Finding a builder: Our Bungalow Renovation

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 our process of finding a builder here, and phoned each one in turn to gauge their interest. After this point, it was a case of narrowing down the list, which was actually fairly straightforward in the end. 

Seven builders asked us to send the package that Gráinne had prepared, while 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 ‘finding a builder’ shortlist now getting smaller, those who came were all very personable and said we could visit houses that they had renovated. This was a good sign in our eyes, as we know how important it is to see their previous work.

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

How to find a builder

finding a builder
Finding a builder: the original pink bathroom fixtures and fittings.

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

We eventually got four quotes in during the process of finding a builder. However, 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.

When finding a builder, 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. This is because as we really want everything included so we can move straight in. 

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

You may also enjoy: Our Bungalow Renovation: Finding an architect

Thankfully two stood out from the rest when finding a builder. It was at 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, coincidentally, he lived nearby.

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

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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