Our Bungalow Renovation: Finding a builder

We were already well prepared when it came to finding a builder to help make our visions into reality. Thankfully, as part of our architect’s, Gráinne O’Keeffe of Gráinne O’Keeffe Architects Ltd, guidance notes for our building programme, along with advice on pricing and going to tender, she included a list of eight suggested builders worth checking out – all of which had completed projects for her former clients.  

My husband, Dave, and I began here and phoned each one in turn to see if they were interested. After this point, it was simply the case of narrowing down the list, which was actually fairly straightforward in the end. 

Seven of them asked us to send the package that Gráinne had prepared for us, the eighth never returned our phone calls. Five of them, after receiving the drawings, asked to visit the site – the other two did not get back to us.

The shortlist now getting smaller, those who came were all very personable and said we could visit houses that they had renovated before. This was a good sign in our eyes, as we know how important it is to see their previous work.

However, we were slightly concerned that only two brought a notepad with them to jot stuff down, and only one actually brought the plans with him to go through everything with us as we went around the house.  

Fining a builder

The original pink bathroom fixtures and fittings.

They all took their time to explain how they worked and how many men they would have working on it and their timeline, which was very useful. We parted ways in the knowledge that their quotes would come within a fortnight. It seemed like a very long wait, as we were itching to start the work.  

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We eventually got four quotes in, but comparing them took some time, as they all had their own way of setting them out. So, you couldn’t compare like with like, even though Gráinne supplied the same format for each builder to complete. For example, some included VAT as they went along and some added it at the end. Some of the quotes varied by more than 20% in price, and all were slightly different in what they listed.

We had to look out for things such as not including some of the works, or the price of the windows or decoration. Although this process was difficult, the ones that included less actually helped us in shortening the list even further – as we really want everything included so we can move straight in. 

Janis and Dave mapped out the size of the utility room using tape before work started.

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Thankfully two stood out from the rest. It was when we got to this point that we arranged to visit their previous projects and talk to their customers. The builder we decided on took us to a completed whole house renovation and also a project that they were halfway through so we could see the building work taking place and meet the team that would work on our house. We chose him as he seemed to be the most meticulous – we were also satisfied with his previous work and customer comments and coincidently, he lived nearby.

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He was always on time for our meetings and seemed enthusiastic about our ideas. We had another couple of meetings with him, just to make sure, then signed on the dotted line. We’re so excited – now we have a start date, we can’t wait to get going with the renovation, as it seems like such a long time since we first decided to go for it 

Read more Our Bungalow Renovation blogs in the series.

Featured image: The existing conservatory will be replaced by a rear extension.

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