Before arranging the visit with the builder, you should send him the drawings and your specification. A well-organised builder should familiarise himself with the drawings and the specifications. Having done so, he ought to ask related questions during his visit. This would be a good indication of a builder with a thorough approach – precisely what you are looking for.
Allocate at least one hour for the builder’s visit
You should allocate at least one hour for each builder’s visit – and please do make sure that you don’t schedule multiple builders visiting at the same time.
Each builder requires their own time to assess the project – exactly how long will depend on their personality and attention to detail. A builder with more experience and attention to detail ought to spend more than an hour asking you questions, giving his advice, taking pictures, making notes and checking the relevant dimensions.
See how punctual the builder is
See how punctual the builder is. If for some reason he is late, or cannot come, he should make sure that he informs you of this. This is a good indication of whether the builder respects their client’s time.
Ask for references, and visit one of their completed projects
During the meeting, you may wish to ask the builder to show you one of his recently completed projects, or provide you with contact details for some of his recent customers. Three such contacts should be enough to gain a reliable picture of the builder.
I strongly recommend visiting one of his recent projects if possible. This way, you will be able to look at the finishing touches and fine details for yourself, which are impossible to judge by looking at the pictures.
Do not take any shortcuts on this preparation stage
Avoid taking any shortcuts during this preparation stage. Spending a week or two closely examining your participating builders will save you considerable amounts of time and money in the long run, as you will find the right builder first time.
Attention to the details is key
You may have noticed that I’ve mentioned the phrase “attention to the details” quite a few times. A builder with the “attention to the details” attitude should apply the same approach not only to the cosmetic stages of the project, but to the structural steps as well. A house renovation project is always full of surprises, and is a complex combination of very different jobs; you therefore need an experienced builder who pays attention to the details in order to find efficient and effective solutions to the surprises and problems that often arise as a project progresses.
Here are some details to look for which will help to judge if the builder has an eye for detail:
- Look at the line between the wall and the ceiling – is it entirely straight, or is it wavy?
- Look at the line between the skirting board and the floor – is it a straight line, or are there gaps with different sizes all over the place?
- Look at the painting finish on the walls and around sockets and switches – are there smooth and continuous surfaces and nicely finished paint textures, or are the surfaces rough in some places? This means it has been painted without the proper preparation.
- Look at the tiling – are there neat symmetrical lines against corners and units, or are there small asymmetrical off-cuts in the corners? These could have been avoided by carefully planning the layout of the tiles.
- Look at the silicon around bathroom appliances and kitchen worktop – is there a correctly chosen silicon colour which runs with a nice sharp line, or is the colour unmatched and the line just smudged with a finger?
- Look at the sockets and the switches – are they in one line and levelled or not?
- Look at how the radiator pipes meet the wall and the floor – is there a good finish there?
This list is not exhaustive, but I’ll stop there, as otherwise we could be here all day. However, following this guide should help you check whether the builder has a sharp eye for finishes or not.
Once you are satisfied with the builders you have spoken to, you should ask about their availability.
If your desired builder is not available to start your project straight away – as often happens with residential projects – it would unwise to compromise on the builder you have chosen in order to start your project quickly. To avoid being put in this situation, I would recommend asking this question when you first meet the builders so that you leave more options for yourself.