the work be completed? In a typical shower-soaked English summer, what steps will the contractor take to ensure that your home is watertight whilst the roof work is carried out?
- Who is responsible for liaising with building control so that if you decide to sell your property in the future, you will have the relevant paperwork?
Examples of previous work
Any reputable company will be happy to show you their previous work – in photos at the very least. Additionally, satisfied clients are often happy to show their loft conversion to prospective new clients. So, after checking three quotes, select two and ask if you can visit at least two recent jobs.
Ask the clients:
- What was the quality of work like?
- Was the communication and customer-care as you would expect?
- Did the work finish on schedule – 8-10 weeks?
- Did the contractor escalate costs without justification?
- Were they respectful and tidy – including considerations of noise etc?
- Any other questions pertinent to your needs, including snagging and providing certificates when signing off the project.
After following these steps, you should have a good idea which contractor you feel most comfortable with. If any have been distant, uncontactable or unhelpful during the initial research and quotation process, that should alert you that they’re probably not the best choice.
Why choose Abbey Lofts?
At Abbey Lofts we’re proud of our reputation and do all we can to make sure our clients are more than satisfied. Find out more about why you should choose us or contact us on 0330 108 8844 for more information.