A lofty price to pay.

We are sometimes asked to resolve the problems homeowners have been left with following some building work. It nearly always involves loft conversions and the story is often similar to this:

Woman sees ad in a newspaper advertising loft conversions. She meets a builder, who seems credible and knowledgeable, he says he can convert the loft for about £10,000. He says she won’t have to worry about a thing as he will arrange all the building consents needed and will not require any money until the work is finished. No plans are provided, but the work proceeds apace. The day comes when the stairs go in and a short time later the client is invited to take a look. Wow, is often the first reaction, because out of a dark, inaccessible space that was only ever seen from the top of a ladder, a bright spacious new room has been created with its ‘interesting’ geometry for walls and windows that flood the room with light. That is probably the pinnacle of the experience for many, as the interesting geometry becomes a challenge when you try to position the furniture or even getting it up there. The sun blazes in and you are surprised by just how effective the sun can be at melting chocolate at 10am in the morning. Of course, the little design issues can be reconciled with the knowledge that you have a new bedroom or study space at a relatively low cost. Then the Building Inspector knocks on the door and it transpires that no application was made, no stage inspections took place, let alone a formal approval. A list of queries from the Local Building Control is received in the post some days later and the builder has disappeared off the radar.

Sometimes the issues can be resolved for a few thousand pounds, but occasionally the only advice that can be given is to remove the stairs and forget the new room and the money. How do you avoid the above? Get it designed before the work starts so you know what you’re getting, and choose a builder that has been recommended by an independent credible source. Loft conversions seldom cost less than £18,000 and often more. A good thorough design process can keep the costs down and make the on site a bit more efficient.

A photo in the style of an oil painting of a yellow safety helmet typically worn by builders.

Building is not just about putting one brick on top of another.

The other month I commented on how the public seem to rely on builders to problem solve, and how sometimes that trust in their knowledge is misplaced. Before I continue, please let me explain that I have a high regard for most builders as they are used to dealing with problems and finding a solution. The problem is that their good will and endeavours are not always matched by their knowledge. The phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” comes to mind here. The main problem is that builders and the general public don’t appreciate that despite the fact that the building process looks so crude, it’s still a technology. People seem to think that architects do pretty pictures, and builders convert these pictures into reality. Of course there should be a process in the middle where the pretty pictures get converted into detail which the builder can price up and build from, without this, it becomes guess work.

I happened upon a project this week where the builder (for good reason) had departed from the plans, had taken delivery of some beams 7 metres long and was about to use them without any intermediate support. What a mistake that would have been! He had assumed that if they came this long, they would span this far. On checking with the manufacturers, the beams needed intermediate support and would only span 4 metres maximum. The building inspector would probably have spotted this, but that can’t be guaranteed. The floor would have been very bouncy and any floor tiles would have cracked. There was nothing on the delivery information to give a clue. It’s very scary. We need to respect the technology of the building.

The UK used to be much respected for its building technology and standards at one time, but it would not be justified now I feel which is a shame. I would like to see this technology taught at a basic level, perhaps in design technology in schools or even as an apprenticeship, so that at least those indotrinated would have a starting point from which to go on and learn more. They would know that there was more to the subject and that for instance it can matter which way up a brick is laid.

Tips for choosing the right builder.

Christmas is creeping up closer and closer, and so a lot of people across the country are going up into their attics, or voyaging into their cupboards and dusting off their decorations, bringing out the tree and getting tangled in tinsel.

Over the weekend the Tecton Centre got our tree out, and it is now by the door, welcoming people in with a wave of colour and light. It’s getting a bit more festive here, even the conversations with clients and builders are beginning to adopt a slightly more festive theme. Besides asking about how everyones christmas shopping is going, builders are saying that they have heard of some people who have chosen other builders based upon the fact that they gave an unrealistically short time frame in which they would finish the job, so that everything would be done and ready in time for Christmas.

Some builders will say this for the sole reason that it gets them the job, this doesn’t mean that they will stick to that time frame. A few will take the job on, and as Christmas approaches they are no closer to completing the job as promised. This scenario brings a saying to my mind – “if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is”. This quote can definitely be applied to the few builders who can make seemingly unrealistic promises. We would personally never work with any of this type of builder, but we have a list of builders who we have worked with in the past who have earned a good reputation from their past clientele.

Nobody likes to be messed around, even more so when you’re paying for a service, this is especially true when it is so close to Christmas and there are large sums of money involved. So that you can dodge being messed around, we have a few tips for you to bear in mind when on the hunt for a builder.

