How to choose a builder

How to choose a builder

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It’s important to choose the right builder. Many people spend more time planning a holiday than they do considering their options when it comes to building work, yet the building work may cost many times as much and involve their most prized asset – their home.

The big question facing a private consumer is ‘price versus quality’ – what’s the point in having work done cheaply if it results in shoddy workmanship using sub-standard materials? The money you ‘saved’ you may well end up spending, often along with a lot more, when you have to get another builder to put things right!

What you want is a builder who will do a quality job at a sensible price. After all, you will enjoy the quality of your building work long after you’ve forgotten how much it cost.

A good builder will:

  • probably belong to a trade body – this means the builder will conform to a code of conduct and will face the possibility of disciplinary action if that code is breached.
  • have current public liability insurance – this means that if an accident happens to a member of the public as a result of building work on your property, the resultant costs will be covered.
  • be happy to give you an estimate in writing – this means you will be able to compare estimates at your leisure and not have to rely on memory as to what is included in each price.
  • be happy to have the work agreed in writing – after all, this is as much to protect the builder as it is to protect you. Producing a building contract is now relatively easy using a JCT pre-printed contract. (JCT Home Repairs and Maintenance Contract)
  • not ask for unusual payment methods – there should be no deposit required unless you request specific materials, no part payments unless the project is going to run for a long time, and no special deal to exclude VAT.

Cowboy builders are very much in the minority, but they are out there, so how can you protect yourself? Treat them with suspicion if they:

  • EVADE giving you references or details of previous jobs
  • OFFER you a ‘cheap’ deal for cash-in-hand.
  • SUGGEST you can avoid paying VAT for cash
  • CONFUSE you with jargon and complicated explanations
  • INSIST that a written contract is not necessary
  • SAY they can start tomorrow (a good builder is usually busy)
  • CAN’T give you costings because ‘things may change’
  • LAUGH when you suggest showing them plans
  • GIVE you a surprisingly low quote
  • CAN only be reached by mobile and don’t have an address on their card
  • ASSURE you the details are their problem and you don’t need to worry
  • KNOCK the opposition

Visit Checkatrade Kent to help find a builder in your area, and read the guide to Having building work done at your home (.pdf)