I wish they’d invented the internet back then…

With the building warrant applied for, and an architect sorted, time to find a builder. And how hard can that be? You just google it right? Ratedpeople.com…Builders in Perthshire. Check out the reviews and number of stars they get. Sorted! Get their credit history. Trawl through the web to see who’s posted any complaints. In fact find out everything, not just their company status and latest build projects, but also their Saturday night antics at the pub – after all, it’s always useful to know if you’ll never see your builder on a Monday morning because he’s still recovering from his weekend hangover… What would life be without YouTube, FB, Google and Twitter?

Well it might come as a bit of a shock to anyone under the age of 30, but actually, technology at the beginning of this century wasn’t what it is today. I mean I’ll admit to being a bit of a luddite back then, but honestly, using the web meant heading into town to find a dingy internet cafe down a dodgy back alley. And to most builders, a website would have meant that nasty dark corner of the rafters where the gigantic spiders hang out. Broadband in your own home – what kind of science-fiction world are you living in?

So how else do you find a builder you trust?

Anybody remember this???    image

Yep – in the absence of all that wonderful technology, let your fingers do the walking – fall back on the good old yellow pages. Only one problem – they didn’t have ‘Like’ buttons in the ads. Where are the reviews? Where are the star ratings? How could I work out whether these builders were reliable??

Clearly in this situation a methodical and scientific approach is needed. So, some foolproof criteria for appraising the ads:

  1. How big is the advert – Well size always matters, doesn’t it?
  2. Have they got any accreditation logos? – Unfortunately I couldn’t google them to find out what they meant, but they had to be worth something, didn’t they?

And that’s it – there’s not much else you can look at in a Yellow Pages advert. About as useful as mudguards on a tortoise in fact. In truth, closing my eyes and just jabbing a pencil on the page would have produced much the same result. Still, I had to start somewhere.

I think the approved process at this point is to go out to tender. Invite your chosen shortlist of builders up to the site individually to view the plans and discuss the project in sufficient detail to allow them to submit a quote. When you have all the submissions back you are able to make an informed and rational decision on who to employ, ensuring your large amounts hard-earned cash are being given to someone who will reliably turn your dilapidated old barn full of cow-dung into the castle of your dreams. Yeah, right! Personally I think that process is entirely mythical. From my initial, randomly-generated shortlist of six builders, my tender process went as follows:

Builder #1: Didn’t answer his phone for a week. Builder #1

Builder #2: Twice arranged meetings, twice he didn’t turn up. Builder #2

Builder #3: Turned up at site, spent about 10 minutes looking round. Disappeared, never to be heard from again. (Not sure whether it was me or the project that scared him off.) Builder #3

Builder #4: Turned up at site, spent about an hour going through plans and proposal. And then sent me a very polite letter, on company headed paper, a couple of days later, stating that “whilst he appreciated me giving him the opportunity to take on a project like this, unfortunately at that time his work commitments were such that he wouldn’t be able to start the job for 18 months.” Excuse me, but didn’t you know what your workload was before you came to see me?  Scared off by the scale of the project methinks. Builder #4

Builder #5: No show. Builder #5

Builder #6: Turned up in obligatory white van, hellhound in the front next to him, copy of The Sun open at page 3 on the dashboard, dog-end of a rollup in his mouth … you get the picture. A 10-second glance at the plans and a 10-minute walk around the building apparently gave him all the info he needed. He phoned me two days later. “Yeah, I can take the job on. I’ve just spoken to a mate who can get a load of concrete on the cheap. When do you want it delivered?” Well call me fussy if you like, but novice builder girl that I was, even I’d worked out that there was a bit more required than just a load of knocked-off concrete poured into the building. Builder #6

And so it went on. Back to the random pencil-jabbing in the yellow pages………… Trust me, finding a builder is a soul-destroying process. Until finally somebody who:

  • Turned up on site, on time
  • Spent about 2 hours looking at the plans and the site
  • Submitted a written quote a few days later

AND Was available to start immediately. That’s what should have set the alarm bells ringing. But hell, what did I know about builders. On the basis he was the only person who appeared to be willing to submit a quote, he got the job.

We parted company long before he finished the job, and 13 years later I’m still fixing some of his incompetence, but that’s a whole new blog……

One thought on “I wish they’d invented the internet back then…

  1. Fantastic summary of the start of an epic adventure…who said that women don’t look good in a hard hat!? WELL DONE Shirley the ‘Entrepreneur’ x


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