Using an approved contractor
Consider using an approved contractor or an active member of a professional organisation which offers dispute resolution.
Ask for references and don’t be afraid to verify a reference by asking to visit previous clients with the builder.
Setting a price
Set a price for as much of the work as possible and make sure everything you have agreed is then put in writing.
Where you can't set a fixed price for the whole job, try to limit the circumstances in which the price can be increased.
Get a signed contract that sets out fully the costs, the work to be completed and the start/completion dates.
Paying for building work
Don't pay all the money up front. Agree in writing on a payment schedule.
Pay for at least some of the cost with a credit card. Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, a credit company can be equally liable with the builder or decorator for any breaches of contract.
Paying by credit card means you're also covered for misrepresentation.
So you'd be covered if the builder or decorator or one of their staff makes promises about a product or service that turns out to be untrue, for example.
Section 75 protection is particularly useful if the builder or decorator goes out of business before finishing the job, because you'll be able to claim the cost of finishing the work from the card or credit company.
The contract must be for more than £100 and not more than £30,000 in order to get this protection.
Agree with the builder that if extra work is necessary, they'll let you know about it and agree a price with you before starting.
For larger projects, consider using a professionally drawn-up contract. There are a number of standard form contracts that you can buy.
Check for manufacturer’s guarantees
Some items supplied as part of the contract may carry a manufacturer’s guarantee. But the manufacturer only has to do whatever it promises in the guarantee and only for the duration of the guarantee.
Usually this will be to repair or replace a defective item.
Sometimes the builder or contractor may offer you an 'insurance-backed' guarantee for the work.
This means the guarantee is underwritten by an insurance company, which means you could get any problems put right if the builder goes out of business.
Building regulations and planning permission
Depending on your property and the work you're having done, you may also need planning permission or building regulations approval.
If your house is listed or you live in a conservation area you may also need other types of permission.