Looking to establish and grow a bespoke building firm in Gloucestershire’s super-competitive field of construction is no easy feat, but it’s made far easier if you win work regularly from referrals – and that’s exactly what Gloucestershire business Ford Construction has done.
SoGlos talked to Ford Construction, based near Cheltenham, about one of its most recent exciting projects – extending the kitchen and dining area of a terraced house in Cirencester.
About the expert – Harry Ford, Ford Construction
Harry Ford started Ford Construction in 2019 after two decades-plus in the construction industry, and with his name also pinned to the mast, every job has been personal from the start.
To date, that attention to detail has delivered the payback both he and his customers are after – and it has built a valuable reputation with a select number of architects. Word has spread into the commercial world too.
But despite the pressure, meeting the customer’s expectations and more remains as big a thrill as ever.
Why did the client pick Ford Construction for this project?
As we are now a fairly established construction company in the area, a huge amount of our business comes through word-of mouth referrals from happy clients who are kind enough to want to spread the word about our services.
We are also fortunate enough to often be recommended by local architects who have enjoyed working with us on those same projects. In this instance, it was the latter – the project came to us through a tender invite from a great architect local to Cheltenham.
We carried out a site visit to discuss the works, something we feel is vital to getting a real sense of both the property and the clients’ personality and, after submitting our application and price, we were informed that we were selected by the client and had won the tender.
What was the brief from the client?
The brief for this project was relatively straight forward and our clients already had a great idea of the style and functionality of the proposed design. They asked for a single storey kitchen extension to their terraced property which, at the time, lacked downstairs space. They really stressed that they wanted the extension to feel open and tranquil, incorporating the patio and garden space to have a seamless transition between in and out.
Was it a straightforward brief, or did you need to work with the client to develop the idea?
As with all projects, no matter how small or large, you will always encounter challenges. With this property, the first challenge was dealing with the building’s ‘listed’ status.
This meant that we had to be very delicate when creating the brick extension and consider all factors at all times, to ensure that the property was correctly cared for and that our addition was in keeping with the rest of the property.
Was there a time frame in which the client needed the work completed by and how were you able to meet that?
It is unusual for a project not to have a deadline or target completion date but, with this project, it was vital to both the clients, and to us, that we really get the property right. Of course, we worked hard and efficiently to ensure that no time was wasted, but the main goal was always ensuring that the property received our full attention and care.
Generally, if a brief does prove to be more challenging than the client might imagine, how does Ford work this through and manage expectations so the project can be brought to the start line and everyone is happy?
Builders and tradespeople have been so fortunate in many ways over the past couple of years. We’ve been able to keep doing what we love when others have been isolated or working from home. The issue for us, now, is that the manufacturing companies are struggling to keep up with demand, having been running at limited capacity or closed whilst we were making speedy progress.
I think that, across the board, tradespeople are encountering lengthy delays for materials that would have been available in an instant previously. This means that an even greater level of detail and preparation is required from us but there are of course still times where no amount of preparation could have foretold that you need a certain item or material.
Ensuring that our clients expectations take into account these unexpected delays is really important and we always try to cover it as early on as possible. As a company we are very much an open book – we are totally honest with our clients at all stages and I’m yet to encounter a client that would change that about us!
What are the benefits for a client of choosing a builder like Ford Construction that can manage a job from start to finish – from development stage to architectural drawings and then the build itself – and in the case of an office, all the complicated wiring etc?
There are so many benefits when choosing to work with a company like Ford Construction. I would say that one of the most valuable aspects is that we have a fantastic group of tradespeople and professionals on our team that can totally dedicate themselves to the project. For people trying to project manage works themselves, the biggest bugbear is usually trying to coordinate the various stages and the relevant trades.
Project planning is a really intricate business and, without the experience, knowledge and time to prepare works properly, it’s really easy to end up wasting a huge amount of money. With us, right from the word ‘go’, if you have an idea, a problem or even just a fleeting thought, you have one phone number in your mobile – that’s all. You just dial us, and we will sort it, answer it, discuss it. There are a hundred other reasons to choose us, but I’ll have to save those for another time!
Few building projects are without their challenges. Was there something on this particular job which had to be overcome and how did you do that?
The main thing we had to overcome was the location, with the property being in a very central area, terraced and with limited access to the rear where the extension was taking place. This posed a few challenges throughout the project; one being the groundworks, as the rear of the property was very built up with a tier system already in place.
We had to remove approximately sixty tonnes of earth and soil just to ensure the extension and garden sat correctly with each other. The neighbouring property had also been considering an extension, but the access limitations had been putting a hold on their plans.
Upon seeing our work in the adjoining property, they asked us if we would be willing to take on their own extension at the same time which we gladly did. The finished properties are fantastic and the project ended with two very happy neighbours.
The outcome. What did the project achieve for the client?
Our lovely clients were a semi-retired couple who very much enjoy entertaining and cooking. The extension meant that they could have a much larger, lighter kitchen with more room for hosting and socialising, not forgetting the great atmosphere created by looking up through the fully opening patio doors onto the charming patio.
What are you most proud of when looking back at this particular job?
I really feel that this project had a little bit of everything. We overcame challenges, we stuck to budget, and we got to know a really wonderful couple who truly deserve to enjoy their functional and totally beautiful new space.