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How to choose the right builder

Making the decision to undertake building work on your home can be very exciting, but as a major investment it can also be daunting. We’ve all seen television programmes or heard horror stories of cowboy builders. Fortunately they are a minority and most are reputable and will do a good job, but it is important that you choose a reliable, skilled builder, and that you are completely happy with your choice for peace of mind.

Finding a builder doesn't need to be difficult. These steps should help you save time, money:

1. Shop around

  • Prepare a written brief, including detailed drawings where possible, so each company is quoting for the same requirements which will help you get the most accurate price and prevent misunderstandings later.

  • Get at least three companies to provide quotes (rather than estimates, which are a rough price that is subject to change).

  • A quote should include:

  • a fixed total price - not a daily rate

  • a breakdown of all the work to be done and the materials included

  • how long the price is valid for

  • if the price includes VAT

  • Get revised quotes for any additional work that is not included in the quote, before it is carried out.

2. Compare the quotes

  • Look at the breakdown of costs to make sure you are comparing like with like and they all include the same things, so you are not landed with extra costs further down the line if something looks much cheaper.

  • Do they include the removal of rubbish, site waste or any fixtures and fittings required?

  • Make sure the quote clearly shows the tradesman's name, full address and contact details.

  • Be wary if a contractor won’t put a quote in writing.

3. Consider Planning and Building Regulations

  • If your project needs architectural plans it's advisable to have them drawn up first. Without plans, builders are in the dark and may provide a higher quote.

  • Before approaching builders, remember that planning applications usually take at least eight weeks to process.

  • Check if the work you're carrying out requires building regulations approval. Depending on the type of work, you may need to hire a suitably qualified and registered builder may provide a higher quote.

4. Contract

  • Have a thorough contract prepared and signed about the work to be done on the building, covering:

  • start and finish dates

  • the date of completion

  • hours of work every day

  • disposal of waste materials

  • schedule of payments

  • any changes or deviations to be recorded in writing

  • an outline of materials and equipment included and those to be supplied by you e.g. kitchen or bathroom fixtures and fittings

5. Payment

  • As far as possible, stick to an agreed payment schedule.

  • Avoid paying the whole amount up front.

  • Always insist on a signed receipt for every payment you make.

  • Ensure the payment schedule allows you to hold back a portion of the final invoice until after the job is completed to your satisfaction.

  • Check if the quote includes VAT, if the builder is VAT registered.

6. Happy customers

  • When you have selected a building company, check if they can provide you with the details of previous clients who can provide a reference to vouch for the quality of service provided - see our blog on references!

  • If possible, go and visit some previously completed work.

7. Insurance

  • Make sure that the builders provide you with an up-to-date copy of the public liability insurance certificate. This will be necessary to claim the cost of repairing any damage that might occur in future to your property or if someone is hurt during construction.

  • Building work may also affect your home and contents insurance so check with your insurance company before work begins.

8. Customer service

  • Ensure that there is a contact you can liaise with and who will respond to your queries in a timely manner and solve any problems.

  • If problems do occur speak to the builder immediately in order to discuss it and reach a solution rather than leaving it too late to do anything.

  • Take your time to compare and make your choice. If a particular builder tries to pressurise you into making a fast decision, drop them from the tender list.

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