Guest Blog: Karl Nicholson from K Design & Build

Super Subs

Finding the right subcontractor can be the difference when it comes to applying the finishing touch to a project, as K Design and Build’s Karl Nicholson explains…

K Design and Build consists of a close knit and highly skilled team, but such is our varied range of projects that we quite often need to find subcontractors to help us complete a project.

We select our subcontractors through word of mouth and by using a bit of due diligence, so making contact with others who have worked with them before. Having worked in the building industry for so long, you develop a trustworthy circle of contacts that includes a wide net of subcontractors that you’ve either used before or who have gained a reputation for quality and being trustworthy.

When KDB first started, we would simply ask for recommendations when it came to finding and using subcontractors. We also had a handful of people who we knew were capable of working to a high standard. As we grew, so did our contacts, but we still needed to maintain the high quality we set ourselves. We started to view previous jobs and speak to the clients of subcontractors to ensure their work was reliable and would match the standard that we were trying to achieve.

Ultimately, who ever you use, they’re representing your name, so if a subcontractor isn’t up to the standard you set for yourself, it’s a question of whether you take that risk and use them. It can be tricky.

One perfect example of using subcontractors came on a recent job in Marlow. Our client was looking to add an L-shaped wrap-around extension corner on the rear, which would double the size of his existing kitchen. The client was also keen our client was keen to replace every single one of his Georgian windows, over 40 units. Obviously, when undertaking this many units, there is a huge responsibility to ensure we achieve like-for-like replacements in terms of colour and style. His original windows were Guardina in colour, so we subcontracted the work to ABC Windows, who were brilliant. They sent out samples and colour shades to try and match, which they did, and even the casements – with the top opening Georgian style – matched almost exactly like for like. Now, all of his windows, old and new, are in this style… and they’re maintenance free. They came with a foil covering on a PVC frame, which means there’s no painting to do, no wear and tear and no security worries. The windows were the perfect final touch, and gave the whole house a fresh look.

On another project, a side rear extension with a top floor that will allow for a couple of extra bedrooms and a huge living room, the job required us to match the bricks in the extension with the existing brickwork, and replacing new tiles with more rustic, period tiles. The client wants the extension to look in keeping with the period charm of the property and ensure it keeps its heritage look.

Matching brickwork is an important part of what we do, regardless of the age of the property we’re working on, and to help us we use the same subcontractor every time; let’s call him Mr A! This man is a brick specialist, so he’s very knowledgeable on the subject, and he will come into a job before we quote on it. He’ll photograph the existing brick and go away and match it for us perfectly before we put the quote together, which means there’s no surprises for the client (or us).

He also knows all the various brick suppliers very well, so he’s a very useful person to have on board. He’s a vital member of the team. It means that we can comfortably tackle any challenge regardless of whether it’s new or period brickwork involved. His knowledge is extensive, and not just about the bricks either, but also the bonds and various mucks. Also, his experience when it comes to matching old bricks with new is vital.

So, while subcontracting can be precarious, with a bit of due diligence you can find skilled people who can help you meet any challenge.

If you would like a quote for a renovation or extension project, or you would like to discuss your challenges with us, please call K Design & Build on +44 (0) 1189 099 110 or email