The Self Build Self Help Site Hiring Contractors
Hiring Contractors

Having the right people working for you is crucial if you want the build to go as you have planned and to keep within budget and timescales and, just as importantly, getting quality workmanship and attention to detail.

Most people in the building industry are hard working and aim to give a good professional service. However, it will be no surprise that there are some tradesmen who will not produce the desired quality, so it is essential to take some basic precautions to check them out.

One of the key decisions is whether to get a price for the job or engage someone on an hourly/daily rate.

Price for the Job

The major madvantage of getting a price for the job is that it will help your budgeting and help compare quotes from a number of contractors. The major downside is that there may be the tendency to complete the job as quickly as possible and corners could be cut, there may not be the attention to detail etc. Many jobs turn out to be more lengthy than estimated, or problems may be encountered - this means that the tradesman is effectively losing out, and the urge to cut corners is even greater. One wat to mitigate this is to discuss with the contractor how to deal with unforeseen circumstances - without giving the notion that they can take liberties!

Many people will tend to shy away from an hourly/daily rate thinking that this may lead to an unscrupulous person taking advantage. But, some large building companies prefer paying daily rates in order to get the quality of work and they will have had plenty of experience!

Hourly/daily Rate

If you take on contractors on a hourly/daily rate then ask what happens if the weather is bad and they cannot work. A common approach is that if you are able to call off the work before they set out then you will not have to pay. If they arrive for work but it is rained off then you will have to pay them

Price per Block/Brick

In the case of general builders or bricklayers, you may be faced with a request to be paid per block, per brick or per square metre of wall. This is not an uncommon type of contract but you must ensure you know exactly what is covered, otherwise you may find you are paying for extras "ah yes, leadwork wasn't included in the rate I quoted for blockwork" !

At the end of the day, the type of contract you adopt will depend on how the contractor prefers to be paid and how you trust the contractor - or trust the people you get recommendations from.

How to Choose a Contractor

You could check whether the invited contractors are members of a trade organisation although it is also wise to choose based on references from others. Ask the contractor for references from customers who have had work done similar to yours. Ask if the contractor is currently doing a job and whether you can visit the site while they are there.

In order to protect yourself should there be a major problem, you need to ensure that the contractor has the appropriate insurance. Ask for a copy of the contractor's current insurance certificates - although your own insurance should be in place in order to provide proper protection.

It is best to have some form of written contract with, at least, your main contractor, which should cover:

Unless you are sure of taking on a particular contractor/sub-contractor, it is advisable to get some written estimates from a number of contractors.

Advice on choosing a builder is also available from the Royal Iinstitute of Chartered Surveyors pdf on - Home Extensions.