Thursday 31 March 2011

Andtec Builders Review

Recently, we have had our house extended. Since there are lots of people complaining about builders on the internet, I thought I would redress the balance by posting a review of a positive experience we've had with Andtec Builders.

Andy (Owner of Andtec Builders) was recommended to us by a family friend. We had some plans drawn up by an architect, and we got three builders including Andtec to quote.

Andtec quoted the lowest price: but they had several jobs on, and we'd have to wait several months until they were free. One builder was slightly more expensive (within a few percent) but available now: and one quote was significantly over (40% higher).

We decided to wait for Andy based on the recommendations.

A few weeks before, we met with Andy and talked through the project. Andy had experience with the local area and identified a problem with the foundations specified : our house was built on 'made up' ground and they'd have to dig down a long way to lay the foundations on the 'real' ground level (as specified in the building regs). The original architect was unable to make the changes to the plans but Andy confirmed the problem and found an architect that was able to design a floating raft foundation - a reinforced concrete slab that would do the job.

The original estimate for the work was about 3.5 months : Starting mid november, should have the external walls complete by Xmas, roof on by end Jan, internals done by end Feb.
The existing garage disappeared very quickly and work on the foundations went well - it was a bit muddy during the excavations but was a lot better once the concrete slab had been poured. Although the work was in front of the door, Andy made sure we had safe access to the house and worked around our many comings and goings :-).

Work on the external walls was delayed a little by extreme weather - during December, we had a very cold snap (-15C at times) and they went to some lengths to keep working - gas heaters, insulation shelters and tarpaulins to try and warm the bricks so that the mortar could set properly without freezing. I know it was cold - we handed out hot tea, and when we collected the mugs a couple of hours later, one was half-full of solid ice! They valiantly worked through the freezing weather - Andy, Jez (the brickie) and George (labourer) only stopped working the week before christmas, where the snow was a few inches deep and couldn't be melted by the salt. In total, several days were lost due to the weather.

January went well - the floors and roofing went on and a few days into February the roofing was done and the scaffolding was coming down. Once the structure was secure, the work knocking through into the main house began.

We had three walls removed, with steel beams inserted, and an extra door through into the hall. This is the most intrusive part of the build : for the first couple of months, most of the work was outside, and didn't really impact on our daily life. My wife is not well, and is at home all the time. Andy went to some effort to try and organise and schedule jobs to minimise the impact on the household, including leaving the kitchen working as long as possible. Luckily, the new kitchen was in part of the new extension, so Andy was able to put in the new kitchen before ripping out the old one, making the transition much easier than it otherwise might be.
This part of the build also went well - although it's inevitably a bit dusty :-).
Plastering and finishing was good - we asked Andy to do several extra jobs, which he quoted for and added to the scheduled monthly bills. We asked him to plaster the old kitchen ceiling and replace several internal doors, and to lay a wooden floor throughout the downstairs.

All in all, we were very pleased with Andtec builders and their work. Andy and all the staff were polite and professional at all times, and Andy was always happy to discuss and answer questions about any part of the work.

The estimates and scheduling of the job was excellent : Despite the slippage due to the weather, the work was completed according to the early schedule. The additions to the work (installing a new kitchen, flooring, and extra internal work) all went according to estimates.

Professionalism was excellent : They turned up at 8am every day and worked until 4pm. When they were unable to work (due to the snow) we were informed by phone. Because there was a lot of work, if a particular job could not be done (for example due to tiles not arriving) they continued with other work and rescheduled around problems. Someone else commented that they were very tidy - although it was a building site (literally) it was organised well.
All building regulations, inspections, and certificates (gas, electric work, etc) were all present and correct. Estimates, contracts, changes to the contracts and scheduled bills were printed and very clear and supplied on time, so we always knew what was asked for and how much it would cost.

Andy was polite and helpful at all times. Several times specific decisions had to be made (Front door style, positions of sockets, tiles) and Andy gave us options and time to allow considered decisions before ordering or installing.
Badger (badge)
Along with the building crew, Andy often brought 'Badge' with him. Badger is a lovely border collie, well trained, smart and very friendly. Badge was quite at ease with all the heavy machinery, and would only come in when invited, and didn't jump up or bother anyone - very well behaved. He even made friends with one of our cats (the other two kept well away!).

I would happily recommend AndTec builders to anyone in or around Bath, Frome and Trowbridge.
Thanks, Andy.

Lots of photos of the build in-progress on my flickr feed.