Huntsmore

Seven Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Building Company in Chelsea

Huntsmore building company's construction site with freshly poured concrete in Chelsea, London.

Talented builders take pride in their work; for many, the possibility to work on a prestigious Chelsea property is an opportunity to showcase their skills. Build knowledge with a meticulous commitment to quality is crucial. However, as Chelsea is a busy central London borough, do not underestimate the logistical challenge this presents. Organisation, punctuality, and efficiency are vital ingredients for an enjoyable project without the hassle of time and cost surprises.

Below are seven questions to answer before moving ahead.


What Are Their Capabilities?

Huntsmore construction company's site with scaffolding in Chelsea, London.

Taking apart and rebuilding a Chelsea home requires skill and knowledge. Of course, the scope of works will determine the services you need, so it’s essential to understand the builder’s skill set to identify a good match. For example, if the project involves removing walls, structural engineering awareness is a must for your contractor, although an engineer’s expertise will still be required to oversee the work. Some projects require the building company to design and complete temporary works (temporary works enable a project objective – such as supporting a wall before fitting a steel beam). These are often complicated and require intricate planning and due to the nature of the works, there is an element of risk. 

Mechanical & Electrical (M&E), this is the work necessary to make the house function – such as heating, ventilation, power supply and distribution, lighting, security, water, drainage, home automation, plumbing and fire safety to name a few. As previously mentioned, this is where good organisation counts, often requiring the coordination of numerous trades and suppliers. The trick with the M&E work is understanding how these elements integrate and sequencing the actions; some builders have a full-time M&E team but most subcontract the tasks. First-fix is the work needed to take a building from foundation to putting plaster on the internal walls, and requires general building skills such as carpentry, bricklaying and demolition works. The second-fix is when the house comes together, decorating, finishing carpentry, tiling and careful handling of valuable bespoke items. Building control determines if your home is safely built and compliant with current regulations. The builder must understand the key components, especially when inspections are required. A missed or poorly handled inspection can result in expensive and stressful retrospective works. 


Is The Building Company Using Any Sub-contractors? 

Huntsmore Design & Build' s building site with exposed ceiling wooden beams in Chelsea, London.

Most building companies aren’t big enough to employ all trades. The use of subcontractors is widespread, but if poorly administered by the main builder, can sometimes end up a rabbit warren of messy agreements compromising the client. Ideally, you need clarity on which elements of the project are to be subcontracted and to whom. The main contractor must be cognisant of several important issues for each subcontractor: 

  • Are they financially healthy? 
  • Availability and current workload? 
  • Capability and relevant experience? 
  • Their type and value of insurance?
  • Do they have a health & safety policy?
  • Are gas engineers Gas Safe registered and are electricians registered to a body such as NICEIC?
  • FENSA and CERTASS registration for replacing windows and doors?
  • HETAS registration for solid fuel, wood and biomass boilers?
  • Do the builders perform Risk assessment and method statements (RAMS)? 

The length of time the builder and subcontractor have been working together is an indication of good working relationships. However, it is as well to be aware that this may also indicate complacency. You may need to complete your own due diligence if a subcontractor is delivering a vital or valuable part of the project.


Projects and References

The length of time the builder and subcontractor have been working together is an indication of good working relationships. However, it is as well to be aware that this may also indicate complacency. You may need to complete your own due diligence if a subcontractor is delivering a vital or valuable part of the project.

It is best practice to view two to three previous projects, one of which must be recent. While there, look carefully at the detail and finishing, plastering, painting, tiling and carpentry. How have concealed areas, such as the plant room been treated as this is a sign of good practice. Asking direct questions is not a good idea as it can put people on the spot, so ask questions around what you need to know. For example; were there any unexpected delays; how were changes managed; how the building has performed; are all the snags resolved. It’s worth speaking to other professionals involved in previous projects such as architects and designers; this will indicate technical competence, ability to work with others and interpret information. All of which will have a demonstrable impact on the success of your project


Construction Company Insurance

Huntsmore building company's site in a period property in Chelsea, London.

The builder must have public & employee liability covering injury to members of the public, and in the latter instance to employees, both should also be around £5m to £10m. 

Contractors all risk

Although not a requirement, it is recommended and would indicate the professionalism of your builder. CAR guards against work onsite not covered by domestic building insurance, such as fire, flooding, and water damage as well as construction faults. Contractors all risk insurance is typically taken out jointly by both the contractor and the employer at the same time. The value will be project dependent. 

Professional indemnity insurance

Covers legal costs and expenses incurred in their defence, as well as any damages or costs that may be awarded, if they are alleged to have provided inadequate advice, services or designs that cause you to be out of pocket.



Financials

The builder might be technically capable, but you need to be confident they’re financially robust. The value of your contract must be manageable for the builder. Otherwise, it could expose them and you to the risk of project failure. Check the value of previous projects completed. Obtain a set of accounts, and if you have a friendly accountant, ask them to review. Most builders are small businesses, so their accounts are likely to be shortened. 


Health & Safety in Construction

Under the Construction and Design Management 2015 [CDM2015] legislation, a principal contractor (your builder) has a crucial role in managing health and safety risks during the construction stage. They must have the skills, knowledge, experience, and capacity to carry out this work. These duties include to plan, manage, monitor and coordinate the construction phase. Take account of the health and safety risk. Communicate with the client and principal designer to ensure these risks are managed. Identify suitable welfare facilities. Ensure all workers have site-specific inductions, and any further information and training they need. Take steps to prevent unauthorised access to the site. An example of what they must be able to provide is;


Where is The Building Company Based?

Huntsmore construction company's site with outside scaffolding in Chelsea, London.

We’d recommend a maximum of thirty minutes travel to the project location. Others might argue distance is not a problem. Management teams a long way from the site can delay decisions, reduce site activity which is the result of long commutes, and quality can suffer due to irregular site visits.

Huntsmore can work with your builder – and we have also an established network of contractors to recommend. We are able to make fair judgements, but most importantly take responsibility and accountability for delivering the project on time and to budget, whilst safeguarding the client’s interests.