How to hire a builder: 7 key questions to ask

Oct 10, 2022 | News

A quick search on Checkatrade or browse through the Yellow Pages and you will find hundreds of builders to choose from, but how can you tell them apart? And critically, if you are looking to make some major renovations to your property, how do you find a reliable builder that you can trust to get the work completed on time and within budget?

Here are seven key questions to ask a builder when getting a quote to make sure they can complete the project to meet your expectations.

1. Do they have some recent references?

The best guide to the quality of any future work is how a builder has performed in the past, and references are a good way to see the standard of their work and whether previous property owners have been happy with the experience.

Many builders will offer reviews and testimonials on their websites, but it is always useful to ask whether you can personally follow up with these past clients so that you can see a more complete picture. More established companies should have a strong history of happy clients, but it is always important to check out some recent examples of a builder’s work, ideally completed within the last 24 months to demonstrate the level of quality and professionalism they will bring to your project.

2. Can you see previous work the builders have done in person?

References are great, but to really see the quality of a builder’s work it is best to see it for yourself. When following up on the builder’s references, check with their previous clients if you can visit their property to see the standard of the builder’s work in person. This visit will also give you the opportunity to discuss the builder with one of their previous clients in a more informal way, which should give you further insight into how they work and how they may handle your project.

3. Have they ever done the task you are asking them to do before?

Experience should not be underestimated. If you are tasking the builder with a major job, such as excavating a new basement or building a complex new extension, then you want to find a builder that has successfully completed similar works in the past. And if possible, these are the previous sites that you should try and visit when exploring the builder’s references.

4. Are they a member of any trade associations?

Trade associations provide knowledge, advice, and support for their members and can work to promote high standards within the trade. There are a number of construction-related trade associations in the UK, with some, such as the Federation of Master Builders, independently vetting their members so that you know you can build with confidence.

5. Do they have the relevant insurance?

Insurance is important for any business, but when a company is making structural changes to your home or office, then the right insurance is critical. Hopefully everything goes to plan and there are no problems, but if something does go sideways, you want to be sure that if you need to make an expensive claim then the builder has the right insurance that could cover it.

Typical insurance policies held by builders include:

Public liability insurance

Public liability insurance covers a business if a client or member of the public claims they have been injured, or their property damaged, because of their business activities.

Employer’s liability insurance

Employer’s liability insurance covers you and the building company if any of their employees or contractors are injured on the job. It is a legal requirement for building companies to have this form of insurance.

Contractor’s all-risk cover

Contractors’ all-risk cover will cover the cost of replacing work that is destroyed or damaged before it is completed and before your own insurance covers it.

Before starting work with any builder, ask for copies of all their insurance documents, check the policies are up-to-date, and any premiums are paid.

6. Will they come back after we have moved in if any issues arise?

Everyone wants their building project to be perfect upon completion, and when the builders leave you should be happy with the results. However, in some cases problems may arise in the first few weeks or months after completion and you want to be certain that if this happens to you then the builder will quickly come back and fix the issues without it costing you further expense.

To get this protection, when signing a contract you should make sure there is a defects liability clause that holds back some money for a period of time (usually three or six months on larger projects), so that it is in everyone’s best interest for any problems to be solved as quickly as possible.

7. How soon can they start on your project?

Popular and well-reviewed builders can be booked up for months or years ahead of time, so it is useful to know from the outset whether they will be able to start (and finish) your project within the timeframe you have set out. There is no point wasting your time researching a builder that will not be able to start on your project for three years!

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