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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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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Home renovations you should never attempt alone (Unless you’re a trained professional)

Home renovations you should never attempt alone (Unless you’re a trained professional)

When it comes to home renovations, DIY approaches can be cost-effective and rewarding when done correctly. Unfortunately, there are some home renovations that you should never attempt alone. No matter how many YouTube videos you’ve watched or articles you’ve read, there are some situations where the stakes are simply too high and there’s potential for a major disaster to occur.

So, in this post, we’re going to explain what those types of renovations are and why you should always let a trained expert handle them.

Any structure-related work

The structure of your home is surprisingly delicate, and you could cause some serious damage if you’re not completely sure what you’re doing. Attempting to alter the structure, such as removing walls, could potentially damage your entire home and may cause upper floors to weaken or even collapse.

If you’re interested in structural home renovations, then you should always seek expert advice. Doing so will ensure that the structure of your home remains secure, giving you peace of mind and protecting you against a plethora of potential issues. Incorrect modifications and poor calculations will lead to catastrophic failures that will risk the integrity of your home.

Any work on your roof

Even if you have a friend or two to help you, we’d generally suggest not working on your roof unless you know what you’re doing.

The reason is that your roof is a dangerous place. There could be loose or weak tiles, you could have pests up there, and it could be slippery if the weather has been bad. If you lose concentration for even a moment when you’re on the roof, then you could potentially fall off, fall through the ceiling below and injure yourself.

Let a professional handle it instead. Don’t try to climb up your roof and perform your own renovation works. Instead, leave it up to the professionals who have all the proper safety equipment and insurance certificates.

Any electrical work

Changing a light fixture might be possible for a skilled DIYer, but it could still be dangerous if it’s your first time doing it. Electrical wiring can be different from home to home, and even room to room, so there are cases where something might not be suitable for a DIYer to handle. Perhaps the wiring in your home has faults that need to be detected by a skilled electrician, or maybe you just don’t have the equipment to deal with it.

Leave electrical work up to the professionals so that you can stay safe. An electrician will have all the tools and knowledge to carry out electrical work quickly and efficiently, so there’s really no reason for someone to do it themselves and put their lives at risk. Even if you’ve viewed plenty of videos and read guides about how to do DIY electrical work, always make sure to play it safe so that you’re not putting yourself and others at risk of injury.

Therefore, unless you’re a trained professional in some of these fields, it’s always better to seek expert advice. Avoid potentially harming yourself and let someone else do a good job for you.

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Don’t let your home get on top of you

Don't let your home get on top of you

Have you ever looked at the state of your home and wondered how on earth you allowed it get to where it is? A lot of people make the mistake of letting their home get on top of them, rather than keeping on top of the home. The good news is we’re here to help, and below we’ve written a list of some of the things that you can do to keep on top of your home before it gets on top of you. Keep reading to find out more.

Always clear out your gutters

The first thing that you to need to do is make sure that you’re regularly clearing out your gutters. We know that this isn’t a pleasant job, and it’s not something that you’ll look forward to doing, but it has to be done to avoid them blocked then overflowing and leaking. If you don’t fancy doing it yourself then there are always other options you could consider.

For example, you could pay one of the neighbourhood teens to do it as they’re often looking for odd jobs to make some quick cash. Or, you could get in touch with a company like PorterVac who offer this service professionally.

Keep it clean and tidy

If you keep your home clean and tidy as you go along, you won’t to have to do that many time-consuming deep cleans. Of course, these are still going to be necessary from time to time, but not very often. It’s simply going to be a case of picking up after yourself, cleaning up when you’ve made a mess and vacuuming at the end of each day.

If you do this, then there’s no way your home can get on top of you when it comes to mess, leaving hours of work for you to complete.

Take care of repairs

The final thing we’ll say is that you need to take care of repairs as and when they crop up. The longer you leave an issue, the worse – and perhaps more expensive – it’s going to get and that’s the absolute last thing that you need. We know that sometimes you don’t really have the spare money available to make a repair, but sometimes you may even be able to do it yourself! Take a look at what needs doing, and it may be pretty simple to sort.

It’s important to note though that you should never attempt to fix your own plumbing or electrics if you are not trained to do so. This is dangerous and you could end up causing harm to yourself or making the problem worse.

We hope that you’ve found this post helpful, and are now aware of some of the things that you could be doing to avoid letting your home get on top of you. It can be a nightmare if you allow this to happen, with you constantly feeling as though you’re never going to catch up! Nobody wants that, so it’s best to keep on top of it as much as you can.

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