Building Control guidance - choosing a builder
We cannot recommend specific builders; however we can offer the following advice.
- Prepare a written description of the work required.
- Ask for written quotes from at least 3 reputable companies with reputations to maintain. Get referrals from family and friends or your architect wherever possible. Seek recommendations and references, and ask to see examples of their recent work.
- Make sure that the work referred to is of a similar type as the work you want doing. For instance a builder who specialises in small extensions may not be able to handle a loft conversion. Don't choose the first trader who knocks at your door.
- Find out whether the contractor is a member of a trade association that may give extra security should a dispute arise, or has been approved by the Quality Mark Scheme, and check these claims are genuine by contacting the relevant bodies. It may be that their membership has lapsed. What qualifications does the builder provide?
- Establish that the company has permanent base, and be wary of companies that only provide a phone number. Increasingly companies are using freephone numbers, but these give no indication of where the company might be based, and could be linked to a mobile phone. Find out how long the business has been in operation.
- Don't be hurried or pressurised into making a decision. If a builder does either of these, then simply look elsewhere.
- Finally, make sure the company you choose has insurance that covers any damage the trader might cause to you and your neighbours' property. Also make sure that either the contractor's or your own insurance covers death and personal injury.
Payment and contracts
- Firstly, make sure that you get all estimates in writing along with an outline of what works are to be done, start and completion dates, security and safety, waste disposal and hours of working. For larger jobs there is an industry wide contract available in the form of JCT 2005 (Joint Contracts Tribunal).
- Avoid cash deposits. In most cases these are not necessary. Some builders will want to be paid 'cash in hand' to avoid payment of taxes. If they are prepared to act dishonestly in that respect, can they be trusted to deliver a proper service? In addition, if there are no paper records, you may not be able to prove that payments have been made in case things go wrong. An invoice proves a relationship and can be helpful if a dispute arises.
- Ask for details of the required payments. For all but small jobs, the builder may ask for payments at specific stages of the work. The payments should reflect the amount of work already completed.
You may want to ask the following questions of the builder
- Are they members of the Trustmark scheme? Details of the scheme and recognised tradesmen can be found on their website.
- Are they prepared to use a contract such as the Joint Contract Tribunal Building Contract for Home Owners/Occupiers?
- Are they members of a recognised trade or professional organisation that assesses skills and competencies as a requirement of membership?
- Do they offer warranties or guarantees?
- Where have they worked before?
- Are they happy for you to see their previous work?
- Can they supply references from satisfied clients?
- What is their previous experience in the particular project you intend to carry out? Will they use trained personnel on your job?
- How do they want to be paid; on completion or in stages?
- Will they give you a completion date?
- Will they accept a penalty clause on failure to complete on time?
- Will they agree to you drawing up a letter of agreement covering main points of the job, including work to be done, agreed price, start and finish dates and payment methods?