Choosing a Builder

Choosing Builder

A major extension that involves structural alterations to your home should never be considered a DIY project.

When choosing a builder, keep these points in mind:

Do shop around and get at least three detailed quotes. If possible, use personal recommendations and check the quality of past projects yourself.

Do ask plenty of questions:

  • does your prospective builder have experience of the work you require?
  • how do they expect to be paid – on completion or in stages – and are they happy for you to retain some of the money until the job has been done to your satisfaction?
  • will they agree to independent arbitration should you end up in dispute?
  • will they accept a penalty clause for failure to complete the work on time?

Do use a builder who is a member of a trade association and check credentials with the organisation concerned. You can find professional builders and specialists in your area through the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

FMB members also meet TrustMark’s government-endorsed standards on workmanship and service. They can offer their clients a 10-year insurance backed warranty.

Do get written specifications and quotes. Do use a written contract, compile a fully itemised and costed schedule of works and agree a completion date. The FMB provides a plain English contract for use by its members which sets out the agreed work in layman’s terms.

The JCT Building Contract for Home Owners/Occupiers is also suitable for domestic building projects in England and Wales and copies are available from The RICS bookshop. The equivalent contract for homeowners carrying out projects in Scotland is published by Scottish Building Contract Committee (SBCC) and is available from our office in Scotland.

  • Do agree ‘start’ and ‘completion’ dates as a basis for any bonuses, penalties or changes.
  • Do agree a method for making changes to the work (before the work begins), in terms of agreeing to make a change and what the time and cost implications will be.
  • Do hold back a sum of 5% that will be released on completion of the works.
  • Do make sure the builder has a good waste disposal strategy in mind. This will help avoid disputes with neighbours when building work is underway.
  • Do check the building insurance and make sure your insurance company and mortgage company are aware of the work being done – you may need a joint policy with the builder.
  • Don’t automatically accept the cheapest quote.
  • Good builders are hard to find and are always busy. It will be worth the wait.
  • Don’t pay cash in advance on the promise of a ‘cheap’ deal.

To minimise the possibility of running into problems, consider appointing an RICS member to take you through the process from start to finish and ensure that works are carried out with as few hitches as possible.

Key benefits of employing an RICS member

  • when moving house an RICS member can advise you on which properties have potential for expansion or improvement
  • an RICS member can act as your agent when dealing with the statutory authorities; they understand planning law and compliance with Building Regulations and have experience of historic and listed buildings
  • RICS members have experience in seeking and appointing reliable building contractors and can act as project manager, managing the contract and monitoring the work on your behalf
  • an RICS member can produce initial designs, plans and specifications for your building to work to. They can also provide a cost consultancy service – managing your budget throughout the project to help you not overspend
  • if your project runs into problems, RICS embers can also offer advice on the best method of settling any dispute that may arise.