Choosing a builder

Having an extension built on your house can be one of the most exciting projects you may ever take on. But you’ve taken the plunge, had plans drawn up and planning permission has been given. Now is the daunting task of finding a builder. Don’t be put off by all the publicity about cowboy builders. It wouldn’t be news if all builders were the same. The large majority of builders are reputable and will do a good job on your building work.

If you have used a good architect to produce your plans, ask him for recommendations. Often they will work with particular builders who they know they can trust. Talk to your friends and friends-of-friends. Someone will know of a person who has had an extension. Ask their opinion on the builder they used. If it was good then approach the builder for a quote.

Federation of Master Builders

To belong to the Federation of Master Builders requires a builder prove that they offer suitably high standards of working practice and business methods and is thus widely accepted as a hallmark of quality. If a builder indicates that he is a member of the FMB, check him out. Contact the FMB and they will let you know whether or not his membership is up-to-date. They also have aFind a Builder service on their website. However, if you have good recommendation about a particular builder in your area, do not be put off if they are not members of the FMB.


It is also worth checking whether any chosen builder is registered with the NHBC (National House Building Council). They are a world leader in providing warranty and insurance cover for house builders. They register builders who must meet certain requirements. They also provide 10 year guarantees on new houses and converted or extended homes.

Choosing a Builder

Quotations and Contracts

Always aim to get at least three quotations for your building work. These should be detailed, describing all stages of the project. Ask for details of previous work and go and have a look. If you can speak to the home owners to find out if the building work was acceptable. Once you have decided on a builder draw up a written contract, detailing all the aspects of the project and also an agreed timetable. Any changes to this timetable or contract details should be discussed and agreed in writing before any work on the changes commences. This can avoid arguments afterwards when differences of opinion occur. Again, the FMB can provide legal contracts for you to sign along with your builder. These cost £15 but are well worth this small amount.

Insurance Backed Guarantee

Some builders guarantee their work for a certain number of years. This is fine, but if they go bust in the mean time then their insurance is not worth anything. Insurance backed guarantees remove some of this risk. As long as you sign up for this type of guarantee whilst the builder is still trading, then any problems should be solved – the cost being covered by the insurance backing.

Builders Tools


Most reputable builders will not ask for payment up-front. Often the first payment is made at DPC (Damp proof course) level, the second payment at plate level (before the roof is added) and the final payment upon completion. This is not always the case. Discuss matters with your builder and ensure that both parties are aware and agreed with when payments are to be made and how much. Avoid builders who say that they will do the job “cash-in-hand” without VAT. This could be asking for trouble if anything goes wrong.


If problems occur during construction speak to the builder immediately. You will then be able to discuss the problem and reach a solution. If left, it may be too late to do anything about the problem and animosity may start between you and your builder.


There is no hard and fast rule when choosing a builder, but if you use personal recommendation and ask for references, then you should, hopefully, avoid using a cowboy builder.

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