How to find a good builder

🕑 6 minute read

How to find the right builder

If you need some minor building works, walls being knocked through or an extension, you'll need a reliable builder.

You’ll need a builder, or building firm, that is:

  • Punctual and will perform the job on schedule
  • Transparent with costs, with no hidden surprises
  • Courteous and easy to communicate with

Approvals before the work begins

Before work can begin, you should check if any approvals are required, as it’s your responsibility to ensure any approvals have been applied for and accepted.

The two main types are:

Planning permission

Planning permission is the application of asking that a particular piece of work can be carried out on your house or property.

By contacting your local planning authority (LPA), you will be able to apply and keep track of any open applications. You can also get advice on what type of building works need approval.

Building Regulations Approval

Many projects require building regulations approval, including changing electrics near a bath or shower, replacing doors and windows, or replacing fuse boxes.

A simple way to avoid applying for this approval yourself is to use a builder or tradesman who is registered with the Competent Person Scheme. This allows your builder to self-certify their work, without the the need to apply separately for building regulations approval.

Tips to help find the right builder

Ask around

If a builder comes recommended by someone you trust, that’s a good place to start. However, you need more than just a name and a thumbs up. If a builder did a great job on someone’s conservatory but you need them to fit a bathroom, they might not be the right builder for you.

Ask detailed questions about the kind of project they did and how much it’ll cost. This should help you narrow down your search to a few builders who are good at the kind of job you want, and can do it within your budget.

Do your research

Once you have a builder in mind, research them and their company. Check their trading history, plus any accreditation scheme and trade association credentials they may have.

A stamp of approval from the Federation of Master Builders, for example, is a great sign. Be wary if the builder is cagey about answering your questions. If they’re reluctant to give you details about their business, such as an address or a landline telephone number, ask yourself ‘why?’.

Agree on exactly what it is you want done

It’s important to always have a clear agreement with your builder. Develop a brief that’s well thought-out, researched and agreed between the both of you.

This will help you to begin your project on a high, as everyone will be clear about what needs to be done.

Be clear on money

Of course, this is a major worry for many people looking for a builder. That initial estimate can soon look like a dream, compared to the nightmare bill you’re presented with at the end.

To avoid this, make sure you get a detailed quote, rather than an estimate. Instead, pay in instalments either in cash with a receipt or bank transfer. This way there is a clear record of payment for work completed. Don’t just get a verbal quote, be sure you get a written copy of the quote and the work that’s been agreed.

Which brings us to our last step…

Get it all down in black and white

Once you’ve all agreed on what needs doing, and the budget, get it all in a contract. And make sure it covers both the big and the small details.

The contract should cover start and finish dates, agreed rates and material costs, what will happen in the event of any delay, and how the builder will manage post-work clean up – including who’ll pay for a skip if needed. It can be the extra costs which can quickly add up.

Ensure that any changes to the original agreement are put in writing by the builder or contractor. Always let them know about any issues you have with their work, giving them a chance to resolve them.

And finally don’t forget to let your home insurer and mortgage provider know of any major changes. For example, if you’ve increased the number of bedrooms or had an extension, this could impact your current insurance policies.

So with these steps, you should get the best out of your builder, and the best out of your home.

Good luck!

How to compare builders’ quotes

It’s worth getting a quote from at least three different builders before starting work. This way, you’ll have an acceptable sample size to compare prices.

Getting a quote from a builder

A good builder will want to meet in person to assess the building they’ll be working on. Arranging a meeting should be relatively quick and straightforward. They will probably take measurements and produce a visualisation, so you know what the project will look like in the end.

How to compare a quote from a builder

A builder’s quote should be detailed and include a split of labour and materials. The quote should also include everything from start to finish, including health and safety reports, specialist equipment needed for the job and VAT.

Pay attention to the payment schedules, deposits and when payment is required. Check the payment terms to make sure you won’t pay the full amount until you’re happy with the work carried out.

Additional work

You may also need to pay for additional tradesmen to carry out any work like plastering, plumbing, joinery and electrics. Builders only offer construction, so make sure you’re all on the same page regarding who’ll be doing what.

Try to find your own plumbers, electricians and supporting tradespeople – this way you can get multiple quotes and perform thorough research before making a decision.

How to turn down a builder's quote

Nearly all builders will provide a no-obligation quote. When you decide who you want to complete the work, call them and tell them that you wish to proceed before following up in writing.

To turn down a builder, a simple email or call is a polite option. A builder will be used to this, so don’t worry about any awkwardness. Simply explain that you’ve decided to go with another quote and you will not need their services at this time. Thank them for their time and for providing a quote – you never know if you’ll want to use them in the future.

Keeping a good relationship with your builder

Pay on time

Make sure you pay according to the payment schedule you agreed on when signing the contract. Any delays could mean work will stop on your home as the builder will want to make sure they can afford the materials and subcontractors.

Have clear lines of communication

Using emails is the best way to make sure that there is a paper trail of when conversations happened and what was agreed.

Details can be misheard during phone conversations, or vital information missed. If you discuss changes or ideas, follow up with an email to confirm what has been discussed.

Budget for additional costs

Even the best-laid plans can go wrong. Budgeting for damaged tiles, an extra skip or other materials can help ease future headaches.

Don't change plans halfway through a project

Try not to change your mind midway through a project. If materials have been ordered, plans made and work begun, changing the plan can be stressful for all parties.

Talk through the contract so you both know where you stand

Discuss the contract before you sign. Decide who will arrange additional contractors, and how long everything will take.

Ask about anything you don’t quite understand and make sure everything is right for both of you. This contract is for everyone’s benefit, so make sure you are confident before you sign.


Previous article

Do I need planning permission?

Calculators and tools

We have a range of mortgage calculators to help you:

  • Find out how much you could borrow from Halifax
  • See how much you could save if you make overpayments on your mortgage
  • Get an idea how a change to the Bank of England Base Rate could affect your monthly payments
Use our calculators and tools

Speak to someone

You can talk to us over the phone or use our mortgage video service from the comfort of your own home.

Contact us