I don’t think that there’s a homeowner in the country who hasn’t got a long and tedious tale to tell about their builder. Don’t worry, I’m not about to start on mine: quite the opposite, in fact. I am hoping to offer a few tips on how to avoid the potential pitfalls when you are dealing with a contractor.
My first piece of advice is to re cognize that a major building project should not be run by a layman with a day job – i.e. you or me. It needs a professional, either a quantity surveyor or a recognized and professionally trained Interior Designer to run it. Don’t think that you can’t afford this person: you can’t afford not to have them. They will save you much more money than their fee will cost you, not to mention stress. So if you are contemplating a project, here are some guidelines, but remember a professional Interior Designer can help with either large or small projects.
You must treat it like a proper job
You need to keep files and hold regular site meetings and, if the work is going to remain on schedule, you have to apply your full attention and exercise rigid self-control.
Stick to your plan
Have drawings done so that the job can be priced properly and, once it is all agreed, try not to change your mind, no matter how tempting. This throws things off and gives your contractor a marvelous opportunity for expanding the budget and timeline. Once again something an Interior Designer can facilitate.
Have one point of contact and talk only to them
Do not just wander on site and start talking to any old builder about what you want. It is extremely important that you have one point of contact: the foreman. He should be the only person to instruct everyone else. Imagine someone coming into your office and asking your staff to dot things without checking with you first. The builders may be in your house, but while the works are going on, it is their site. So when you see a plumber installing radiators, don’t ask him to come and have a look at the leak in the bathroom. Ask the foreman. Peculiar as it sounds, you are not employing the plumber, the building firm is.
Put things in writing
Ensure that any discussions you have and resulting changes that are made on site are always followed up by email.
Keep the contractor informed
If you are having bathroom fittings, light switches, tiles, kitchen appliances, etc. supplied, make sure you know exactly when they are expected on site. There’s nothing worse than having your builder call to say the plumber’s arrived before your bathroom fittings have even been delivered. It’s also worth having a discussion with your foreman before you order anything yourself, so you don’t end up with really expensive things that don’t work to their full potential.
Be specific about the finishes you want
You must stipulate if you want to use an expensive paint, as this will not have been allowed for in the budget. And if you prefer to have the walls painted with a brush rather than a roller – I always do – you must specify this, too, as it will be more expensive. Make a paint schedule – a spreadsheet with a list of rooms and the paint brand, colour and finish used for each – and only hand it to the builder when it is final, to avoid confusion. Keep a copy for yourself, as it’s a very useful document to have if, for example, your house is flooded and you need to repaint.
Electrical plans are important
Do not leave this to the contractor or you will risk having sockets put in the oddest of places. Work out exactly where your furniture will go and accordingly create a layout for your sockets and light switches. Don’t put them everywhere – it is a myth that they don’t cost anything. If you are on a budget, only put fancy socket plates in the kitchen, as you really don’t notice them anywhere else.
If you decide on a small project to go it alone, the above will help. We at Chameleon Designs Interiors, working in Norfolk and Suffolk can help with these decisions, from as little as putting the designs and drawings together to managing the project on your behalf. Get in touch if we can be of any assistance.