Employing a builder Choosing a builder
This article, Employing a builder, was last updated on 26 March 2010 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Home & garden articles.
Find a builder
Just 52% of people said they trust builders when we surveyed 1,006 Which? members in April 2012. But when we asked Which? members who had actually used a builder in the last year how satisfied they were with the experience, the resulting customer score was 82% - so getting a satisfying result is within reach.
Whatever work you are planning, it's essential that you make as many checks as possible, especially as there are not many official qualifications for builders. You need to ask lots of questions to find a good builder.
Which? members can find builders and other tradespeople in their area recommended by other members at Which? Local. You can also discuss building work and hiring a builder with members of our online community in the Which? Local forums - see the panel at the top right of this page for the latest forum conversation posts. If you're not an existing Which? member sign up for £1 for instant access.
Also, take a look at our guide to tradespeople costs to see how much common building jobs cost.
How to check a builder's credentials
There are several things you need to do before you employ a builder.
Ask the builder you are considering to take you to see work that they have recently finished and introduce you to the people who own the property. Don’t just accept a written reference or call – these can easily be faked.
Qualifications to look out for are NVQs and HNDs in construction. And check that your builder can demonstrate awareness of health and safety issues – this is critical for any construction project. The builder should have copies of certificates of their qualifications to show you.
Ask to see a copy of your builder's insurance certificate to check it won’t expire during the time they are working on your project. There are three things that you need:
- public liability insurance in case someone gets hurt on your site
- cover in case there is damage to the rest of your property, so they re-do the work or are insured to pay others, such as decorators
- cover in case the builder goes bust or has an accident, so you can pay someone else to finish the job.
If a builder doesn’t offer all of this in his or her insurance, you can buy insurance yourself.
Get detailed builders' quotes
Some builders' quotes can lack detailed information about the work and costs. You should sit down with the builder, agree a fixed cost upfront or a daily rate of pay, and the number of days that the job is likely to take.
Agree a contingency plan should there be any problems during the build, for example if the job takes longer than expected. Then go through the materials list and work out prices for each – or go to a builders’ merchant together and see what you can negotiate off the headline cost.
You could get lucky and find a builder who is ready to start in less than two months, if they've had a cancellation. But for really good builders, it could be as long as a year. Beware of builders that are ready straight away – this could be a sign of a rogue trader. Most good builders tend to line up one or more jobs at a time, to ensure reliable workflow.
Written building work guarantees
Your builder should ideally guarantee his or her work for a period of time, and you should try to get this guarantee in writing. Check whether the builder will come back and do any necessary remedial work if there's a problem, or if you would have the choice of getting someone else to do it.
Create a contract with your builder
You need to agree, by letter, one-page document or formal contract, what work the builder is going do, the payment stages and what happens if there is a dispute.
Builder trade organisations
Organisations that builders may belong to include the Federation of Master Builders, the Guild of Builders and Contractors or the National Federation of Builders. These bodies don't guarantee good work and they are funded by membership fees, but they can be an indication of a good builder's credentials.
Cowboys may, however, claim to be members when they aren’t or after their membership has elapsed, so always check whether membership is up to date.
The best scheme to help you find a good builder that we have found is Trading Standards' Buy With Confidence, which has a thorough audit process and invites feedback. It only covers part of the UK though, mainly southern England. All traders that belong to it are also on Which? Local.
Paying your builder
Never pay for all building work upfront - draw up a schedule of payment for each stage of the work with the builder. Ideally, you should agree to release money only when each stage of the work is finished to the specification provided and to your satisfaction.