Choosing a builder

Choosing a builder for our Queenslander renovation was a big decision – and one that dragged on for ages. Given that the quotes we ended up with were literally twice our initial project budget, it was vital we did as much due diligence as possible to minimise the risk of a painful build process, a house we just weren’t happy with, or further cost blow-outs. Because we used a designer rather than an architect, our finished plans lack a lot of detail and there is significant room for interpretation. It was absolutely imperative our chosen builder understood the finer details involved in building a character house so that they could work with us to shape the finished spec. We started the tendering process over a year ago with four local builders:

  • Builder 1: Recommended by a friend who’d used him for her renovation in Windsor.
  • Builder 2: Recommended by our designer.
  • Builder 3: A highly reputable builder who’s responsible for many of the grandest and most beautiful Queenslander renovations in our local area.
  • Builder 4: Matt Henderson, who we chose. He was recommended by a friend, who’d engaged him on their Ashgrove renovation.

Builder one never got around to submitting a quote. I’d been impressed with him when I met him, but I wanted a builder who actually wanted to do our build. Having to chase from the outset was never going to bode well, so he was struck off the list.

Builder two didn’t seem to have done a great deal of high end work, though one of the recent projects he did was only a couple of streets away and did look lovely. I didn’t find him forthcoming with addresses to drive by so we could see his work, and he complained a few times about the number of hours he’d put into quoting and then re-quoting for us (which, to be fair, I did feel bad about). One thing that struck me, though, was that when my husband and I sat down as he presented his initial quote to us, he seemed to speak only to my husband. I found that really off-putting, particularly as I’m the one with the opinions – and the one who’ll ultimately be managing / approving basically every part of this build!

In the end, the real battle was between builders three and four. It was a tough call. We LOVED builder three’s work. We knew he’d do a good job as the houses he’s built are stunning. His offer letter was incredibly detailed and thorough, and the specs very high.

After a lot of deliberation though, we chose Matt Henderson – and ultimately it came down to overall project cost estimations. Needless to say, I also felt very comfortable with Matt’s capabilities, he seems like he’ll be a great person to work with, and his references were impeccable. He kindly invited us over to view his house – itself a character renovation, and a very extensive one at that – and it was lovely.

It was incredibly important to us to be sure that our builder really understands character homes. There is such a fine line between a renovation that looks rubbish, and one that truly exemplifies the qualities of a typical Queenslander. We’re confident that Matt understands the aesthetic that we’re after and we’re looking forward to seeing him deliver our dream home!

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