How To Pick Your Builder – A Checklist

Posted Friday, 24 August 2018

We recognise that most people shop around before deciding on a builder to renovate their home. Some builders may quote a cheaper price for a similar renovation by underestimating the actual work required, not taking into account any possible problem areas and skimping on the quality of materials. We have developed a user-friendly checklist that will give you peace of mind when comparing quotes from builders and to ensure nothing is overlooked when making your comparisons.

Use this list to avoid getting caught out by the ‘tricks of the trade’!

Design

  • The square meter area of a home can be measured in different ways. Some builders include decks, patios or cobbled areas. Some builders include the void above the stairs in a two-storey home. Is the builder using a method that represents a true reflection of the size of your finished home?
     
  • Will the builder come to your proposed building renovation site to ensure it’s suitable for the kind of changes you have in mind?
     
  • Does the builder provide a comprehensive design consultation service, including a professional colour consultant and other specialists as required?
     
  • Can the builder provide modern visual design aids and access to professional designers to help ensure you achieve the ideal plan for your renovation needs?
     
  • Can the builder help you ascertain whether there are specific requirements or restrictions’ regarding your renovated/extended home’s location on the site?
     
  • Can the builder ensure that your house plan to renovate will meet all council standards relating to building height restrictions and boundary setbacks?
     
  • Can the builder advise you whether your building renovation site requires a specific engineer designed foundation, or whether it requires special reinforcing or treatment because it is in a high wind zone or close to the coast?
     
  • Is the builder happy to visit your site and offer free advice/suggestions on the “Wish List” items for your renovation?

 

Inclusions

When prices are quoted, make sure they’re accompanied by a detailed schedule of what’s included. “Provisional Cost” sums can be deceptive. A Provisional Cost sum (PC sum) is an amount of money a builder allows when they do not know an accurate cost for an item. It is effectively an estimate within the contract price. Unfortunately, some builders include a PC sum that is very low, compared to the ultimate price, as it makes their overall contract price appear less. The homeowner then has to make up the difference.

  • Is the quote comprehensive in its inclusions and easy to understand?
     
  • Has the builder explained what is not included?
     
  • Are standard foundation design costs covered? Some builders often treat even simple excavations and earthworks as extras
     
  • Has provision been made for any soil tests that may be required?
     
  • If the builder’s contract or quote includes any provisional sums, do you understand what they are for?
     
  • Is full drainage included? Some builders only include a minimal PC sum.
     
  • Does the quotation include a “full” kitchen? Often, only a minimal value is allocated, or a PC amount that will not provide a suitable kitchen that meets modern standards.
     
  • Are there underground services crossing your site and has provision been made in the renovation design to accommodate these?

 

Credibility

  • Can your builder enable you to view any homes currently being renovated, or any completed renovation projects where you can check the quality of workmanship?
     
  • Is the builder licensed and/or affiliated with a recognised industry body such as Master Builders?
     
  • Can the builder prove that they have the relevant experience?
     
  • Can the builder provide written testimonials from past clients?

 

Confidence

  • Does the builder have a dedicated construction co-ordinator who will personally manage all sub-trades on your site, keep you informed of progress and answer any questions you may have?
     
  • Does the builder have a structured business with the systems and back-up to manage the renovation of your home in an orderly, professional manner?
     
  • Does the builder have the back-up of a large national and international franchise network?
     
  • Does the builder avoid industry jargon and take the trouble to explain what’s what in everyday English?
     
  • Can you be confident that the builder will be there to complete your full building contract and their ongoing responsibilities?

 

Advice

Can the builder help you find the specialist consultants who are reputable and reliable, including:

  • Geotechnical Engineers
     
  • Structural Engineers
     
  • Solicitors
     
  • Valuers
     
  • Financial Planners
     
  • Lenders
     
  • Landscape Designers

 

Timing

Make sure the building contract includes an agreed completion date. A fixed build time means the true construction cost can be known versus a “loose” build time which can mean additional rental, mortgage and storage payments, increasing the real construction cost.

  • Will the builder’s contract include a fixed contract price and an agreed completion date?
  • Will the contract include “liquidated damages” if your builder takes too long? “Liquidated damages” assists with any possible extra costs you may incur if your home isn’t completed on the agreed date.

 

Guarantees

  • Does the builder provide a materials and workmanship guarantee?
     
  • Does the builder provide a structural performance guarantee?
     
  • Does the builder have public liability insurance?
     
  • Unforeseen events can result in major delays leading to big cost increases and potential legal problems. Each Smith & Sons Renovations & Extensions franchise provides comprehensive insurance cover to protect your investment.

 

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