Ask friends and family for recommendations, but if they are not connected with the building
industry their opinion may not be that informed.
Ask for several references for the type of work you are planning.
Contact these people. Find out how happy they are with the work, and the
builder’s conduct and attitude. If possible go and view some of the work. Don’t just look at the space, the room, the furniture.
You need to really look. Look at where the walls meet the ceilings. Is it
straight? How well do the doors fit in
the frames. Use your eyes. Most people who have recently extended their house
are pleased with having the extra space so their opinion tends to be biased towards the positive.
These associations check on the builders before they gain membership status. They have a codes of conduct that the members should follow. In theory this minimises your risk of employing a "cowboy builder".
We have found some of these organisations to be disappointing during past disputes. However, generally it is better to employ builders, or tradesmen, who are members of such trade associations. Membership is no guarantee of the quality of their work, but it should mean that those you employ will be reputable.
Some builders claim memberships that they do not have. Always check!
There is also a government supported website were contractors and tradesmen can be found. ‘Trustmark’ at www.trustmark.org.uk.
If you are obtaining builder’s estimates yourself, you need to be precise about what you want included in the tender. Ask two or three builders for written estimates, which have a break down. Check the estimates thoroughly. Before agreeing to employ a contractor be very sure what they include, and what they do not.
Do this in writing. Outline the work to be done, hours of working, completion date, deductions for overruns, safety and security, disposal of waste etc. Use a JCT Contract or the Federation of Master Builders’ Plain English contract for small building work. Get the Contractor to counter sign any agreement.
Check the builder has public liability insurance. Ask for a copy of his certificate, and check it is authentic. Building work may affect your home and contents insurance. Check your own home insurance policy.
Never pay a builder in
advance. Only pay for work done. Agree a breakdown of the estimate, and stage
payments before you commit to employing any contractor. You cannot prove payment
if you pay in cash, so avoid dealing in cash. Don’t pay the builder all of the
money until a completion inspection has been carried out, and Building Control have
issued a completion certificate.Consider including retentions and a defects period into the contract.