choos­iNg a coN­Trac­Tor

Paul Testa searches for the right con­trac­tor to work with on the eco retro­fit which will trans­form his 1960s semi-de­tached house

Homebuilding & Renovating - - ON SITE -

Through my job as an ar­chi­tect and run­ning a small prac­tice, I’m for­tu­nate in that I know a num­ber of high-qual­ity con­trac­tors who would do a good job on any of our projects — in­clud­ing my own.

We don’t tend to rec­om­mend a com­pet­i­tive ten­der ap­proach to choos­ing a builder. We feel that, for most of our clients, a qual­ity prod­uct and a qual­ity work­ing re­la­tion­ship is much more im­por­tant than out­right cost. For most, a project of any size is a once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity and it should be en­joy­able. We have found through ex­pe­ri­ence that projects driven pri­mar­ily by cost are more fraught, less en­joy­able and also more likely to be sub­ject to cost vari­a­tion on site.

Man­ag­ing a project (even when you are an ar­chi­tect with ex­pe­ri­ence of run­ning projects) is a time-con­sum­ing process. As I don’t have the lux­ury of this time with my own project – I had been un­der­tak­ing most of the de­sign work in my spare time – choos­ing a con­trac­tor is, per­haps, more crit­i­cal and I am even more re­liant on a strong re­la­tion­ship based on trust. So, we have cho­sen to work with Terry Huggett De­vel­op­ments (THD) who we have worked with be­fore and who I have built a strong work­ing and per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with.

Although cost is very im­por­tant, and our bud­get is tight for what we want to achieve, qual­ity is still the big­gest driver in the project. This is why we have cho­sen not to pro­cure the works with a fixed-price con­tract. THD has never at­tempted this level of per­for­mance be­fore (we’re ren­o­vat­ing to meet the En­erPHit stan­dard — read more on page 161) and I don’t want to pay for Terry to price in lots of in­built risk. I also don’t want to

pe­nalise him for do­ing the good job that will be re­quired to meet our per­for­mance tar­get. So we’re us­ing a ‘cost plus’ type con­tract, where we pay for all ma­te­ri­als, site time and pre­lim­i­nar­ies (skips, scaf­fold, site wel­fare, etc) along with a pro­por­tion of THD’s over­heads and a per­cent­age profit. Nei­ther of us has worked on this ba­sis be­fore, so it’s a learn­ing process. We def­i­nitely see it as a strong ap­proach that should get ex­cel­lent build qual­ity while min­imis­ing the risk for both par­ties.

We started with a sense check price from a quan­tity sur­veyor, which has so far been broadly ac­cu­rate. The ap­proach has also made life more flex­i­ble for me as the client. I have un­der­taken a chunk of the big ticket ma­te­rial pur­chas­ing where I’ve been able to se­cure favourable deals; I have also been able to un­der­take some works di­rectly. This hasn’t re­quired the nor­mal price ne­go­ti­a­tions that would have been needed in a fixed-price sce­nario.

The most dif­fi­cult thing so far has been un­der­stand­ing the best way for Terry to ap­por­tion his over­head costs to the project. We’ve dis­cussed this as­pect more than any other in terms of cost. If we go on to use this ap­proach with our clients, how this is ex­plained and pack­aged will be very im­por­tant. We needed that strong work­ing re­la­tion­ship to start with, as we’ve been able to raise con­cerns freely with each other.

In­evitably, tak­ing an in­volved role in the project as well as run­ning our ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice has been a bit stress­ful, but also en­joy­able and very re­ward­ing. The pro­cure­ment route has had the un­ex­pected ben­e­fit that the guys on site are more in­vested in the process and the ul­ti­mate out­come.

NexT moNTh: work be­giNs oN siTe

it is hard to be­lieve that a year ago I started ren­o­vat­ing a two bed­room stone cot­tage in South Wales. It wasn’t just on a whim — per­sonal cir­cum­stances meant that I had a lim­ited amount of money avail­able, which is why I chose not to go with a modern build­ing, but one with more char­ac­ter, even if it meant more work.

