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.

Foundation and extensions.

Foundations and extensions to houses.
There is a lot of confusion about foundations and extensions, especially where the requirement is to build over an existing building. Often the question is whether the existing foundations will support the load of the additional building. There are two very simple things to remember about foundations. 1) The width of a foundation and the nature of the soil below dictate how much load it can take. 2) The depth of a foundation is only important to stop the foundation moving due to fluctuations in the ground below.

In Milton Keynes, where I practice, the clay is usually supportive enough so that even a narrow foundation can support two storeys and therefore the foundation put in to support your single storey building will normally be able to take the load from two storeys. Thus you can often build over without worrying about the foundations.

In respect of the depth of a foundation, if you are building on clay, as in Milton Keynes, you have to take the foundation down to a depth where it will not be effected by seasonal shrinkage, ie dry summers ( remember those) causing the clay to crack and dry, even down to 900 millimeters. This effect is made much worse by the presence of trees where the ground can desiccate / shrink even at depths of 3 meters plus due to the trees sucking up so much moisture. This type of problem will cause cracking in a three storey house or a garden wall alike and thus logically no matter how much the load, if you want to avoid any type of movement you have to go deep on clay. Of course nobody invests a lot of money in a garden wall foundation so no wonder they crack and fall over so often.

It is not the same where building on sand. Sand does not suffer from shrinkage in the same way and so a much shallower foundation may be okay. However the foundation may have to be wider to take even a modest load – it depends on the type of sand.

Therefore most building can be successfully built over, using the existing foundations but, if there is evidence of movement such as cracking then it would be unwise to build over since that will probably crack too. All of the above is a generalization and you need an expert to advise, but you should not be put off exploring extending upwards because of a fear regarding the foundations. Talk to us and we will try to advise on the best strategy.

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.