How to Choose a Builder

5th August 2017

You’ve never had experience in the building trade and never developed a home. Even worse, you’ve watched too many programmes about cowboy builders or building disasters!  So where should you start when choosing a builder?

  • Check for recommendations?
  • Ask for quotes from smaller builders?
  • Ask for quotes from larger builders?
  • Organise 3 or 4 quotes?
  • Choose someone who you can communicate well with?
  • Check their financial standing?
  • Check to see if they have a membership of a trade organisation?
  • Ask for feedback from examples of their work?
  • Ask the builder to quote using drawing already approved by a building inspector?
  • Trust your instinct!?

The answer is ‘all of the above’. Finding the right builder is a bit of a gamble and to get the odds in your favour, you will need to have time and patience. 


Recommendations:   If you have a family member, friend or neighbour who has had an extension or developed their property, ask them if you can have a look and if they were happy with the builder. Did they think he was professional and reliable? Reached deadlines and kept to his original quote? Recommendation is probably the most trustworthy advice and the more recommendations, the better.

Smaller builder/larger builder: Ask for a quote from a bigger local builder, as well as the smaller builder. Whilst the larger builder might be more expensive, if you think they will do a good job, it’s worth asking for a quote.

Quotations: Don’t confuse yourself or waste everyone’s time by asking ten, twenty or however many builders to quote. It is far better to do your homework and settle for three or four quotes after selecting your choices.

Communication: Good clear communication is important. Does he understand your budget, needs and ideas? At least 90 per cent of things that can go wrong on a build can be due to misunderstanding or plain bad instructions.

Trade association membership: Does the builder belong to a trade association membership? We would suggest only using builders who belong to a trade association or professional body and contacting those organisations for verification before proceeding with any negotiations.

Feedback:   Ask a builder for examples of their work and previous clients feedback. This is particularly relevant if you are unable to find a builder through recommendation. Reputable and trustworthy builders will ask for customer feedback. Ask if he has examples of similar builds to your planned development.

Obtain quotes from approved drawings: Ok, we’re an architectural services practice, so of course we are going to recommend you use detailed plans for quotations! However, if you read any literature on building, the advice is use detailed plans from an experienced professional to ensure you are given more meaningful quotations and reduce the risk of misunderstandings.

Trust your instinct: Still can’t decide? Trust your instinct! You’re not deciding if he will make a good friend, but do you feel you can get on with him and trust him?


Other essentials to consider are:

Don’t go for the cheapest quote. If you have received four quotations and three are around £85,000.00, but one is considerably lower at £55,000.00, find out how this quotation was arrived at.

Do all the quotes include fixtures and fittings or just a nominal sum? If your build includes a new kitchen and/or bathroom(s) how much has the builder allowed for all the fixtures, fittings?

You must always ask for full contact details and check them. Be extremely wary if a builder doesn’t use or handout business paperwork, only has a mobile number or deals solely in cash.

Ask a builder to show you a copy of his builders’ public liability insurance certificate and check if the work is guaranteed and if insurance-backed should he go out of business.

If your project is large or complex, we recommend you consider using a written contract. If you think this applies to our project, ask potential builders if they would be prepared to use a contract.

Make sure all the quotations you request are based on the same specification and try for fixed quotes rather that a rough estimate, which would be subject to change. Should there be a need for changes or any additional work, insist on a revised quote.

We sincerely hope our suggestions have been helpful. Detailed Planning do have builders they would be happy to recommend should you wish to include them in your list of builder quotations.  

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