Avoiding the cowboys: How to hire a builder

Avoiding the cowboys: How to hire a builder

If you’re a homeowner, at some point you’re likely to need to hire a builder to carry out repairs or improvements. But with all the horror stories you read on the internet, the process can seem scary. How do you avoid the cowboys, and how do you make sure the work done is satisfactory? Here are some tips to help you hire and work with a builder.

Stay local

When you’re trying to find a builder to do some work for you, it can be tempting to cast a wide net, especially if those nearby are busy. But this isn’t recommended unless it’s someone you know or have hired before.

A local builder is easier to call back if issues arise or if you find further work to do. And they’re likely to be more willing to turn up. It can also be harder to check the reputation of someone who doesn’t live locally.

Don’t rush in

Taking time to do your research is key to successfully hiring a builder. Ideally, you want to choose someone with a good reputation, the right skills and plenty of experience.

A good way to start is to make a list of the local builders and building companies in your area. Then, check with family and friends, to see if they’ve used any of them and whether they’d recommend them. Builders may also have lots of online reviews from customers, which can help determine how good they are. They may also have their own website featuring case studies of work they have done in your area. Next, you can check to see if they’re members of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) for extra reassurance.

Now it’s time to narrow down your list. Some builders and building companies specialise or concentrate on certain jobs, such as renovations and extensions or maintenance and repairs. So, it can be handy to make a list of the jobs you want completing and see which builders on your shortlist are the best match. Looking at the descriptions on their listings and at previous jobs they’ve done should help with this.

Getting quotes

Once you have a shortlist of builders that you’re happy with, it’s time to contact them for quotes. Even if it’s just a small repair job, you want to get at least three quotes.

To make sure that the quotes you get are accurate and fair, invite your shortlisted builders around to assess the job and discuss your options with them. If there’s more than one way to complete a job, ask for separate quotes for each option. Also, ask for detailed quotes, as this makes it easier to compare costs and look for savings.

Sometimes quotes can seem a little excessive or too good to be true. You can check the average cost for most building jobs online, to get a feel for what’s fair. If quotes seem a little low, check that hidden costs such as scaffolding and skips are included.

If a builder says they’ll give you a cheap quote in exchange for cash up front, be very wary. This is a tactic frequently used by cowboys.

Working with a builder

Once you’ve found a builder, and you’ve received a quote that you’re happy with, you need to agree upon a start date. It’s rare that a builder will be able to start right away, so make sure you pin them down to a date, so you can prepare.

It’s also a good idea before they start work to check if you need to do anything such as move furniture or cars out of the way. If there are access or similar issues, make sure they’re aware of them. It’s also wise to check they have all the right paperwork in place. Your builder should have insurance to cover public liability and accidental damage and an insurance-backed guarantee, so the work they do is still covered even if they go out of business.

As you may have guessed by now, communication is a very important part of maintaining a good working relationship with your builder. Make sure you’re clear about what you want, and speak up straight away if you have any concerns. Keep an eye on progress, so you can be confident everything is moving along as you’d expect and that nothing is deviating from the agreed plan.

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Taking on a fixer-upper – jobs to tackle first

Taking on a fixer-upper - jobs to tackle first

Buying a fixer-upper has multiple benefits. If you buy a house that isn’t in pristine condition, the asking price will probably be much lower, so there’s a golden opportunity to add value and put your stamp on your new home. There are downsides, but being methodical and organised can help you reduce risks and save money. In this guide, we’ve outlined some essential jobs to tackle first.

Wiring and electrics

Outdated wiring and electrical systems can be dangerous. If you’re taking on a project and the property needs rewiring or significant upgrades, it’s best to seek expert advice and address issues as a priority. Contact reputable local companies and get recommendations from people you trust and community social media groups. Get multiple quotes and compare prices. Make sure you understand the scale and type of work required, and ask for a full, written breakdown of costs. Always ensure that contractors have the relevant insurance, permits and licences. Many people like to get stuck in when it comes to DIY jobs, but anything that involves electrics or gas should be left to the professionals.

Roof repairs or replacement

The roof plays a critical role in protecting the property from the elements. If your new home has a damaged roof or there are signs of wear and tear or leaks, contact local roofing firms. It’s important to sort the roof out as quickly as possible to prevent further issues such as leaks and damp patches. It’s worth exploring the option of completely replacing the roof if it’s an old house as you’re likely to need frequent repairs in the coming years.

Windows and doors

Replacing old windows and doors has multiple benefits. New windows and doors are more energy-efficient than older examples, which will save you money on energy bills, and they can also look stylish and smart. Modern windows and doors offer enhanced security and privacy, and they can also boost curb appeal. As well as replacing old or damaged doors and windows, you may also want to consider adding extra windows to maximise natural light. Contact glass suppliers to find out more about features like roof lights, lanterns and skylights. Adding more light will make your rooms look bigger and brighter. It’s beneficial to compare quotes and consider different designs and styles before you decide what to do and which company to choose.

Layout changes

Older houses often have different layouts and floor plans to newer properties. If you’re modernising an old house, you may want to alter the layout to suit your lifestyle and your requirements. It’s common for new homes to have bigger kitchens and open-plan living areas, for example. More traditional properties usually have a larger number of smaller rooms. Knocking down walls can help you maximise usable space and design rooms that are better suited to your family. It’s better to draw up plans during the early stages of the renovation than to modify the layout later.

