CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Finding a builder

PUBLISHED: 15:32 28 August 2013 | UPDATED: 15:32 28 August 2013

Jonathan Braddick, author of the Devon Life series on self-building

Jonathan Braddick, author of the Devon Life series on self-building


Jonathan Braddick explains how to choose a builder

Usually a ‘self builder’ will not physically carry out any building work at all, their function being to arrange the finances, organise the project team, and carry out the role of project manager. Only a very few carry out building works themselves. Therefore, finding the right builder or contractor is essential.

According to the Office of Fair Trading, ‘cowboy’ builders have cost UK householders a staggering £1.6bn in shoddy workmanship that has needed rectifying. With this in mind a standard form of building contract that requires a ‘contract administrator’ is definitely the recommended route to follow - your architect will be able to produce and administer this for you.

How do I choose a builder?

A great place to start your search for a good builder is by getting a recent referral from family or friends. You can also obtain a list of local builders through organisations such as the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) or the National Federation of Builders (NFB). However, don’t be fooled by a badge - there have been cases of bogus builders fraudulently claiming membership to trade associations, so call and make sure. Your architect will also have a list of builders and contractors they have worked with previously and will be able to make recommendation.

Some important things to consider

• Days and hours of working

• Use of facilities and services: toilet, water supply, electricity etc

• Access, storage of materials and security

• Agree regular progress meetings

• Site manager: agree who the point of contact is

• Only pay for the works that have been properly carried out and completed, never pay up front!

• Agree how any additions or changes that you might instruct after work has started will be agreed and priced

• Agree what happens if the work takes longer than quoted

• Insurance of the site and works

If you use a contract it will cover all of the above and much more. It will help to ensure your project runs smoothly and hopefully avoid any expensive and lengthy disputes or excessive unforeseen costs.

Should I ask for references?

Yes, definitely. Ask for 2-3 recent references and check them. Contact the people who provided the references and find out how happy they were. Did the builder keep to budget? Did the builder complete the works on time? Was the quality of the workmanship a good standard? Was the builder considerate and tidy?

It is good practice to ask to see 2-3 examples of previous work they have recently completed, that is of a similar type and size to your own project. If they can’t do this they might not be the right builder for your project.

Also request that a builder provides past accounts, to ensure that they are financially stable. This is particularly pertinent in the current climate.

Should I get quotes from more than one builder?

Yes. It seems obvious, but many people don’t realise that builders prices often fluctuate depending on how keen they are to carry out the work. A busy builder will tend to quote a lot higher than one who is not. Once you have a shortlist you should formally obtain quotes from 3-4 builders on a like for like basis, this is known as ‘tendering’. Your architect will be able to carry out this process for you and produce a report, known as a ‘tender sum analysis’. This compares the returned tenders and points out any anomalies.

Jonathan Braddick


RIBA Plymouth Branch Chair

More from Homes & Gardens

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

NATALIE MILLAR-PARTRIDGE relaxes at a family-run Dartmoor retreat where the emphasis is on the glorious environment it sits in

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ex-Chelsea footballer Colin Lee came home to Devon and built an incredible multi-million pound waterside house. CHRISSY HARRIS takes a look around

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

As we head into Autumn, the change in season is all around us. From the leaves on the trees turning burnt orange and fiery red, to dark mornings and nights bookending our days. As we put the clocks back an hour to battle the darkness, here’s some top tips on how you can keep your home warm and costs down this Autumn.

Read more
Monday, September 17, 2018

Green, renewable sources of energy are becoming more and more popular for domestic use. We talk to Jay-Dee Williams at Energie about thermodynamic solar panels: the fuel efficient, cost-effective way to heat the water in your home

Read more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fig Tree Court is a development of 14 apartments in Tiverton for retired and semi- retired over-55s with gorgeous views over the Grand Western Canal

Read more
Friday, August 31, 2018

Rural energy provider, Calor, gives some top tips for homeowners wanting to make their houses cosy and warm in time for the colder months.

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Converting a crumbling barn into a luxury bolthole takes some doing. Chrissy Harris went to see the results of an ambitious family project | Photos: Rob Coombe

Read more
Friday, August 3, 2018

From a hot tub Land Rover to a Romany caravan, Claire Saul picks out 7 Devon holiday lets that make hot topics for conversation

Read more
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Two former city dwellers have found peace, quiet and a stunning home in an East Devon village. CHRISSY HARRIS went to visit The Old Rectory in Plymtree

Read more
Monday, July 9, 2018

The redevelopment of some rural Devon barns has unearthed a very unique link with our greatest statesman

Read more
Sunday, July 1, 2018

Residential property company heylo recently signed the Armed Forces Covenant, pledging its commitment to fair treatment and support to the Armed Forces community, including regulars, reserves, veterans and their families. The signing took place in a ceremony held at Wellington Barracks

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A creative couple with a passion for nature took on a derelict farmhouse in North Devon and used it to inspire their life’s work. CHRISSY HARRIS went to find out more | Photos: Matt Austin

Read more
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The luxury tree top escape is nestled in the grounds of The Fox & Hounds Country Hotel in the North Devon countryside

Read more
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Devon’s iconic Burgh Island, famed for its art deco hotel and links to Agatha Christie, is being sold by owners Deborah Clark and Tony Orchard after almost 17 years.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search