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Things to think about before you undertake a building or renovation project

Once you have decided what you want to do, you need to find out if you need planning permission or building regulations approval

Planning permission is when your local planning authority agrees you can go ahead with your new property development, new extension, change the use of a building or make alterations. There is a formal process for this and sometimes permission is needed for the smallest of alterations such as changing a frosted glass window to a clear window. If you are in a conservation area or the building is listed of course the planning rules are tighter. It is always best to check if you are not sure – never assume that you do not need it. Be aware that if you go ahead without permission and you later find out that you should have got it, you may end up having to undo all alterations or building work you have had done. If you do need planning permission use one of our sister sites to find local experts

Building regulations are a set of Government rules that contractors must abide by to ensure their work is of a certain standard. They cover everything from electrics, windows, insulation, foundations, fire escapes, boilers, stair, disabled access and cavity walls, the list is endless. Sometimes a contractor might be registered with a scheme enabling them to install windows or carry out electrical work for example to the required standard and sign the work off themselves.  You should ask the contractor if they have the right registration that allows them to do this, ask to see the relevant documentation and then check them out yourself with the relevant organisation. They should give you a certificate within 8 weeks of finishing showing that the work complies with building regulations and this will show up in any searches solicitors or conveyancers carry out on behalf of clients for a house purchase. If you need to find a contractor to apply for building regulations approval visit Local Architects Direct to find a supplier working in your area.

Before starting building work
Before starting building work

Finding an approved contractor can be a daunting task, and then once you have found someone, how can you be sure they are legitimate? There are a number of things you can do to reassure yourself:

1) Ask the contractor if he has carried out any similar work locally and find out the customer’s  contact details. It is better if this a phone number so you can speak to them, a written reference could have been put together by anybody. If the contractor will not give you any of this information, perhaps he is not genuine?

2) Does the contractor have any qualifications, professional memberships, employers liability insurance, public liability insurance and are they willing to show you proof and will it still be in date during the project?

3) Do their contact details work and does the company actually exist? Can you find matching details for them on the relevant trade association website?

4) Write down what you discuss with them and what they say they will do.

5) If you are able to interview at least three contractors you will begin to get a feel for who is going to be easiest to work with and who may be the most appropriate.

6) Ask all the contractors you see for an itemised written quote. Then you can compare different contractors more easily before deciding who to appoint. A quote could include a total fixed price stating if it includes VAT or not, a break down of the work,  materials and their costs, outline of circumstance that constitute a price rise and how long the price is valid for.  Remember the cheapest quote is not necessarily the best.

Other things to think about

If the project involves work at your home, get in touch with your house insurance company and find out if you are covered whilst the work is undertaken.

Try to get a written contract with a start and finish date and details of all the work agreed and the price. Read it carefully and add anything which you think is missing.  Check if skips are included in the price quoted, check they will tidy up, check who is responsible for hiring and paying contractors and if any of these self-certify such as electricians or plumbers and find out how you will get the relevant certificates.

Pay in stages and if possible pay by card, that way if something goes wrong there is a possibility you may be able to get some money back with the help of your bank. You may have to pay a deposit if the project is very big or takes a long time but be careful you only pay a small percentage and make sure you get a receipt.