We all have a wish list of “jobs” for around the house. Whether it’s building work, such as adding an extension or a conservatory, or just updating a room – replacing the kitchen or bathroom for example, but it’s important to give the work full consideration before you rush headlong into a project.
Here’s the top five things we think you need to consider:-
Does the project you have in mind require any kind of planning permission or building regulations approval? It’s always best to check! Adding a conservatory to your house is considered to be permitted development, not needing an application for planning permission, subject to the limits and conditions which you can read about here.
There’s a list here of 20 things you can do without planning permission, but again, if in doubt a quick call to your local council to double check is always a good idea.
It’s ideal to have a budget in mind before you kick off the project. No, you won’t yet have got any quotes in so it’s hard to know exactly how much you’ll need, but depending on whether you’re saving to get a project done, or going to take out a loan, it’s good to have a target amount that you want to get to or anticipate that you might need. Google is great for things like this, so with a few searches, as an example, you can find out that you’ll probably need around £4-5k for an average bathroom refurbishment, so this is a great place to start for your saving plan! Sarah Beeny has some budgeting top tips here.
3.Source your builder / contractor
Word of mouth is the best way to find a really good local builder / contractor, particularly if it’s close friends or family and you can go round and view the work done. As an extension of this, social media has become a great way to get recommendations – a simple post asking if anyone knows a good bathroom fitter (for example) will see plenty of responses back.
If perhaps you’re new to an area or can’t get personal recommendations then you can always search (Google or local directories) for a local contractor and ask them for references and contacts of people they have worked for previously. Don’t be shy about getting in touch with their previous clients, and even asking to pop round to view the work.
Check out your prospective contractor fully – make sure you know that they are qualified (where they need to be), regulated (where they need to be), fully contactable and traceable and that you can communicate with them. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t hire them. Here’s a post from Homebuilding & Renovating on how to find a good builder.
4.Get a selection of quotes
Many contractors like to provide and off the cuff, verbal quote – this is not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to charge for quotes. Whilst it’s fair to say that putting together a comprehensive written quote does take time, it’s not fair to expect you to commit to spending out large sums of money without this in place.
If you can get two or three quotes for the same project then this will give you a good indication of whether your are being quoted a fair price, and if you prefer one contractor but their price is higher than the rest, you can find out what it is they are offering that is coming out at a higher cost and perhaps negotiate them down a bit.
Be clear on whether you are being given a quote or an estimate. A quote is a fixed price, so you know what you’re getting and how much it will cost. An estimate is exactly that, an estimation, a rough guess, so you may end up paying more.
Be as specific as possible about the work you want done as this will help you to get an accurate price and prevent misunderstandings down the line.
A quote should include a fixed total price where possible (rather than a day rate), a breakdown of all the work to be done and the materials required (and don’t be afraid to recommend your own suppliers, such as Forestrall, if you know somewhere where good quality material can be sourced at great prices), separate costs for each material and part of the work, how long the price is valid for and if VAT is included or to be added.
If your chosen contractor does prefer to quote on a day rate instead of a fixed total price then you should ask them to confirm in writing (prior to starting work) how many days the work will take and how many hours of work counts as a day.
Once you have agreed and accepted a quote, that is confirmation that the job can go ahead at the price given. The contractor then cannot charge you more than the price on their quote unless you ask for extra work that’s not included in the quote or they let you know they have to do extra work and you agree to pay more for it. The only aside from this is if they have made a genuine mistake when writing down or calculating the price, then they do have the legal right to charge you what it should have been.
Check out these 13 hidden costs often missing from builders’ quotes.
Once you’ve got your quotes, and decided on your preferred contractor, think hard about timing. Don’t be pressured by your contractor (“I only have one available three week window of opportunity this year” for example…) as the disruption will be to your life so the timing has to be right for you. If you have chosen the right contractor then they will be worth waiting for, or they will work with you to fit in with your availability.
You’ll need to know in advance the downtime of the room being worked on – i.e. if it’s a kitchen or bathroom, how long will you be without these facilities? Easier to manage in the summer without a kitchen for a couple of weeks (think salads and barbecue!) than in the winter. Perhaps a bathroom could be fitted whilst you are on holiday for a fortnight? Don’t be afraid to be selfish and make it totally about you!