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Self Build FAQs

Q1. How do I find a reliable Contractor?

In your local area there will be some excellent contractors, who would love to do your job, the trick is finding them. There are some specialised websites, like trust-a-trader, who offer recommended trades for various work. I often find that word of mouth is also a good gauge. You don’t always realise how disruptive having people within your living space over a relatively long period can be. Listen out for key buzzwords like “they clean-up after themselves every night”; “they did a good professional job”; “they had no hidden extras.”


Q2. Fixed price/fixed term deals - Are they a myth?

No, it is possible to set up and agree a fixed deal at the start of the job. As long as both parties are happy with the terms and are also happy to put it in writing. Most contractors are used to submitting a fixed price for a job, if they are the cheapest and get the job then they might try to add on extras when they can. Get everything agreed and in writing before the start of the job and protect your interests.


Q3. Am I better off purchasing products and materials myself?

When it comes to bulky building products such as concrete, bricks, blocks, roof materials etc., try to include these within the contractors price. Dependant on what you want to use your extension, conservatory or loft conversion for, it would still pay you to choose all materials at an early stage. For example, if you budget for a £3,000 bathroom suite but when you walk into a specialist shop decide you would rather have a £6,000 suite, then you have doubled your budget on that one item straight away. It is then very hard to keep control of any budgetary restraints. If you want the £6,000 bathroom suite, choose it early and budget for it. This will help control the overall costs.

When building a new home, get as much costed into your contractor's packages as you can. Choose all of your bespoke items early, such as windows, stairs etc. because of long lead-ins. It is vital to try to control the costs and have a project budget that is realistic and that you can work with.


Q4. How do I guarantee a quality finish to my job?

Part of agreeing a contract at the start of the job is to get the finished product you desire. Part of the contract we have enclosed is to agree staged payments linked into quality workmanship. For example, the drainage and ground floor slab can be tied into a local authority sign-off that they are happy the drainage has been tested and is working and the slab has the correct damp membrane and steel to take the required loads and that the depth of slab has the correct thickness of concrete allowed for. With that sign-off you can have peace of mind that the correct quality of workmanship is being achieved. This will release a payment to the contractor minus retention, percentage agreed at the time of contract (usually 10%). If you have five staged payments agreed on the job then the retention money builds up. This retention money is not released until the project is complete and you as the client are 100% happy with the finish of the job and all the correct sign-off procedures are in place. These measures help control the quality of workmanship throughout the job.


Q5. If I’m using a specialist contractor, why would I need step-by-step guidance?

Essentially this website is set up to help you, as the client, through the process of the construction works you are about to undertake and help you control the process and protect your interests. If you are about to spend between £20,000 and £30,000 on an extension, loft conversion or conservatory, SBA can help you understand the process, set-up control measures that help protect your interests to give you peace of mind.

Similarly, if you are about to embark on a new build home project and don’t intend to hire a project or site manager, then it is important that you understand the process even if you have a specialist contractor. It is vital to have control of the practical and financial process of the job or at least have a good understanding of any issues that occur.


Q6. What if the contractor does not want to sign up to a contract?

I can hear alarm bells but occasionally the job is so small that a full contract would be over the top. Still list out all tasks to be complete and if the work requires a sign-off by building control or an insurance company like NHBC, then make sure that is mentioned before an agreement is made. Always remember to protect your interests and link in staged payments.

All contractors are used to signing up to a main building contractor when they start works or they would not get the jobs for some of the large construction companies you see operating. Small house builders have been getting away with not conforming to contracts for way too long.

The contract protects both parties and has to be agreed by both parties.

It should guarantee you as the client the correct standard of workmanship and it guarantees the contractor that after the completion of set agreed tasks, you as the client will release up an agreed percentage of money. Any decent contractor will be happy to sign up to giving you a good standard of workmanship in return for a guaranteed financial settlement.