You love your home but need a little more space?
An extension can be the perfect alternative to the stresses of moving to a new house.
It gives you more space for entertaining and changing decor so can add some real value to your property.
You’ve found the right architect, made beautiful design plans, and even got planning permission.
But building a great looking extension takes a lot more work even before laying a single brick!
For a start, you’ll need to find the right construction company.
Here’s why a professional builder is key to your successful extension project.
A Specialist Construction Company
Construction is such a broad topic, and it covers everything from house refurbishment, to extensions, new builds and more. A specialist construction company will have a proven track record in one specific field, or with your building type so you can have a smoother build. For example, if you’re family home is a listed building then extending it will need quite different skills than if building a block of flats. An expert extension builder will fully understand what the job involves as they have undertaken similar work to the one you have planned.
A Proven Track Record
A reputable construction company will have successfully completed similar types of building extension work previously. You may not always be able to get a recommendation from a friend or business acquaintance. But good builders always take pride in their work and will allow you to talk to their previous customers.
They’ll have no issues about you not only seeing the finished work but asking how their company handled the whole construction process, from planning, attendance, any unexpected problems, to completing on time and within budget and dealing with neighbours in terms of noise and mess.
Extensions aren’t built overnight. The complete process can sometimes take months to get things right. You’ll need to build a solid working relationship with your building contractor so that you can be open and honest and always feel comfortable speaking freely about any concerns.
A professional builder will be polite on the phone, arrive for meetings on time, present themselves well and ask lots of detailed questions about you and the project. You’ll be comfortable talking with them.
Accreditations and Qualifications
Membership of a trade body is usually a good indication that a construction company is competent and can maintain certain standards, but there are still many experienced tradesmen who are not members of these organisations. Being a member gives a builder some degree of credibility because it usually requires quality control and credit checks.
Whilst you will need to use your own judgement to assess a builder’s experience, accreditation shows a tradesman has made the extra effort to get that extra seal of approval. Builders who work on extensions may be a member of several trade associations or accreditation schemes. Some of the commonest are listed below:
- As one of the UK’s most established trade bodies, The National Federation of Builders (NFB) was created to provide advice and training for its members so they can comply with industry standards and excel in delivery.
- The UK’s biggest trade association for the construction industry is The Federation of Master Builders (FMB). With over 1,200 members, they are responsible for setting and maintaining ambitious standards within the industry which affects thousands of people each year.
- The Considerate Constructors Scheme allows builders and companies to voluntarily register and agree to abide by a code of best practice beyond the standard, statutory requirements.
Licensed and Insured
A reputable construction company will be licensed and insured. This means the building workers and subcontractors can work safely on your site. If anything went wrong, like an accident, their insurance would be in place to back you up.
Provide an Accurate, Written Quotation
Before even giving a quotation, a professional tradesman will ask you for plans, scaled construction drawings and a full specification (all materials, fixtures, and fittings). They can then provide you with a detailed quote, including whether they include materials and labour, any subcontracting fees, VAT, and any additional charges.
For a big job like building an extension, issues come up, and delays are inevitable. A reputable builder will never over-promise and be completely upfront and fully transparent about costs and completion date.
An experienced construction company should be able to manage your building project too. They can make sure the necessary trades complete their jobs on time, liaise with the architect and trades people to ensure materials arrive when needed, organising works and handling building inspectors. And most importantly, keeping you updated with the build progress!
Once you have a written quote in place, a good builder would not ask for the full cost of an expensive extension job to be paid upfront. A small deposit is usually asked by small firms working on a large build, who need to buy materials.
The most common payment method is by instalments, where you pay a certain percentage of the total bill after each stage of the building work is completed. For example, after the foundations or groundwork are completed, or the walls have been built or after the roof has been tiled.
On longer building projects, some tradesmen prefer to be paid on either a weekly or monthly basis to cover their material costs and paying staff.
A reputable tradesman will allow you to keep a retention payment (usually 2% to 5% of the overall extension building cost), until the final sign-off by Building Control. This ensures the builder finishes the job to a high standard and deals with any snags.
Building Regulations and Planning Permission
If you want to make changes to your house, you may need permission from your local authority, who issue a formal document allowing a site’s development. Whilst many home improvements, like some extensions or loft conversions can be done without obtaining planning consent and building regulations approval, you still need to make sure. If you build an extension without getting any required permission, the local authority may serve an enforcement notice, which means you’ll have to undo all the changes made. This may even mean demolishing your extension.
Experienced builders will know the latest building regulation requirements for your extension project. They can also advise on whether planning permission is needed and how to successfully apply for it, by liaising with the local authority on your behalf.
Aftercare is Included
Extensions are typically large projects, so it’s often unavoidable for complications to happen. But these problems may not become apparent until sometime after the building work has been completed. By then, the builder will have moved onto other projects. But a good builder will always return to follow up on finishing their work to a high standard.
Some may have an informal agreement to come back after one to six months to check in. Others may have it written into their contract.
It’s impossible to weigh up all the benefits of having a professional construction company. But, if you’ve made all the right checks and have a good feeling about a builder, then go for it.