You have received reports and estimates from the companies you contacted and now you have to decide which one you would like to carry out work for you. This article helps you through the process of selection.
Having received the survey reports and estimates from the contractors that you contacted, you now have to select one that you feel comfortable with to undertake any necessary work for you. This is an important decision. Below we outline some considerations that you should take into account when undertaking this process.
The first consideration is usually 'price' but you should always look deeper than this. As a general rule, most prices for straightforward jobs should fall in a ± 15% range. For instance, a job with a cost of £2,000 may generate estimates from contractors in the £1,700 - £2,300 range. You should be aware however that the cheapest price may not produce the best of jobs, and that the top price is no guarantee of quality.
Prices vary significantly between contractors for a variety of reasons. For example if a company employs trained tradesmen, their wage bill, and therefore the cost to the client, will be higher than a company that employs a less skilled workforce and young lads. On the other hand some contractors do not have a pricing structure at all and their price seems to depend upon how busy they are at that time.
Be wary of very low or very high prices. Low prices indicate that corners are likely to be cut for the contractor to make a wage whilst some contractors will deliberately submit artificially high prices for work they are not really interested in. In most circumstances the cost of specialist materials such as timber preservatives or chemical damp course products is now a comparatively small part of the overall cost of a job. The most expensive element is that of labour/overheads. The time it takes to complete a job with how many men and what level of skill is required will dictate the overall cost. View 'special discounts' with a cautious eye.
Beware - ‘He who finds least gets the job but often ends up costing the most’
When selecting a contractor a major influence is obviously the cost of the work. A word of caution here is that whilst an estimate may look cheap initially this could be due to an inadequate survey or it could be a ‘foot in the door’ ploy. Contractors submitting very cheap estimates often tend to find additional work. Once these are added to the original estimate this contractor may end up being the most expensive. Always compare very carefully what is and what is not included in specifications and estimates. (See ‘The survey report’ article on this site)
Terms and Conditions
Read carefully the terms and conditions applicable to the report and estimate submitted by the contractor. You are at liberty to strike out any conditions that you feel are unreasonable before entering into any contract if both parties agree. Not all but some contractors request the payment of a deposit. It is not unreasonable to pay some money in advance as a token of commitment as after all a contractor is allocating time in his work schedule for your job. If nothing is being purpose made then paying a large deposit a long time in advance is not to be advised. Get a receipt for any deposit paid or suggest that you pay the deposit the first day that they attend site – 20% would be reasonable.
If the contract is large it is not unreasonable for the contractor to request ‘stage payments’ as the job progresses. Should this be the case get the contractor to put in writing each of the stages he expects payment and the amounts required. The final payment should be the largest and only pay this in full once you are fully satisfied and all ‘snags’ are dealt with. The stages should be defined by the amount of work completed and not the time spent on site. Never let payments get ahead of the value of work completed.
Is the contractor correctly insured?
Always check that the contractor you intend to use is fully and correctly insured – ask to see their Public Liability cover note – make sure it is in their trading name and look for a minimum of £5 million Public Liability. Do not accept a cover note that does not have the same name as that on the headed paper of the report you have received. Some contractors, whose main line of work is general building, start a building preservation side line believing that their building company insurance will cover their preservation business activities. Provided this has been declared to their insurance underwriter fine, but if it has not then they would probably not be insured when carrying out this type of work. In a worst case scenario you do not want to find out that the contractor was not insured after he accidentally burnt your house down!
If a contractor claims that all or part of their work will be covered by a long term guarantee then you should see a specimen of that guarantee before entering into a contract with the contractor. It is too late after the work has been completed to discover that the guarantee you are provided with is unreasonable or meaningless.You should have received a specimen of the guarantee with the report but if you did not ask to see one before you place the order. Verbal guarantees are but breath on the wind.
Ask your preferred contractor to supply you with a minimum of 3 addresses where they have carried out similar work recently. You should if possible view their actual work rather than look at photographs that may or may not be their own work and preferably speak to their previous clients. After all, if you were spending £4,000 or £5,000 on a car, you would want to take it for a test run before committing yourself.
A final quality to consider is the contractor’s personally. Is the contractor affable and easy to talk to, or bullish and arrogant? If you feel intimidated by a contractor it will be much harder for you to negotiate fairly with him should the need arise. You may have got on well with the surveyor so establish what his involvement is once the job commences. If you feel uncomfortable with a contractor then it is probably better that you use someone else.