Builder is a term that covers many trades, as the types of jobs they are called in to help with are many and varied.  One day they may be coordinating the completion of a new extension, the next surveying land for groundworks and drainage or helping a customer choose the colour of their brand new UPVc windows.

What they do

Generally speaking, a small builder will work on domestic projects – involving extensions, repairs and refurbishment work on homes. They will:

  • Coordinate the different types of construction involved in building
  • Help with any necessary planning permission
  • Survey land for foundation and drainage
  • Build the home from foundations to roof
  • Work with plumbers and electricians to get power and water to the house
  • Organise other trades such as carpenters for flooring, landscapers for drives and gardeners and painters and decorators to complete the job

What they charge

As with most larger household jobs, the cost of hiring a builder will depend on the size of the job.

For example, a double storey home extension including all planning, materials, labour and professional fees can come in at around £50,000 (including VAT, of course)

Whereas a smaller job such as removing an internal wall to join your front and middle rooms, removing rubble and making good should cost around £1500.

With building jobs, it makes a lot of sense to get a fixed price for the job and not work on an hourly rate. That way you can control costs and know immediately if the scale of the project is increasing as the work progresses.

What to ask

Depending on the size of the building firm you are using and the work required, you may be dealing directly with the person who will be carrying out the work. Or, you may purely speak to a project manager who only puts on their wellies to walk from their car to your door. Whatever the situation, the questions to ask are the same:

  • Are they HSE compliant? Your builder will usually have the sole responsibility for site health and safety on these projects. Make sure they have certification to prove they are competent.
  • Is the price quoted an estimate or fixed price? This could make a big difference if costs start to escalate when the project is underway.
  • Can they provide a written, itemised quote for the whole job? The quote you accept can act as a contract for the job and will be very useful later down the line if things go wrong.
  • Can they provide you with an address and landline phone number? Be very wary if not and be particularly careful about builders who only use mobile numbers.
  • Do they want any money up front? Do not pay anything until the whole job has been completed to your satisfaction – although it’s reasonable to ask for a small amount to cover materials, do not pay anything more until the work has been completed and ask to see receipts for the materials you have paid for.
  • Finally, and one question many people forget to ask: Does the price include VAT?

Trades to trust

If your builder is a member of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), that’s a very good sign as their members are vetted and have to meet strict membership criteria.  The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) offers training and accredited courses for construction professionals.

If you are building for the future, the Association for Environment Conscious Building (AECB) is a network of individuals and companies with a common aim of promoting sustainable building.

The law

You will usually require consent from the local planning authority to construct new buildings or make extensive changes to existing buildings. This is what’s known as planning permission and is typically granted for three years. Your builder should be able to guide you through the process and make sure your application is successful. Your new building will also need to meet all building regulations.

Any installation involving gas needs to be carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer and if any asbestos needs to be removed, the contractor should be registered with the HSE.

Finally, all workers within the construction industry must hold a Construction Skills Certificate Scheme (CSCS) card. To be eligible for the card, the worker must possess an NVQ or an SVQ, or a satisfactory corresponding qualification, and have passed a health and safety assessment. Each card has a grade which is given according to the experience and qualifications of your chosen builder.

Ready to hire?

3 is the magic number

As always, try and get three quotes from three different builders to ensure you pay a fair price for the job.

Certification and references

Don’t be shy about asking for any relevant certification, proof of public liability insurance and references or photos from previous jobs. If the builder is trustworthy and competent, they’ll be pleased (and proud) to show you both.

Cover yourself

Another sensible idea is to retain five per cent of the quoted cost for a three-month period, pending the non-appearance of any faults or defects.