10 Questions you must ask your builder… before you sign the contract
Meeting with builders for the first time can be daunting, especially if you haven’t had experience of building or renovating before, and you don’t know how to best get prepared for the first meeting, let alone the entire process. Choosing the right builder is the single most important decision you will make in your home renovation, so here is a simple list for you to take along to your initial meeting with your builder.
1. How much experience do you have?
This is our number 1 question for a reason. You are trusting your chosen builder to be able to communicate openly and honestly with you, and take your vision and make it a reality. Like all things, with experience comes quality. You want a builder who is experienced but one who is also open to new ideas and isn’t stuck in his ways. There is a fine line between experienced and burnt out! Be sure to check out reviews of them – online reviews can give a pretty good indication if a builder is well respected. If your builder does not have any reviews on social media or google – ask them to show you around some of their jobs or provide you with a reference from previous clients or other tradespeople or architects.
2. How often can I expect to see you?
And by you, we mean the big-boss himself – your project manager. Some larger companies will have their project manager at the initial meetings and then will fade away into the distance when the work actually starts, as they run another 5 jobs. You need to be sure that your job is your builders priority and that you will not be dealing with a new face every week, and that you will have easy access to your project manager throughout the works. There is nothing more frustrating than having two cooks in the kitchen. We find that a builder is usually able to maintain regular contact with you and ensure that he is prioritising your job if he has no more than 2-3 jobs running at once.
3. What is your builders margin?
A standard builders margin is 20% on materials and trades. This is industry standard and recommended by the Master Builders Association of Australia. If your builders margin is more than this, you need to ask why. If your builders margin is less than this, while it will feel completely opposite to what you should be doing, ask why and consider carefully whether this is going to affect the overall quality of the works.
4. What associations are you registered with?
When choosing the right builder, keep your eye out for a builder who is registered with either HIA or MBA to ensure that they are not only up to date with the latest trends but are also legit!
5. What insurance covers you and what insurance covers me if something goes wrong?
Trust us when we tell you that you do not want to get caught without the right insurances. You need to make sure that your builder has home warranty insurance and that he has enough coverage for your scope of works. You also want to make sure that his employees are covered and he has workers compensation. While you might think that this has nothing to do with you and your job, it shows that a builder is serious about ensuring the safety of his employees. Finally, you want to ask if your builder has public liability insurance incase someone is hurt on site. Don’t be afraid to ask for copies of these certificates of insurance. It is commonplace to supply these documents to clients and your builder should have these readily available.
6. Do you have architects, engineers and designers that you work with and can recommend?
If a builder is well respected and experienced, he will have a strong network of other trades, services and designers/architects/engineers that he will be able to recommend. You can get a good idea of the kind of builder you are meeting with by the quality of services and tradespeople he has on hand and can recommend.
7. What do you do to minimise your impact on the environment?
To us at AAG Constructions, this is an important one. While not all builders are green accredited, many will be green minded, which is the next best thing. The building industry has a huge impact on the environment, so it is important that you and your chosen builder can be conscious about this impact as you move through the works.
8. Who will be in my home on the tools?
We get it – you are opening up your home to not only your builder and his team but his tradespeople too. It is fair enough that you want to check out who will be traipsing through your home.
9. Can you provide a construction schedule/timeline of the project?
A construction schedule can assist in keeping up to date with the progress of your project and give you peace of mind in checking that the completion of the works is moving at a reasonable pace. It can also give you guidance about when you may be required to supply certain items like the bathroom tiles or when you will need to finalise decisions such as what handles you might like on your new kitchen.
10. When can we start?
This is a good one to finish on. If the meeting has gone well with your builder and are thinking that he might be “the one,”, ask him about his schedule and when he would be available to start. Many clients assume that once they find a builder they are happy with, they will be available to start building next week. Your builder should be able to give you an estimate of what month he could start on-site and also give you a run down of what needs to be done on your behalf before the works commence; for example getting the certifier to approve the works.