How to Create a Good Relationship With Your Builder
Thinking of embarking on a renovation project? Read this expert advice on how to get the best out of your building team
Professional advice from: Rupert Robertson of Red Box; Lynn Gunning of Milestone Builders; Remi Kulczycki of Inventive Designs London
One of the most important ways you can build a rapport with your builder is through being contactable.
“We don’t expect you to be available 24/7,” Lynn Gunning says, “but there are times when we may need you to make a decision, so giving us a means to contact you when you’re not there could make all the difference.”
Rupert Robertson suggests it’s best if just one member of the household communicates with the builder as much as possible to avoid crossed wires. “We operate a system of one of our dedicated project managers being the point of contact, and it’s helpful if you do the same,” he says.
“If it’s a larger project, we recommend a weekly meeting to talk about progress and any points that need discussing,” he continues.
“If you experience any delays or other issues that you, as the client, are involved with, which might be planning, legal, financial or even problems with the delivery of a special chandelier you saw on holiday in Italy, let your builder know,” he adds.
Remi Kulczycki agrees. “It’s very important for the client to be available during the first phase of works, either in person or on a video call. This really speeds up the process,” he says.
“We also suggest you create a WhatsApp group for everyone involved in the project for quick and easy communication,” he adds.
Taking the time to think about exactly what you want from the renovation and gathering photos, for example in a Houzz ideabook, to help explain what you’re hoping to achieve will really help your builder.
“Explain how you intend to live in your new home, as these small details can really help to get things right first time and don’t necessarily cost more,” Rupert says.
“Be specific,” Lynn adds. “If there’s something our clients want us to include in their project, we’d like them to be specific about what that is.”
You might also like: Five Ways Ideabooks Can Help to Bring Your Project Together.
Clear discussion of the timeframe for the project and having specific dates for each stage is very important, so everyone knows what to expect.
“For larger projects, a Gantt chart [a bar chart that illustrates a project’s schedule] or similar is helpful to illustrate when timings are triggered, with contingency built in,” Rupert says.
A management system, such as Houzz Pro, can be beneficial to the homeowner as well as the builder, as all parties can see every detail at every stage, so everyone is in accord. “We can view, revise and monitor the project from the day of enquiry to successful completion,” Remi says. “Changes and comments can easily be seen and, importantly, we can monitor the timeframe for the whole project.”
Lynn agrees. “Houzz Pro allows us to communicate effectively with our clients and ensure critical touchpoints aren’t missed,” she says.
“For larger projects that involve refurbishing a whole house over a few months, it’s actually easier if you move out of the property and stay locally,” Rupert says.
“This might sound extreme, but it will not only speed up progress [which can save you money], it will also help with your own state of mind if you have somewhere clean and tidy to live,” he says.
Read reviews of builders in your area to find the perfect company for your project.
If you can’t move out, then be aware of when to expect workers. “Make sure your expectations align with your builder’s, otherwise you’re likely to find your Saturday lie-in is disturbed at 8am by a power drill or rubbish collection,” Rupert says.
It also helps to let neighbours know in advance of a project exactly what they can expect.
“Ensure you’re ready with paint colours and similar details – don’t leave it till the last minute,” Rupert advises.
“Keep up to date with written pre-approval of any additional items you order to avoid surprises later,” he adds. “We recommend an email trail to ensure that any extra or fewer items from the original quote are listed on the final bill, as you’d expect on an itemised supermarket bill.”
“It’s very important for us to have details of the fittings as soon as they’re available,” Remi says. “Changes can be made at a later stage, but the sooner we know, the better.”
“We recommend that you, of course, choose fixtures, fittings, your new kitchen and bathroom sanitaryware, but ideally let your builder actually do the buying,” Rupert says. “Not only are they likely to be able to secure better trade terms, but they’ll take care of all the additional items needed that are vital, but which you might not see until it’s too late and the project is held up.
“This might also include the dreaded ‘kerbside delivery’ of your new kitchen,” he continues, “which is correctly delivered to the pavement outside your house in the rain, then someone needs to take ownership of carting it inside while it’s getting wet. We recommend you let your builder organise these details.”
“This could include making parking available, or ensuring there’s space ready to store rubbish. And tea, coffee and biscuits go a very long way to ensure a relationship starts on a positive note!” Rupert says. “It’s easy to underestimate the value of these details, which can make such a positive difference.”
If your home is big enough, have a dedicated area for all of those working to wash up, such as a utility or cloakroom.
“Learn everyone’s name, and be respectful to all who are helping,” Rupert adds.
“Not only do you need to be assured of your building company’s financial stability, they need to be assured of yours, as the client,” Rupert says. “Paying invoices straightaway and keeping your account up to date really helps to demonstrate this.”
Jobs at the end of a project are common, but if you can keep these to an absolute minimum, it will make everyone’s life easier.
“Ensure all details are addressed during the project and don’t end up on a ‘snagging list’ of what appear to be small problems, but are now actually quite difficult to fix in what is an otherwise finished property,” Rupert advises.
“For example,” he continues, “if you’re engaging a separate carpet or wooden flooring company, as often happens, then raise the point in advance with all involved about the join between flooring and skirting. Better still, have your builder’s project manager organise it all to avoid problems later. This may also involve having doors trimmed down or added to, doorstops and other details, easily forgotten but vital.”
If last-minute jobs do arise, be prepared for an extra couple of weeks’ work. “Keep it in mind in your timeframe,” Remi says. “Depending on the size of the project, allowing one to two weeks for snagging is good practice.”
Aim to stay positive throughout. Remi suggests having a decent contingency fund will help to keep stress levels down.
“We recommend you ringfence a 20% contingency finance fund, as you’re likely to need it – not necessarily to pay your builder for ‘extras’, but for expenditure that could not have been foreseen, but for which you should be prepared,” he says. “This will help you relax, as you can deal with any issues that arise – and if there are no issues, then you’ll be better off!”
Have you had a positive experience with builders? How did you help to create a good relationship? Share your tips in the Comments.