Embarking on a home renovation project is not all Pinterest boards and wandering through tile shops – there are a few tedious parts to the job as well. If you are looking for a builder, you will need to talk to a few to find the right one for your project. To help our community Renovating Mums chatted to Ben-Adam and the team from Renovation A and asked, what are the best questions for interviewing a potential builder?

Choosing the right builder can be a nerve-racking process. This is one decision you really need to get right. The best person for you is the one who will communicate openly with you, stick within your budget and with a minimum of unpleasant surprises along the way.

That sounds fantastic, but how do you find the right one?

It is quite common to go into a building project feeling a lack of confidence

One of the main keys to a successful building project is arming yourself with the confidence you need to feel that you are in control – it is your project after all!

Don’t feel nervous about asking questions – you should be able to interview your builder until you understand the answers they are giving you. Part of their job is to support and listen to their clients and clarify any concerns that might be there.

You have every right to interview your builder. And not just before you book them, we recommend having regular conversations during the project so that you feel that they are listening to you and working with your budget and best interests at heart.

It is never too early to bring on your builder…

One of the best ways to stick within your budget and avoid unpleasant surprises is to not only choose the right builder for you but bring them on early enough so you both have a good understanding about expectation vs reality. 

Consulting your builder as early as the planning and concept stage gives you a more realistic understanding of what things cost and transparency about expectations and deliverables.

A few good tips to start:

  • Talk to friends and family who have renovated to get their recommendations. And if you don’t have family nearby, don’t stress – that is what Renovating Mums is here for! We are your online family for local word of mouth recommendations.
  • Choose several options of builders to meet with and chat about your project (3 quotes)
  • Have a list of questions prepared beforehand to make sure that you cover all of the points you want to include.
  • Make sure that you check the paperwork and credentials of the builder that you choose.
  • Get a lawyer that you trust to review the contract before you sign.
  • Build both a time and cost buffer into your renovation, around 10-15% extra should be okay. These sorts of things inevitably run over time and over budget.
  • Make sure that you have ready access to the extra 10% financing (that means, if you are borrowing from the bank, fill out your application and get approval for the extra amount)

Make sure that the builder you choose is happy to put everything in writing, even smaller changes that take places during the work. Make sure they will be happy to confirm decisions in email form for example.

For more tips on things you should know about your building contract, click here.

Here are Twenty Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Builder by Renovation A

Qualifications and Experience

  1. Are they licensed and insured? Ask to see copies of all necessary documents. For more tips about what documentation you should check as a minimum, click here.
  2. How many years have they been in operation? Can you see examples of their work or visit previous worksites to see how they work?
  3. Have they ever gone bankrupt or had formal complaints against their services? Have they ever had any licenses revoked? Visit Fair Trading NSW, this information should be open to the public.
  4. Ask for written references from previous jobs. Follow these up and speak to previous clients.

Money and Contract Stuff

  1. Do they work on fixed price?
  2. Who is responsible for making sure Council and permit needs are met?
  3. What happens if the contract needs changes? Include adjustments that need to be made by you and by the builder? What happens if one party delays the contract?
  4. How long does a project similar to yours usually take? Do they provide a timeline? You need to know when decisions have to be made and deliveries need to arrive. When will each stage of your project happen?
  5. What happens if the builder can’t meet the timelines they have set?
  6. How much deposit do you have to pay? (it should be no more than 5%) Will you pay in instalments or at the delivery of certain milestones?
  7. Do they offer a warranty for their work? Ensure it meets the 7 year standard required by Fair Trading
  8. What will happen at the end of the contract?
  9. How long does the defects liability last?

Communication and Dealing with Other Parties

  1. Communication – how do they communicate with the client? It is critical that their style of communication matches your own.
  2. How frequently is the builder on site? How many jobs do they have running at one time?
  3. Do they deal with regular subcontractors, and how long have these relationships existed? Can you meet with the subcontractors as well?
  4. How often are site meetings?
  5. Will there be a designated project manager, or will you be dealing directly with the builder?

Materials and Inclusions

  1. What materials do they use and which suppliers do they get them from? Are these recycled, budget, or premium materials? You should be able to confirm the materials they use, never assume from the quote that the materials are premium.
  2. Ask for specifics of costings and breakdowns of different materials for each room. What costs are included, and which ones aren’t? Will changes in finishes incur extra costs? Clarify what fittings and finishes are included.

Renovating Mums Sydney

Make sure all your requirements are covered in terms of specific fixtures and fittings to reduce variations down the line i.e. stone benchtops, tiles, shelves, doors, wall mounted taps, free standing bath, solid timber flooring, insulation, square set, ceiling height, heating/cooling, cornices etc.

One Final Hint…

Make sure that you track costs of your building project all the way through the process – this is one of the best ways to stay within your renovation budget. It is also one of the best ways to avoid disappointment or horrible shocks.

Have a project in mind? Renovation A offers complete service solutions; from initial concepts and plans through to DA approval and then project management of your build. They truly believe not project is too big, nor too small and are more than happy to have a chat to discuss your project needs. View their listing here or call Ben-Adam on 0414 414 984.

Don’t forget to also join the Renovating Mums FB community group for support from like-minded renovating mums and the opportunity to participate in the free ‘ask an expert’ evenings!

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