Ask around your friends and family for recommendations of builders who have done work to their properties. If someone you know and trust has had some work done by someone whom they are happy with, then you can trust that the builder will do a good job, and they’ll also be grateful for the recommendation. (Do not make the mistake of relying solely on this, just bear it in mind).

Ask at least three different builders to provide you with quotes for your work. Not only will this get you a better price, but it will give you an idea of the scope you should probably give your budget to plan for any extra costs which you may incur.

Produce a detailed description of what you want, and where you can, include detailed drawings. An easier route is to get an architectural firm such as ours to draw up plans for you, they will be to scale and so builders should be able to read them. Visual information is usually easier to read than a written description when it comes to work like this, written instructions can be open to interpretation whereas a detailed plan shows exactly what you would like.

Make sure that the quotes you get are for everything you would like done. We hope that these helpful hints will assist you with finding the right, reputable builder so that you don’t get messed around this Christmas.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.

Planning ahead.

As the title suggests, today’s blog is going to be about the importance of pre-planning a project. Not just a housing project, but any day-to-day project/task which you may have.

As it’s December, and Christmas is making its way here (at quite an alarming rate in my opinion), ’tis the season to be wrapping. This is a really good example for us to get our point across; wrapping Christmas presents can take up a good amount of time during the winter months! If you are anything like me, you will probably leave your wrapping until the last possible moment (usually Christmas eve), but if you were clever and well-organised you would’ve planned ahead. If you know that you have enough wrapping paper well in advance, a good amount of sellotape, and some ribbon, bows and tags if you’re arty with your wrapping, then you can get it all done without breaking a sweat (hopefully). Maybe even well in advance as well, namely before Christmas eve.

If however, you haven’t thought ahead, you might not have enough wrapping paper, or maybe you do, but you don’t have anything to stick it together with. So you are now running out to the shops on Christmas eve, fighting the other last-minute wrappers, grabbing at the last sellotape like your life depended on it. This in turn, has caused you a delay in finishing the task because you didn’t plan it ahead of time.

Rolls of red and silver Christmas wrapping paper with ribbons, bows and scissors
Image Courtesy of Google.

Designing your project well in advance goes along the same principles as Christmas wrapping, except that there is no ribbon, and no pretty bows to hide the unfinished edges.

Pre planning the project on your home is paramount if you wish to have a smooth ride with the building process. Before you go to a builder, you should have explored the options, settled on a scheme, and have everything carefully drawn out by an architectural consultancy. Without these technical drawings, the builder will not have much idea of the quantity of materials he will need for the build. If the builder has no idea of how many bricks he will need or how much cement to order he will probably end up ordering the wrong amount and then expect you to pay extra over and above what he first quoted. If you had all of this pre planned with a thorough set of accurate plans you would get a quote you could rely on, the builder would know what to order, the job would be finished on time and everything would be a lot smoother. It would definitely be a better experience for all.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.

4 tips for a successful house project

We give all of our clients 4 simple tips to have a higher chance of a successful, smoothly run project. Of course, this is not by any means a guarantee that all projects will go without any problems at all, these tips will just help you to avoid the unnecessary hiccups which happen all too often due to poor planning.  So our 4 tips to you are as follows:

Tip #1 – Have a well thought out scheme.

If you have carefully considered all aspects of your plans, and decided upon a final design then you can start the process and begin to make the design a reality.

If you don’t consider everything carefully, and change your mind about something part way through the work, you will be causing a lot of unnecessary hassle for yourself and your builders, it could cost you more and would probably take more time to complete.

Tip #2 – A good set of technical plans which explain to the builder how it should be built.

Getting a reputable architectural company to create a good set of technical plans for your project is key to getting everything built exactly as you’d like it.

The technical plans will tell the builders how the design should be built, and it can also act as a communication tool, and a contract between the builder and the client.

Tip #3 – Choose your builder with care.

You may have seen some of the TV programmes on TV showing builders who do a botch job on clients builds. These are not staged and this does happen very often if you’re not careful! So choose your builder with care and be sure that you do not end up on one of these shows.

Tip #4 – Don’t change your mind about anything once the work starts.

If you change your mind about anything whilst the builders are on site, you will cause unnecessary hassle for everyone. The project will probably become delayed and perhaps more expensive.

If you follow these tips, you are more likely to have a hassle free, smoothly built project.

Written by Jade Turney – Building Tectonics Ltd.