finding a builder

Well that new project is nearly upon you. Having flicked through endless magazines and watched dozens of house programs, you are inspired to take on a new challenge. After those years of looking at your old dark kitchen, you finally have a vision for your bright airy extension and all that slaving away at work to save up necessary cash has at last paid off.

And then the real worry begins -. who do I employ to do the work? Who can I trust to make my vision a reality without heartache?

Do I use the builder with the advert in the local paper?

What about that friend of your husband down the pub who knows a guy who can “save you thousands”?
The worry of having a “cowboy builder” leaves many of us concerned as to who to use. However, finding a reliable builder doesn’t need to be.

Here are our top 5 tips to find the right builder:

  1. Ask around – There’s nothing better than a recommendation from a friend or family member who’s had building work done
  2. Use a builder that’s registered with an official trade association – Using the FMB’s Find a Builder Service ( will help you find professional builders in your local area.
  3. Prepare a Brief – This is your project so make sure you get exactly what you want. Produce a written brief, including any drawings or specifications you may have. Give a copy to each builder who quotes.
  4. Get quotes in – Ask at least 3 builders to quote for the job and don’t just go for the cheapest. Look at how costs are broken down. If some seem a lot cheaper, ask them how they achieve that.
  5. Talk to previous customers – FMB Members will be pleased to put you in touch with previous clients so that you can see their past work and get a personal reference.

Following these 5 tips will help you and before you know it, you’ll be sitting in that new extension with a well deserved coffee in hand.

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Trading Places

It is not just builders but general tradesmen can be different to pick from and find. Into the bargain not all tradesmen produce the same quality and standard of work so we will try help you separate the best from the rest.

It is important to understand the different types of tradesmen out there and what they will contribute to your home. Many tradesmen are time-served professionals, such as an electrician, plumber or joiner. Others have no formal qualifications but are general ‘all-rounders’ who have developed proficient skills over many years and built up a business through recommendation, such as a painter or gardener. Some tradespeople are also ‘multi-taskers’ – tradesmen, who, as a result of the depressed building market, have decided to generate additional income by offering multiple services, such as a qualified plumber who will also tile the bathroom.

Quantity Surveyor, Damian Bowers says the best advice is “don’t be swayed by the cheapest quote, but strive for the best! Ask for references, check them out and compare the cst with at least two or three other companies.”

Who should I employ?

Small Contractors

If the job is in anyway structural, like a small attic conversion, then consider tendering the project to a small contractor who will provide a competitive cost for sourcing and managing all required trades to complete the job. Make sure each contractor is quoting for the job prices ‘like for like’ so you get an accurate representation of cost.

Small ContractorsMultiple Tasks

Very often, tradesmen will work as a team of two or three and recommend each other. Their pricing can be ‘per job’ or ‘per hour’ depending on the project type. If you are offered a ‘price per hour’, try to agree a timescale for the overall job so it doesn’t drag on and cost a fortune. If you agree a ‘price per job’, be careful the tradesmen don’t rush the job and sacrifice quality in the process. retain a proportion of the overall fee at the end until you are satisfied that all work has been completed to your satisfaction.

Sole Tradesman

Where the scope of work is hard to judge, then an hourly rate might be best. However, if the project is clearly known, such as building a 3ft wall or erecting a 6ft garden fence, then a ‘price per job’ or ‘daily rate’ might be more cost effective.


Tilers will generally charge for laying the tiles (including grouting) but not for supplying them. this is because tiles are expensive and vary considerably inn quality and style.

Timber Flooring

The same rules for tiling apply here. However, we would recommend you negotiate on a combined supply and fit price from a supplier because timber flooring must be laid to the manufacturer’s exact instructions and can warp if not laid properly.


Unless you’ve specified a particular brand or specialist paint , decorators will normally charge you per meter squared and include standard paint within their price – but do get confirmation for this. Certain paint ranges can be expensive or require a particular type of application so discuss this with the decorator. Painting jobs may involve paper stripping, filling holes, gaps and knocks or sealing newly plastered walls – so check what the price includes before agreeing to it.

Fitting Kitchens

The fitting cost quoted from a flat-pack kitchen supplier may appear quite expensive because it is often an out-sourced service, rather than part of the supplier’s package. In these circumstances, some home-owners have sourced an independent joiner/carpenter/fitter for a comparatively lower cost. Generally, these tradesmen quote for a price per hour, day or complete job based on the size and complexity of the kitchen. Remember the fitter recommended by the supplier will often liaise with them on missing items, breakages, etc. but if you source your own fitter, this responsibility will lie with you – so check whether any delays will incur additional costs with your chosen fitter. If you are offered a ‘per day’ price, make sure you agree start and finish times so you get full value for money. A certified plumber and electrician may also be required for installing new appliances and electrical fittings so ensure these tradesmen are fully certified and insured, otherwise you could end up paying a hefty price for anything that goes wrong!

fitting kitchensRewiring

This is a big job and the amount of mess and disruption caused to your property may surprise you. Make sure you obtain at least three quotes and allow a budget for re-plastering and repainting where necessary.


If fitting a new bathroom, the plumber’s cost will include either ‘supply & fit’ or ‘fit only’ and often be quoted on a ‘whole’ job basis rather than daily or hourly rates. Smaller projects like fixing a leaking pipe may be quoted ‘per hour’ and vary depending on the social or unsociable time of day. Don’t forget to build in a cost for replacing floorboards or other items which may become damaged during works.


We often get called to attend site consultations between clients and builders when they want verification on a particular idea. Advice might be related to planning issues, property value following a particular project or guidance on general structure. Architects can sketch out ideas there and then which can help progress a small project that doesn’t require full architectural input. Costs can and do vary so shop around.

This article was written by The Federation of Master Builders along with Love Your Home

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