Renovating your home can be one of the most expensive and stressful ventures you take on in your lifetime, but it doesn’t have to be if you carefully select the right builder and team to support your ideas and deliver the outcome of your dreams.

It can be difficult to navigate the process and how you go about even starting the process, if that’s where you’re at see our blog post on I want to renovate but where do I start? Which will guide you through how to start the process and get to the point of choosing a builder.

Here are ten steps you need to know about how to choose the right builder for you:

  1. Are they experienced in your type of build?
    Years of experience is essential. There are two types of builders, one who has a theory degree and one who has worked up in the trade with much more onsite experience. There are pro’s and cons with both and that’s why it’s important to do your homework.
    The builder who has started out as a carpenter and has ten plus years experience on the job is typically an exceptional craftsmen who has high expectations of quality output, efficient processes and high quality employees. He honours and is proud of the work he and his team do and has developed into becoming a qualified builder through passion and experience. This builder if new to running jobs can be a little slower on the project management side potentially and a little less organised with time management of the administration side of the business, that’s why its imperative you get to know your builder and his ex clients well to determine if this builder has enough experience and project management experience to be exceptional both on the tools and in the office.

    The second is the graduate who has no practical experience on the tools but has completed a building degree so therefor is an expert in project management, administration and organisation. This builder will sub-contract or employ experience carpenters to run his jobs and rely heavily on sub-trades. He is less aware of the smart ways to do things and has less experience with how to guide clients on improvements to suggested build methods and plans. This builder is typically highly successful when the team under him are exceptional so it is a must to understand both his experience and theirs.
    At Mindful Building we leverage both – Akira has over thirteen years experience as a carpenter and over three years as a builder alongside his partner who has completed an MBA and manages the administration, customer service and organisation of the business. We ensure that your experience across every facet of the business is exceptional from start to finish with the highest expertise employed across each role in the business.

  2. Do they have client testimonials that you have actually verified yourself by speaking to ex clients?
    Always check and verify testimonials don’t just rely on website testimonials unfortunately these are probably the least reliant when working with dodgey builders, anyones friends and family can provide testimonials. Look on their facebook pages, google reviews and request to receive three clients who’s project you have seen examples of and ask if they mind you contacting them for a brief chat. Any confident and legitimate builder wont hesitate in providing this to you.

  3. Is it cost plus or fixed price?
    There are benefits to both see our blog post here for how to know when to choose cost plus or fixed price when renovating your home. Make sure the builder you choose offers the pricing structure that you want, and make sure you understand that pricing structure clearly and how it works including variations to the contract irrespective of fixed price or cost plus it is important to understand what changes will mean and how these will be charged as often this can be confusing for clients and frustrating for builders, if you aren’t on the same page. A cost plus job remember will mean more work for you and the builder in ensuring frequent paperwork is checked, verified and invoiced and paid so ensure you also have the time to manage this as the project progresses.

  4. Do you have architects running the job and what to look for if not?
    It can be common for owners to get an architect to draw up plans but opt to not have them manage the project to save costs however bare in mind that questions will almost certainly always come up during the build and often specifications that an architect has drawn may not actually be achievable due to other circumstances or materials available etc. What this means is that your involvement with the builder will be a lot more hands on and you will be faced with questions throughout the process. This can often also delay the builder if you don’t know the answers to questions and need time to research and/or investigate other options they have provided you with. This is why you must ensure you have good communication and rapour with your builder and feel comfortable the two of you can work well together ongoing. It is also good to have an initial meeting and set out expectations and decide who are the best points of contact for questions, invoices and the frequency you expect to receive updates on progress etc

  5. Are you living in and renovating at the same time?
    Often families cant afford to move out of their home for six months to a year to do a major renovation so they opt to live in whilst the renovation is happening at the same time. This is always challenging for both the builders and the home owners which makes it critical that you find a builder that has experience doing this with other clients and get their feedback on how that process was for both the builder and the client. Read more here about should I renovate whilst living in my home?

  6. Do they have all correct insurances and a safe track record?
    It’s important you are confident that the builder you choose follows safe work practices and that you limit the risk of any injuries on your property, not just for financial reasons but for peace of mind and to ensure you are supporting ethical business practices. Ask your builder for his safety record and ensure he has all relevant insurances that cover all workers that will be on-site.

  7. Are they and their team a good fit?
    In particular when living on site or knowing you will be dealing directly with a builder and their team you must ensure the employees and the owner are the right fit for you and your family. Are they well presented, are they responsive, do they understand your vision, are they respectful and do you feel you connect with them on a personal level? These are all important factors when choosing a builder to work with for 6+ months on a major project.

  8. Are they local to within one hour of your area?
    To keep costs to a minimum ensure your builder is relative local to your area, this may make a difference in start and finish times and how quickly your project progresses. It should also keep costs to a minimum as the builder doesn’t need to factor in travel times for him and his team. Ensuring they are within an hours drive is always a good parameter to work with although always choose quality over locality in every instance – but this is one small thing you should consider if you have a broad range of choice of good builders on offer.

  9. Do they share your vision?
    From a builders perspective they are often not inspired by projects in which they don’t share a vision or feel are something that will represent their business well. Sitting down with your builder to go through plans, materials and walk them through your vision and reasons for deciding on the things you have designed will help in them realising your vision and being on board with making it a reality. It’s at this point you need to ask your builder if this is a project that inspires them and is aligned to the type of work they want to be doing. Like any job you want someone who is passionate to get the work done, not someone who is taking on your project merely for a pay cheque as you just wont receive the same service.

  10. Are they responsive and respectful of your time?
    Time is money for your builder and for you. It’s important you both understand and respect each others time and communicate effectively and efficiently. This will be evident from the start of a project so take note on how long your builder takes to get back to you and respect their time enough to communicate effectively with them. Delays often occur in getting money approved, finalising designs or just simply finding the right time to start so ensure you always communicate clearly and efficiently with your builder and that they offer you the same in return.