Trusted builders in Cambridge and how to find them
People often ask how we vet the builders we recommend on scuseme, so we thought that it would be a good idea to share some of what we do. Our checks are based on meeting in person and asking the right questions to gather necessary information.
We also want to share this information because increasingly we are responding to enquiries where a rogue builder has let a customer down, more often than not, at significant cost and stress to them. We hope that if you are prepared with the right questions to conduct a thorough check, you will be in a stronger position to find trusted builders in Cambridge.
Asking the right questions will help you determine the credibility and trustworthiness of potential builders and tradespeople you are considering. And having a ready-prepared list of questions to ask will also help you get the most out of a visit and assist in making a choice.
Can you give me the names of past clients, recent and some from a while ago?
While it is important to get the names of past customers, make sure that you speak to them, ideally in person. It is a good idea to ask to see some older work, as well as recent jobs. Doing so will give you a real appreciation of the quality of the workmanship and building project. Over time faults can become apparent, plus it gives you the opportunity to discover if your builder maintains long-reaching relationships with his clients.
Have you completed a job like mine?
When you are about to commission a job you must be confident that the builder knows exactly what needs to be done, and this is best demonstrated if they have done something similar. You don’t want to be the guinea pig client, where your builder is learning how to do it at your expense.
Can you provide trade references?
As important as it is to get the references of past clients, you will be advised to ask for references from a supplier about a builder’s credit facilities. This question is a good indicator of financial stability and management. You could also ask how long he has been with his current bank. Any builder who keeps changing his bank can be an indication of financial problems.
Are you VAT registered?
There are many small builders and handy people who are not VAT registered and are perfectly legitimate. The VAT threshold is currently £85,000 and a builder about to embark on a major job, with a turnover below that cannot be doing very much work. So beware of builders who offer to waive VAT if you pay in cash. Tax avoidance is illegal, it reflects badly on the integrity of a builder, and furthermore, it puts you in a weak position if there are any disputes.
When can you start?
Builders are in huge demand now, particularly after coming out of lockdown, as a lot of people want to invest in major home improvement jobs. In Cambridge, as is the case in much of the UK, you must be prepared to wait for a builder. That is because good builders are busy, but they are worth the wait. Beware of any builder who can start straight away, that may seem like good fortune, but you should see this as a potential red flag. Get a realistic start date and don’t push for an early start if this is unrealistic, because the likelihood is that you will be let down. Once you get a commitment, on larger projects ask for a timetable so you can and check the progress of the job against certain deadlines and milestones.
Can I turn up on-site unannounced?
Some people are able to live in their homes while undergoing a renovation or building project, while others will have to live elsewhere. If you are the latter, you must ask your builder if they are happy for you to drop in unannounced, as well as times when certain tasks that involve things like wiring, damp-proof membranes, pipes – or anything else being covered up. This will give you the chance to make sure that everything is OK before they disappear. You should priorities making times for visits and if when asked the builder seems negative, then don’t employ him. You want someone who is proud of his work.
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Dawn Giesler, is the founder of scuseme Cambridge, an online community that helps your family run smoothly. She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. For more information about all the services and tradespeople they recommend, visit scuseme.
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