Loft conversions make up a significant investment in your property, so you want to make sure you find the right builder for the job – at a cost you can afford. While the cowboys are the ones we hear about in the news (one cowboy builder was ordered to pay £ 140,000 compensation to a number of clients just last week, or face four years in prison), the vast majority of builders are professionals who care about their customers and their reputation.
Looking for loft conversion specialists?
The Yellow Pages is a good starting point, but there are also several portals online (housekeepinglondon.org.uk comes highly recommended) that put you in touch with local builders, as well as giving you the chance to look through their work history, qualifications and peruse their customers' feedback. You could also ask at your local builders' merchant for recommendations.
To make sure you choose the right person for your loft conversion, here are a few suggestions.
Always ask a number of builders who specialize in loft conversions for quotes or estimates.
Make sure that each quote (not 'quotation', which is something else equal!) Details all the costs: materials AND labor, and suggests rough how long the project will take. Also ask them to detail which parts of the project they are not able to do.
Do not opt for the cheapest – opt for the most realistic. Suicide bidding is destroying the construction industry, and many builders that are using suicide bidding to secure work are going under, leaving half-finished projects across the country.
When you have a shortlist of loft conversion builders, ask for references and photos – see if you can visit a happy customer to see the quality of their work and to get a feel for the builder's reputation.
Consider using local tradesmen to keep things simpler.
Find out what parts of the loft conversion your chosen builder is able to do. Can they take the project from start to finish, or are they only able to provide the building part. Find out whenever they have good contacts with other professionals in the construction industry who would be able to provide the services your builder can not offer. For example, are they able to arrange a plumber and electrician as well as a plasterer, or will those tasks come down to you when the loft is converted?
Keep a note of all the questions answered; keep a spreadsheet or all of the e-mails, so that you are able to refer back to them in case of any problems down the line.
When you have all the quotations and / estimates spread across your dining room table, the figures may be a little bamboozling. Next week we'll look at what factors affect the price of a loft conversion.