Thursday, May 17, 2012

Q. How do I find a reliable builder?

Q. I am planning to build a very simple extension to my house. How do I find a reliable builder?

A. If you have plans and specifications ready it would be a good idea to have your Architect or Engineer recommend a builder. This dramatically increases the likelihood that they have professional references and they will be loyal to the Architect (or engineer) as well as yourself because the repeat business they cherish will come from them and not you. The entire building process is complex at the best of times and is only worsened if a good trustworthy relationship is not established with a competent builder at the outset. John Ruskin once said "There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey." This quote is particularly apt when it comes to construction. Before you put any builder on your tender list make sure he is insured with 3 types of insurance, (Public Liability Insurance to cover the brick falling on the passer-by's head, Employer's liability insurance to cover the chap falling off the roof and Contractors All Risk's Insurance to cover the works so you get more than just "sorry Maam" when the chap with the blow torch sets it on fire the day before handover). Avoid "cash" deals (i.e. 13.5%VAT avoidance) as they forfeit your legal protection and if your builder lies to the taxman maybe he lies to you too! A local builder in a country village will normally behave himself to preserve his reputation but in large cities like Dublin it is too easy for the rogue builders to flit around the place undetected. My strong advice would be to not allow anyone price who is not pre-approved as outlined above. Having said all this there are a number of very competent, experienced and fair builders who will work on tight and competitive, though not impossible, profit margins. Remember that "The Workman is worthy of his wage" and the last thing you want is a builder going into liquidation while on your project. As a rough rule of thumb I would advise that any works over €30,000 in value should have at least a partial service by an Architect and anything over €60,000 should have a full service where a standard RIAI contract is administered and interim payments are certified by the architect. Strangely enough most people find that, for a small proportion of the overall spend, the architect saved them a fortune in the entire process. As always we at Help My House are happy to advise on site for any specific project for the €150 fee.