I spent most of my lim­ited bud­get on re­plac­ing the old win­dows with new dou­ble glaz­ing; re­plac­ing lin­tels over the front door and up­per win­dow where the orig­i­nal wood had rot­ted; re­plac­ing some ra­di­a­tors; mak­ing good up­per tim­ber floor­ing in the bath­room; new electrics; and new in­ter­nal doors through­out. Out­side, costs con­cerned new fenc­ing in the back gar­den and lay­ing deck­ing to cre­ate a court­yard area by the back door.

Oth­er­wise, the ma­jor­ity of my ren­o­va­tions have in­volved un­pick­ing the dis­as­trous DIY ef­forts of pre­vi­ous res­i­dents and us­ing my in­ge­nu­ity to make bud­get im­prove­ments.

I am for­tu­nately blessed with a good imag­i­na­tion, which is help­ful when ren­o­vat­ing on a shoe­string. I blocked the de­funct fire­place open­ing with a piece

of ply­wood cov­ered with brick-ef­fect wall­pa­per and pur­chased a small elec­tric wood­burner. To make it look more re­al­is­tic, I bought a small piece of plumb­ing pipe and placed it on the top of the burner fac­ing the wall to make it look like a chim­ney flue. I think it works well, it only cost £65 in to­tal and it makes that sec­tion of the room look so much cosier and more wel­com­ing.

I have en­joyed do­ing the work. There have been frus­trat­ing mo­ments of course — wait­ing for some­one else to start work on the prop­erty has been my big­gest bug­bear be­cause it con­se­quently held up all other tasks. There was also the fact that as a wo­man on her own, my jobs were not deemed top pri­or­ity and were fre­quently down­graded to “week­end work” and the start dates changed.

It has been fun and it’s been sat­is­fy­ing to see so much achieved with so lit­tle in the kitty, but I think one ren­o­va­tion is enough to be go­ing on with!

jonathan durn­dell is a char­tered build­ing sur­veyor and is build­ing his own home This month we have con­tin­ued to build up the walls to first floor level. Progress has been quite slow due to work com­mit­ments and my fa­ther hav­ing a knee op­er­a­tion! All the cor­ners of the house have now been built in block­work up to the se­cond floor joist level, with the in­ten­tion of com­menc­ing the brick­work in the com­ing weeks.

We have also loaded out all the blocks and bricks ready to con­tinue build­ing, which has made a lit­tle bit more room around the site. I have been busy spend­ing some time cut­ting half bricks ready for build­ing up the win­dow re­veals, which will hope­fully save a lot of time when lay­ing.

My fa­ther – de­spite his knee – has con­structed his own win­dow tem­plates which will help keep the brick­work up­right. These are de­signed to be eas­ily re­moved with­out dis­turb­ing the brick­work. Over the com­ing months we hope to make a bit of progress with the walls to en­able us to think about in­stalling the next batch of floor joists.

ta­mara and Mar­tin Hamill are ren­o­vat­ing and ex­tend­ing a 1980s bun­ga­low to cre­ate an ac­ces­si­ble home for their fam­ily

It has been both a frus­trat­ing and yet still quite ex­cit­ing pe­riod. We have our plans now, the draw­ings for the main ex­ten­sions have been ap­proved by build­ing con­trol, the garage and porch are in plan­ning, and we have shared our plans with our neigh­bours over tea and cake.

The ten­der process me­an­ders on, and we have had four quotes back from an ini­tial set of seven builders. They all seem to be con­structed slightly dif­fer­ently and with the level of de­tail vary­ing from none to some! Spend­ing a few hun­dred pounds with a quan­tity sur­veyor to cost up our pro­posed works, be­fore we ac­tu­ally bought the bun­ga­low, has be­come in­valu­able as a “ready reck­oner” to com­pare the quotes for both price and con­tent. We have cre­ated a lovely spread­sheet to track the quotes and start to build a cash flow fore­cast.

We are now down to two po­ten­tials. How­ever, clos­ing this part of the process has be­come tor­tu­ously slow, hav­ing to con­stantly wait for re­vi­sions and up­dates, other trades/sup­pli­ers to quote and then re­al­is­ing the plans didn’t ac­tu­ally in­clude the vaulted ceil­ing in the master bed­room — more de­lays and an­other bill from the struc­tural en­gi­neer!

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