There are lots of advantages to buying a fixer-upper, but there’s often a lot of work involved. If you’re taking on a large-scale renovation project, focus on priority tasks. Examples include updating the electrics or rewiring the property, replacing windows and doors, repairing the roof and adjusting the layout of your living spaces.

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Key first steps to take after moving into a new home

Key first steps to take after moving into a new home

Moving into a new home signals a very exciting time in your life. Better still, after avoiding the common buying mistakes you can enter your new home with 100% confidence. Still, there’ll be work to do upon moving in, even if the property feels perfect. Focus on the simple steps below to create a happy home environment in next to no time.

Make it safe

There is nothing more important than feeling safe inside your new home. However, the unfamiliar surroundings can make this a little difficult, especially if you’ve moved to a new area. A Smart home alarm system will instantly deliver the extra layer of protection that you deserve, while also putting your mind at ease. Moreover, it saves you from the emotional and financial fallout of an intrusion, which would ruin your relationship with the home.

In addition to human intruders, you must also implement the necessary steps to prevent pest infestations. When combined with smoke alarms and child-friendly items, where needed, the property will feel more homely.

Add personal touches

Even if you purchased a home that has been recently renovated and decorated, you need to stamp your own personality on it. The easiest way to do this is through personalised décor. This could include adding family photos, holiday souvenirs, memorabilia or awards around the home. Meanwhile, a handful of décor pieces that follow you from the old property create a smoother transition into the new home.

You can continue to embrace the character-defining features and unique elements that caught your eye in the first place. However, ensuring that the home feels like yours rather than a bland show home will make a huge difference.

Focus on function

When moving into a new home, you may have your eyes set on luxury additions. While they’ll certainly come at some stage, practical ideas should be your priority. Jobs like improving the shower pressure or fitting a Smart thermostat are a great starting point. Selecting the right window coverings in the bedroom to promote improved sleep habits is vital. And getting your storage under control should be on the list too.

Similarly, you should invest in the right appliances to make daily chores a little easier. This will mean you can spend more time enjoying the new property. Opting for eco-friendly products that protect your finances and the environment will help too.

Get to know the area

Finally, when moving into a new home, you’re not simply purchasing a property. It’s equally vital to acknowledge that you’re buying into a new way of life. Therefore, it’s vital that you get to know your surroundings. From the location of local shops and finding out the bin collection day to the best driving routes to work, the simple issues will help you settle sooner. With this in mind, you should try to implement those steps ASAP.

If you’ve moved to an entirely new location, networking and making friends is crucial too. It will go a long way to making the property feel like home, which should make you feel a lot happier in the process. You’ve got this!

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Signs your windows aren’t fit for purpose any more

Signs your windows aren't fit for purpose any more

Windows are a vital part of what keeps a home happy, safe and comfortable. They help you manage your climate, maintain the temperature in the home to stop it from becoming too hot in the summer and too cold in winter, and protect you from rain, allergens and much more. However, most people aren’t aware of when it’s time to start looking at replacing them. Here, we’re going to look at some signs that it may be time to wave goodbye to your current windows.

High energy bills

If you’ve noticed a steady increase in your energy bills, your windows may be to blame. Windows play a crucial role in maintaining your home’s thermal envelope. Older windows, or those with damaged seals, allow heat to escape during the winter and let in unwanted heat during the summer. This forces your heating and cooling systems to work harder, consuming more energy and driving up your bills. Replacing old or inefficient windows with modern, energy-efficient models can significantly reduce your energy consumption.

Condensation inside the window

Condensation inside your windows, specifically between the panes of glass, indicates a failure in the window’s seal. Double or triple-pane windows are designed with a sealed space between the panes that is often filled with inert gas to improve insulation. When the seal is compromised, moisture can infiltrate this space, leading to condensation. This not only obstructs your view but also shows that the window is no longer providing effective insulation. The presence of condensation can also lead to more severe issues like mould growth and frame deterioration, so replacement double glazing may be necessary. Replacing windows with broken seals is essential to restore both the aesthetic clarity and insulating efficiency of your windows.

They’re difficult to open and close

Windows that are hard to open and close are more than just a minor inconvenience; they can be a sign that the window frames are warped, the hardware is worn out, or the windows have settled improperly. This can occur due to age, prolonged exposure to the elements, or poor initial installation. Oiling your window hinges may work temporarily, but if it keeps happening, it can become a significant issue. Additionally, windows that don’t close properly can leave gaps that let in draughts, moisture and pests. Replacing these windows ensures smooth operation, enhances security and improves overall comfort.

They’re leaking or draughty

Leaking or draughty windows are a major indicator that it’s time for replacements. When windows allow air or moisture to seep through, they fail to provide a proper barrier against the external environment. This can lead to higher energy costs, as your HVAC and central heating systems must compensate for the air exchange, and can cause damage to your home’s interior, such as warped wood, mould and mildew. Draughts are often a result of poor sealing or frame damage, which can occur over time or due to poor installation.

New windows for the home may be an investment, but it’s likely to cost you a lot more if you continue to live with windows that let in the cold, moisture and worsen your air quality.

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