How to find a suitable tradesman for your Victorian renovation

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How to find a suitable tradesman for your Victorian renovation

The end result of your renovation will only be as good as the time, effort, and probably money you put into it. Here we give you some tips on how and where to find people that can help you and you'll find more tips about renovating a period property here in our article "Things I wish I'd known before purchasing a period house".

If you have taken on a Victorian or period house in need of restoration, you have an interesting task ahead of you. The end result of any period property renovation will only be as good as the time, effort, and probably money you put into it. The Victorian Emporium can help you with the products you need to use on your period interior. However unless you are a very competent DIYer and renovator, you will probably need the help of various tradesmen to achieve your dream result. Here we give you some tips on how and where to find people that can help you.

The degree to which your renovation is done well and with common sense is the key to the success or failure of your project. There is no point spending £50,000 on a new kitchen on a house that will only ever be worth £250,000. However these are the sort of decisions that you as the house owner will need to make. Most contractors will encourage you to create ambitious plans for any work you are doing with the danger of overspending on a project and not getting your money back. You need to be the one analyzing cost vs benefit and return of anything you do.

Specialist or generalist?

There are some jobs for which you will require a specialist who is experienced in working with old buildings, for example lime plastering, restoration of period mouldings and stone masonry. For a period property specialist you may well pay a premium therefore you need to decide whether the particular job you are seeking help with is indeed requiring the skills and experience of a specialist, or whether it is, within the remit of the trade, a non-specialist job. For example even though the brickwork for your extension may need to be done with handmade bricks in a Flemish bond style, the job of laying the bricks does not involve any specialist knowledge of old buildings. The knowledge of old buildings comes into play with the brick matching and choice of mortar, rather than the bricklaying. For extensions, this will have already been specified in the Building Regulations which need to be passed before you start work. As long as the person managing the project is competent and fully understands the Building Regulations, and as long as you develop a cooperative relationship with your Building Inspector (they are there to help you and this is why you pay a fee for the Inspections), non specialists may well be adequate for the majority of the jobs.

Where to look for your builder

There are a number of websites that list specialist contractors for period renovations.

http://www.projectbook.co.uk/register.html

http://www.conservationregister.com/

http://www.hha.org.uk/directory-of-suppliers.html

http://www.buildingconservation.com/directory/prodserv.php

http://www.theheritagedirectory.co.uk/product.asp?prodid=45

http://directory.periodproperty.co.uk/listing/guide/building_tradesmen_professionals

There are other websites where non-specialists promote their services.

http://www.fmb.org.uk/

http://www.ratedpeople.com/

http://www.mybuilder.com/

http://www.checkatrade.com/

http://www.yell.com

How to find the right person for the job and not regret it later

Even if a tradesman has been recommended, never ever use somebody simply on trust. Even a friend could let you down and there have been many disasterous projects (and ends to beautiful friendships) when people have used their so called friends and fallen out over money or shoddy workmanship. From experience, using friends is best avoided if you value the friendship. By all means ask people you know for recommendations but make your own decision about using somebody based on the same criteria you would use when judging somebody that has not been recommended.

When looking for anyone to carry out work on your house it is recommended that you get a minimum of 3 quotes. From experience, not everyone who is asked to come over and quote will actually provide a quote so it is suggested that 5 trademen are contacted by telephone or email and that you briefly discuss the job and timescales with them before they visit you. The more information you can give them the more likely it is they can give you a ballpark figure and timescale over the telephone. It may be that one or two of them would be too busy to fit the job in in the timescales you require therefore they may rule themselves out of the job. For any tradesmen that you meet you should judge them on the following criteria which is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • Can you imagine having them in your house day in day out until the job is complete?
  • Are they knowledgeable?
  • Do they listen to what you want?
  • Do you trust them?
  • Do they have a positive attitude towards you and the project?
  • Do they seem reliable (did they turn up on time and how long did it take for their quote to arrive)?
  • Do you think they will do a good job?
  • How does their quote compare with the others?
  • Are they quoting on the job or how much they think you can afford?

If there are any doubts over the above aspects of your meeting, keep on looking. It’s better to delay the start of the project and find somebody you will be happy with than start work earlier with somebody that has raised doubts and be let down half way through the job. It’s very difficult to find someone to complete a job that somebody else has started.

Make sure you very carefully compare quotes side by side. A quote that looks cheap is often omitting what other quotes are including. Check whether they charge VAT. Also ask whether it’s a quote or an estimate which is a very important distinction.

Hopefully these tips will provide some assistance in finding the right man or woman for your job.

If you would like to find out more about our Period Property renovation project management service covering Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, including help with vetting builders, please email emma@thevictorianemporium.com or call 01525 750333.


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