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Choosing A Builder

Labc LogoThis page contains things to consider when choosing a builder for your project, with questions to ask, things to look for and what to do if things go wrong between you. You will also find a link to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and Consumer Direct, where further information can be obtained.


If you are considering any work to your property and you require a builder you should consider this choice very carefully. As this is one of the biggest investments you are likely to make you should thoroughly check each builder before employing their services.

Some things to consider

For large projects consider employing a professional to advise you, for example an architect, surveyor or building engineer. Please note, that under no circumstances can the Council recommend a builder, architect, surveyor.

Discuss the extent of your arrangement with your professional. Does it involve the preparation of plans for submission to the Council alone or can site supervision be included as part of the package?

If you consider your job to be small enough that you do not require a professional, then get advice from someone in the industry you know and can trust.

Federation of Master Builders LogoDo not be in a rush to employ the first builder you talk to. Always obtain at least three quotations and have them checked. Do not automatically go for the cheapest quote, cheapest is not always best and in some cases neither is the most expensive.

Drawing up a contract is always a good idea. You can download a free plain English Building Contract [external link] from the Federation of Master Builders [external link] or have a contract drawn up by a solicitor.

If the work is covered by a guarantee, make sure you get the name and address of the guarantee company, along with any registration or reference numbers. Some builders may offer their own guarantee. If so, review the terms and conditions carefully and look for what, if any, contingencies are in place if the builder goes out of business. You may find such a guarantee could be worthless.

Questions to ask your builder

  1. Where have they worked before?
  2. Are they happy for you to see their work?
  3. What is their expertise in the particular project you intend to carry out?
  4. How do they want to be paid - on completion or in stages?
  5. Can they supply references from satisfied customers?
  6. Are they happy to accept a retention clause?
  7. Will they give you a final completion date?
  8. Will they accept a penalty clause on failure to complete in time?
  9. Will they agree to independent arbitration should you have any dispute?
  10. Do they have current liability insurance?

Finally reassure yourself by reviewing the builders work, references and other aspects, like work habits with previous clients.

Ask questions now - do not wait until it is too late. Be safe, be sure, not sorry.

If things go wrong

Talk to your builder and give them a chance to put the matter right. If you are not satisfied, put your complaint in writing, indicating what is wrong, what remedial work you require and set a deadline. It is important to keep a diary of events along with copies of letters. Keep a record of any phone calls and take photographs as these can be good evidence.

If you have a valid complaint you have a right to have the problem sorted out and most builders will do what they can to rectify the situation. If you are still not satisfied that your complaint has been dealt with properly by the builder, you may wish to consider going to arbitration or court.

Further advice may be obtained from Citizens Advice Bureau. Alternatively you may wish to seek the advice of a solicitor or an independent surveyor.

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