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Builders - how to spot the good, the bad, and the ugly

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Have you got renovation plans for your home? Are you considering an extension, or a basement conversion? But you don’t know where to start or how to find a builder for your project. Our new customers tell us all the time how daunting it can be to find builders you know you can trust. So, we’re going to share some of their questions, and our tips, on how to spot the good, the bad, and the ugly!


How do I find reliable builders near me?

Recommendations - Friends, neighbours, and family are perfect for honest feedback! Perhaps you’ve seen the work or heard about their builders and so know whether you’d be comfortable taking them on too. Ask them if they felt the pricing was fair for the work that was done, and how the builders were to deal with overall.

Other trades are also a source for recommendations. If you know plumbers or electricians in the area for instance, they may have contacts for you. Afterall, they may end up working together, depending on what your project is, so they will only recommend local builders they know and trust.

Observations - Driving around your local area is a great way to find a builder. Look out for any house building or renovation work currently going on. Are there any advertising boards on display? And don’t be afraid to ask questions of the homeowner.

You’ll get a good feel for how the builder operates from looking at the site itself too. Is it tidy? Can you see evidence of health and safety on site? Are the neighbours being inconvenienced? Would you be happy if this were your home and your builders?

Search online - Trustworthy and dependable builders are likely to have a website or social media platforms. So, search for before and after pictures, and recent customer testimonials, before making any decisions.

You can also use trade sites as a search tool. Hundreds of local builders, building contractors, and other tradespeople will be listed. Builders don’t have to join a trading body, such as the National Federation of Builders, Guild of Builders and Contractors, or the Federation of Master Builders. So, trade sites such as Checkatrade are a good starting point, as they are rated or ‘vetted’ according to their customer service, skills, professionalism, and reliability.

In summary, there are always going to be good, bad, and ugly reviews, so be prepared to take your time. Try to see work completed, without just relying on online searches.

This could be a huge investment for you, so it’s vital you find the right builders for your job.


Pricing the job – beware of ‘too good to be true’ quotes

You’ve found some builders to choose from, now you need to think about the cost. If you’ve done nothing like this before, we know this can be even harder than finding us in the first place. Which is why Total Trades is totally transparent in our quotations. But we also know, not all building contractors are the same!

Just remember, the cheapest isn’t always the one to go for. And the most expensive doesn’t always mean the highest quality, so:

  • We recommend getting three quotes, don’t simply rely on one.
  • Make sure you ask the same questions of each of the builders for a true comparison, like with like.
  • Does the quote include waste removal? Labour, materials, and VAT? Who is responsible for any local permissions, and is the cost of any relevant inspections or certification included?
  • Be clear on payment terms.
  • Look out for ‘red flags’ such as asking for labour charges, or even worse the total, upfront, cash payment discount or VAT free quotes. Staged payments are a good way to work through the project, paying for each part of the work once you are satisfied with completion.
  • Ask for timescales – any experienced tradespeople will be able to give you an estimated time for completion. You don’t want a rushed job. Nor do you want a company who deliberately drag it out. And be careful if they’re available to start immediately! You might think it’s great to get them working straight away. But here at Total Trades, we have a waiting list for any new jobs coming in. Most reputable builders will, I’m afraid.

Finally, ask for whatever is agreed to be confirmed in writing. For instance, if you agree to source some of the materials yourself or are doing any preparation. This protects all parties and should give you peace of mind that you will get what you are expecting.


What other questions should I ask my builder?

Total Trades never shy away from any questions. We’re here to help you, so here are some of the things we’ve been asked, which might also help you if you’re currently looking for builders to hire.


How long have you been in business?

This is always a good indication of the level of experience and reliability. Good, reputable builders should have a number of years in the trade, and if they have a longstanding reputation in your area, even better!


Do you have references?

We are proud of our customer testimonials and evidence of jobs we have completed. Any builders asked for references or reviews should be the same and produce them right away. Ask for examples of projects completed within budget, timescales, professionally, and completely satisfactory. And follow up with previous customers if you are given the opportunity.


What qualifications or trade memberships do you have?

As I mentioned earlier, it’s not obligatory for builders and building contractors to join trading bodies. And qualifications alone don’t always indicate the level of experience and expertise. Being backed by trade associations offers extra protection for you should anything go wrong. But you will also find this from customer testimonials and trade reviews. And simply ask your builder how they deal with such things. We understand your concerns and will gladly take the time to explain.


What insurances do you have?

Definitely one to ask. Check what insurance is in place, and exactly what it covers. It protects all parties in worst case scenarios, and we are often asked to provide evidence of our liability cover. It might also be worth checking your own insurance too.


Do you provide a warranty or guarantee?

Whilst we hope nothing will go wrong, and that you will be completely satisfied with everything your builder does, we are also aware that they sometimes do. Again, reputable, and trustworthy building contractors will always offer a guarantee, and you should never be afraid to ask for the details before finally signing any contracts.

We can give you all the hints, tips, and recommendations. But at the end of the day, you must go with your ‘gut’ feel. So, if you’re happy to make a decision, and your plans are in place, let your builder make your dreams a reality!


Why Total Trades are THE local builders you can rely on

As a family run business, with 20+ years in the building trade, we know the importance of trust and transparency. And our excellent customer testimonials reflect just that.

We are known in Doncaster and the South Yorkshire areas for being prompt, reliable and professional in all building work we complete. Treating each project with the same level of pride and respect, as if it were our own home.

You know exactly who you are dealing and how to contact us. And we talk in a language you understand – no industry jargon.

Whether yours is a small job or a longer contract, we take on the entire project management, keeping you updated throughout.

All the Total Trades team are skilled and experienced. So, if we give you a quote, we’ll even let you know from the get-go if we may need a contingency budget. No hidden costs and no nasty surprises!

And as all our work meets local Council requirements, and health and safety standards, you can rest assured your home is in safe hands.

With all that in mind, we hope you have learned more about choosing builders, the good, the bad, and the ugly? If you are looking for a no obligation quotation for a home extension, basement conversion, or any other house building work, contact us and let us show you that Total Trades are the builders you really can trust!

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