In this blog we draw on 14 years of property renovation in Bath, to share our experiences with readers considering a home refurbishment.
To give you an idea of what we do, below is an image from one of our recent projects. Here, we renovated neighbouring properties to a common external brief, but with different internal requirements. To create open plan kitchen diners in each, we produced concepts with 3D visuals, designed the extensions in detail, obtained planning approval, and carried out a competitive tender. We then project managed the work and furnished the interior, constructing two glazed side return extensions in a collaborative project that saved each neighbour over £10 000 (plus another £5000 on project management fees!). To read more of the specific services we offer, please see our Bath property renovation page.
This blog discusses a number of issues that you may care to consider for your renovation; in particular how to choose your building contractor.
your property renovation
You will face many decisions preparing for your property renovation. This can be quite daunting if you are new to the area or haven’t used building professionals and trades before. For an extensive property renovation, extension or remodel you might engage a home designer, architect, structural engineer and possibly a Party Wall surveyor.
We design and manage stylish property renovation in Bath and Bristol from concept to completion. We remodel homes, obtain planning approvals, create luxury interiors, refurbish rooms and deliver the complete project.
Whether you engage professional help or manage everything yourself, one of the most important decisions will be your choice of building contractor.
Building Contractors in Bath
There are thousands of building contractors, trades and suppliers who can work on your property renovation in Bath. If you search on-line for the work you have in mind, there will be plenty of firms to choose from. But how do you decide who is best?
The type and value of the project will determine the sort of contractor you might shortlist, but how many quotations should you get? Will there be any hidden costs? What other factors might be important before making your decision?
We’ve worked with many building contractors in Bath, helping our clients through the range of options available. Most are very good and we use them regularly Others take some getting used to, but are fine when we understand each other. Then there are those to avoid…
A key document for a successful renovation will be the technical specification which you pass to the contractor for pricing.
Home Renovation Specification
As mentioned in the blog how to renovate a property, you will make sound decisions if you have a clear brief. You then need to translate this into a detailed specification. You also need to have realistic expectations (particularly on cost).
When we first meet our clients, we find that most are very good at outlining their general thoughts. But they need help to specify their requirement, technically. Others will admit that they don’t know where to start.
For more extensive projects you will need a set of construction and building control drawings and structural engineer’s calculations in addition to the detailed specification. This forms the technical documentation pack against which contractors will tender. Later, we’ll say more about the importance of using technical language in your specification to obtain a reliable price.
Getting Quotations for a Home Renovation
It is important to get at least 3 quotations. First, this helps you to check that prices are competitive. Second, it lets you meet other builders with innovative ideas and cheaper ways of meeting your requirement.
When running a competitive tender for our clients, we choose 2 contractors that we know will do a good job and a third that we’ve not used before. This provides an independent option for our clients, and invites opportunity for fresh opinions and ideas. For our property renovation in Bath we look to share the work amongst as many good contractors as possible.
Importantly, invite your shortlisted contractors to site after they’ve been sent your specification, but before they tender. Treat this like an interview, so prepare a list of questions. You will be paying tens of thousands of pound so you will want to choose wisely. A site visit gives you and the contractor the opportunity to clarify areas for specific attention. They will also be interested in site access and other practical features not found in the technical documentation.
You should see a contractor’s work before asking them to bid. Just by looking at the finish, you’ll tell how they are.
We always see previous work, even for trades who come highly recommended. In some cases, what we saw was disappointing – diverging grout lines, misaligned sockets and other indications of a person’s skills and attention to detail.
Also check their qualifications. For electrics they should be Part P accredited (registered with NICEIC, ELECSA or equivalent). For gas, check the Gas Safe Register. Ask for copies of their insurance; they won’t mind being asked. Occasionally, an electrician or gas engineer won’t have this accreditation but will rely on a further qualified tradesperson to sign off their work.
comparing quotations for your property renovation
How can you be sure that you are comparing like with like between three quotations? Actually, you can help yourself before tendering, by presenting the contractors with a taut specification. Here is an example:
If you say that you want 6 lights in the bathroom ceiling, that will mean something different to the 3 bidders. You will get 3 different prices. Compare this with: “The contractor shall supply and fit 6 no. recessed, dimmable, fire-rated 7W LED downlighters ref XYZ, on circuit A to 2-gang switch S”. Here you are leading the contractors to offer their best price for the same requirement. Without a taut specification, you wouldn’t know whether the contractors were offering good value or lowest price.
A taut specification might drive out a higher price, but a more reliable price. Most prices escalate because the specification isn’t well written. So-called hidden costs, aren’t really hidden. They come from a lack of detail. More time spent on the technical specification will minimise this risk.
In our experience, responsible contractors prefer to see a detailed specification. It helps them to price more accurately and remove their fear that some other bidder might undercut them with inferior products.
Ask your tenderers to provide a price against each item in the specification. You should create your own spreadsheet for the full renovation including carpets and blinds so that you can forecast total cost. Then, if the initial cost is too high, you can trade elements within the total, or perhaps delay certain purchases until they become affordable.
If a contractor only provides a headline price, ask them to confirm in writing that the price meets the specification in full. Then you should be fine.
Choosing Your Renovation Contractor
In addition to the price, other factors to consider before selecting the successful tenderer would be:
- Did you like the contractor when you met? Did they come across as flexible, knowledgeable, interested? Were they enthusiastic for your project? Did they offer helpful suggestions during the site visit? Is this someone you could get on with?
- When you looked at their previous work, which produced work of highest quality?
- In their tender or site visit, did any of the contractors identify risks to help you budget? Did they look at access and ask informed questions of their own? Did this make you feel more confident that they really understood your project?
- Which contractors have a full team in-house, and which would sub-contract much of the work? Contractors are only as good as the guys working for them. Sub-contractors can be really good too, of course, but we’ve seen contractors using agency workers, and others that they have never used before; so check who they intend to employ.
- Which contractors will meet your preferred start date?
If everything else is equal and the price affordable, you may find the first of these points to be the most important – how comfortable did you feel with a particular contractor? Is he or she someone you feel you can work with constructively? Did they communicate well? You may be spending the next 6 months or so in their company, negotiating changes and overcoming challenges; you won’t always agree with each other, so it is important that the relationship works well.
The image below is of a property renovation in Bath, although our client lived in London. We invited him to visit our home so he could gain confidence in us and also in one of our regular contractors.
Successful Property Renovation
There are plenty of good contractors for your property renovation in Bath. The guidance above will help you to make the right choice.
Over the past 12 years we have identified a number of preferred builders with whom we feel comfortable, and who have delighted our clients. Many of these employ sub-contractors who we also know well; as a complete team, from design to implementation, we have undertaken many successful home renovations. You can also budget more carefully using our guide to property renovation costs.
property renovation in Bath
Our principal service is interior design and property renovation in Bath and Bristol. Unfortunately, we can’t travel the length and breadth of the country so we have designed this website to be of help to readers everywhere. Indeed, through interiors platform Houzz, we have a more global reach for our advice columns. Houzz has presented us with their customer service award for the past 4 years. They base this on our responsiveness to questions from their readers and also on feedback from clients’ testimonials.
If you think we can help with your property renovation in Bath or Bristol please get in touch through our contacts page.
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