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

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