Choosing a contractor for your old building

Choosing a contractor for your old buildingChoosing the ‘right’ contractor is often quite a challenge, especially when a project is a large and expensive one.  It is important that you select a contractor who fully understands the mechanics of an old building to ensure that any work you have done will stand the test of time. 

The Contractors Directory  may give you a useful place to start, but it is also important to consider the following when choosing your contractor:

  • Always employ a contractor that understands and is sympathetic to old buildings.
  • Interview them and try and judge whether your potential builder believes in the principle of ‘repair.’  Do they for example use pure lime mixes with no cement, or are they happy repairing an old window as opposed to replacing it?
  • Never be afraid of questioning any plans a professional advisor offers, for example ask about the implications of adding and removing elements. 
  • Get at least three written quotations that are itemised and check that includes VAT, if they are VAT-registered.
  • Always provide your contractor with a written document with a description of the works required, to price against. This will help you to compare quotes from different contractors.
  • Request references that you can follow up, speak to previous clients and inspect examples of their work. The work should ideally be similar to the project you require.
  • When comparing quotations remember that the lowest quote is not always the best, and look out for any hidden costs.  
  • In terms of a contract it is advisable to include a start and end date for the work, any warranty and define exactly what the agreed price does/ doesn’t include.
  • Never pay up front and agree with your contractor when instalments should be paid.
  • Unforeseen work that is not included in the original agreed price can often occur once work begins on an old building. Prior to any work commencing, establish with your contractor how additional works will be incorporated into the initial agreed cost.  
  • Make sure that all contractors have full public liability insurance and employer’s liability cover by requesting to see all the certificates.

Recording for the future

It is important to keep a record of all the work you carry out. This information will be not only useful for you, but also for the any building professional working on your home and any owners of the building that follow you.