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Last edited 20 Dec 2020
How to find a builder
A builder is a tradesperson that can be employed by a client to undertake building works. Typically, the word 'builder' is associated with relatively small works such as such as house building, extensions, renovation works, and so on. Larger or more complex projects are generally undertaken by 'contractors', although the distinction between the two is not always clear. For more information see: Builder v contractor and How to find a contractor.
Appointing a builder can be a daunting responsibility, particularly for domestic clients who may not have used a builder before. However, it is important that great care is taken to ensure the selection process is thorough. There are several steps that can be taken to find the most appropriate builder.
Check whether the builder is a member of a recognised trade association, such as the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) or the National Federation of Builders (NFB). While membership is not mandatory, it can demonstrate a certain level of reliability and provide a degree of consumer protection. However, it is worth checking with the trading body that the builder is actually a member, as there have been cases of builders claiming membership fraudulently.
 Recommendations and references
Getting personal recommendations can help identify a suitable and reliable builder. When asking for recommendations, questions worth asking might relate to the quality of the workmanship, the cost, the length of time it took to complete work, whether any problems arose and how they were dealt with, how tidy they were, how busy they are, how long it took for them to start, and so on.
It can also be worth asking for recommendations from plumbers, electricians and other tradespeople who will have worked with a number of different builders during their career. Similarly, architects may be able to recommend builders with expertise suited to the project.
There are several websites that serve as useful sources for finding builders, offering an indication of their quality through reviews and ratings. Recommendations can also be found on social media, although these should always be balanced with some direct feedback wherever possible.
Once a shortlist has been prepared, it is important to meet prospective builders. Not only will this give an insight into their suitability, it is a chance for both parties to ask questions. Builders may also be able to suggest alternative ways of carrying out the work.
A clear description of the work, and the form of agreement that will be used, should be prepared for the builders to price against. Builders should be asked to itemise their price against the list. This allows the client to identify items that my be expensive, and also allows a detailed comparison between the prices of different contractors, which can help in negotiating the final price that will be paid.
- Relevant experience and qualifications.
- Whether they use sub-contractors.
- What is covered by the quotation and what is not (i.e. site maintenance, clearance, material supplies, and so on).
- How long the price is guaranteed for.
- Details relating to VAT.
- How building regulations approval will be dealt with.
- Certificates of insurance providing cover against property damage and personal and public liability. For more information, see Making sure your builder has appropriate insurance.
- Design proposals if these have been requested.
Once a builder has been selected, a contract should be drawn up. This could be a standard agreement offered by the contractor, or an industry agreement such as the JCT minor works contract, or the RIBA Domestic Building Contract.
The agreement should include the details of the work required, start and completion dates, the price, insurance requirements, penalties for late completion, dispute resolution procedures, responsibility for CDM, retention, and so on. For more information see: Contract conditions.
Payment terms should be agreed before work begins, whether the builder is to be paid in full at the end or in pre-agreed stages, with a final payment held back until the work is complete and any snags have been rectified. A cash deposit or upfront payment should be avoided if possible, unless specialist building materials have to be purchased, and then ownership of those materials should be vested in the client. For more information, see Vesting certificate for construction goods plant or materials.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Avoiding planning permission pitfalls.
- Building an extension.
- CDM for self-builders and domestic clients.
- Construction contractor.
- Finding good building contractors.
- Hiring an architect as a domestic client.
- How to build a porch.
- How to find a contractor.
- Making sure your builder has appropriate insurance.
- Planning permission.
- Self-build homes.
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