Finding a builder

Finding a builder

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Where to look for builders and tradesmen

Ask friends and neighbours if they can recommend anyone. If possible, view the work that was done for them. Be wary of people ringing you up or knocking on your door, especially if they want you to sign up to a special deal on the spot.

Be equally cautious of advertising which comes through the door, particularly adverts which only have a telephone number. Anyone can claim to be a builder, decorator, etc.

Questions to ask a trader

How long have they been in business?

To determine this, you could also ask them if they have a permanent business address. Established traders are less likely to disappear in the middle of a job.

Are they a member of a trade association?

This may give you some extra security as some associations have protection schemes or will help to resolve disputes. Ring the association to find out what protection it offers, and to check if the trader is indeed a member.

Can you see references and/or similar work the trader has done in the past?

If you don't know anyone personally who has used the builder, this question will be pertinent.

Do they have public liability insurance against damage to property (your neighbours' as well as yours)?

This question is important because even if the builder is reputable and has done good work in the past, mistakes can happen. You don't want part of your house ruined by these mistakes, with you left to foot the bill, nor do you want to be left with a massive bill for any damage done to your neighbour's property should something go wrong.

Is their work guaranteed? If so, is the guarantee insurance-backed (which means you are protected if they go out of business)?

If the guarantee is insurance-backed, you will have protection should the builder's company, for some unfortunate reason, go out of business. If the guarantee is their own, you will not. See below for more information on that topic.

Guarantee schemes

Guarantees are in addition to your legal rights, not instead of.

If the work is covered by a guarantee scheme, the name of the scheme and any registration number should be included in your written agreement. The two different types of guarantees are described below:

Traders' own guarantees - If they go out of business, the guarantee is worthless. But don't forget that you have rights whether or not you have a trader guarantee.

Insurance-backed guarantees - An insurance-backed scheme protects you if your trader goes out of business. It is underwritten by an insurance company. Insurance-backed schemes may well be tied in with a trade association and sometimes association members are vetted before they are able to participate.

Shop around

  • Ask at least three traders to quote on your work
  • Make sure they give you a quote for a fixed price and not an estimate (a guess which could go up later)
  • Be specific about what you want when asking for quotes, so that the traders are giving a price for the same work
  • Check that all the things you asked for are covered in each quote
  • Choose the quote which offers best value for money, taking into account not only price but also reputation for quality and reliability
  • Don't be pressured into getting work done that you can't afford

Beware of the hard sell

Don't let fast-talking cowboy builders, who just happen to be 'in your area', talk you into a spur-of-the-moment decision that you later regret.

Never accept lifts to banks from salesmen for you to collect money for the deposit; they may disappear with your cash.

Never give your credit card details over the phone in response to a sales call.

If you are interested in the deal being offered:

  • Ask for written information about it and any discounts on offer
  • Ask the questions listed above
  • Don't sign up to anything on the spot - shop around to check whether it really is the best deal for you. If the seller says you can't have time to think about it, ask why not

It is important to note:

  • You cannot usually cancel the work because you have changed your mind or have found a builder who will do the work more cheaply. However, you may be given cooling-off rights in certain circumstances. See notes on cancellation above
  • Only pay the final amount when the work has been completed to your reasonable satisfaction
  • Do not sign any document that states you are satisfied with the work until you have had sufficient time to test it