How can I avoid problems with builders?

As chartered building surveyors based in Winchmore Hill we often get involved in disputes with contractors over issues like defective work, unapproved alterations, poor finishes and unsubstantiated demands for monies.

We can usually resolve but in some cases the matter has to go to court for settlement, and we often produce an Expert Witness report for the benefit of the court.

Many homeowners rely on a contractor’s quotation and not a specification, and then they cannot compare on a like for like basis to establish value for money. We often find there is no insurance, no programme of work, no quality control, works carried out are not in accordance with the drawings, jobs started and then stopped, increased and hidden costs, that can all result in projects that do not come in on time or to budget, or do not have the anticipated quality control.

The home owner really needs their own independent surveyor to prepare a contract document, to monitor and co ordinate the project, to check Health & Safety issues, to snag and have regular site meetings. The works need to be valued for interim payments to prevent over payment, and the correct certification needs to be obtained prior to issue of the Practicable Completion certificate. I agree this will increase the budget by around 10% but should provide value for money, competitive bids and complete the works to a good standard and to recognized codes of practice, in other words ‘fit for purpose’ works.

The number of times that an extension or loft conversion is carried out without planning permission, building regulation approval or even a Party Wall Awards in place is of concern as these items will all breach the legislation.

If for example a contractor does anything to your heating system then they should provide a Gas Safety certificate, any electrical works then a NICEIC certificate should be produced, and any window replacements should have FENSA certification. We hardly ever see risk assessments or method statements unless we request them, especially when load bearing walls or chimney breasts are removed, and these are things that pro active contractors should be providing.

We have an approved list of contractors and if you would like the names and telephone numbers of contractors that we have worked with successfully over the years, then please contact us, Alternatively, once the scope of works have been established then we can go out to tender for you.

The two best pieces of advice we can give is to employ your own surveyor at the feasibility stage and never pay money up front.