thinking bubble

It may seem obvious, but what is good practice?

We pride ourselves on remaining impartial in our dealings with any builder or client, and for this reason we are unable to recommended particular builders. However, we are able to offer guidance on what we think you should consider when making your choice.

One of the most important things is to not employ anyone who offers to carry out work without planning permission and / or Building Regulation approval, if these are required. The owner of a property is ultimately responsible for any building work carried out and may be liable to prosecution.

Deciding on a builder to carry out your building work can be a daunting task. We have put together a few suggestions that may help you choose the right builder for the job.

Make a list of possible builders

  • Get advice / recommendations from your architect. However, do consider how independent the advice is.
  • Talk to friends and neighbours who have recently had work carried out.
  • Look for builders' signboards in your area.
  • Local directories often show information on the type of work a builder undertakes.

Making your choice

  • Once you have a few names, contact the tradesmen or builders that suit the size and type of work you want carried out.
  • Obtain confirmation from the builder that they can do the type of work you want and when they are likely to be able to do the work.
  • Obtain details of recent jobs they have carried out and contact the customers for their impression of the builder and their quality of work.

Comparing prices

  • When comparing prices, you will need to make sure quotes are for exactly the same work. Ask for a detailed breakdown.
  • Are they quotations (a fixed price for the work) or estimates (the price is only guidance)? Often it may be necessary to have a mixture of the two. For example, a fixed price to install kitchen units, but with the cost of the units depending on your final choice.

Other checks

  • It may be advisable to consider if the builder has a fixed contact address and telephone number - not just a mobile?
  • Consider how long have they been in business.
  • Do they have full insurance cover?
  • Check to see if the builder is part of a trade association.
  • Is a reputable third party warranty provided?
  • If the builder is not local and is prepared to travel a long distance to do the work, ask yourself why they are unable to get work in their own area.

Remember, good quality builders will be happy to answer any of your questions and queries as they have nothing to hide. A reputable company is proud of its reputation and should always be willing to prove it.

VAT registered

Only a very small builder can avoid registration. Even unregistered builders still have to pay VAT on materials, tools and equipment, vehicles and their running costs.

The difference in price between a VAT-registered builder and a non-registered builder is much less than you would expect. If the builder is not registered, he will be passing the VAT on as a cost. VAT-free is a myth.

Cash in hand

It may be worth thinking about the following:

  • If someone is prepared to cheat on taxes, are you sure they will not cheat on you?
  • If you have nothing in writing from the builder (i.e. a contract), then what happens if you are not satisfied or something goes wrong?
  • How do you prove who did the work and is liable for any faults?
  • An invoice proves a relationship and, if a dispute follows, can be very useful.

Peace of mind is worth a little extra cost.


You should ask for written details of the work to be carried out and the price you will have to pay.

For larger jobs, a written legal contract is strongly recommended, as this gives you the written consent of the builder to cancel the work if it is not being done to the correct specification or within the agreed timescale.

Agree a start and planned finish date. Remember, however, that completion may be delayed due to bad weather or unforeseen problems.

Making changes to your requirements once work has started may cause delays and possibly increase the risk of mistakes. Costs for the work may also change. If changes are essential, agree the cost and length of extra time needed before the changes start.

For further information on choosing a builder, please consult:

Contact: The Building Control team

Last updated on 23/10/2018