The secret to appointing a good builder.


We’ve had several new business phone-calls this week from potential clients who are considering extensions or conversions. Even though it’s great they want to talk to us about being their potential contractors – they all had a long way to go before they could really consider who they were going to appoint as a builder.

Got us to thinking about writing a post to help people through the process of not only planning a building project, of any size, but also the process of appointing a builder.

Done well – you can get yourself a builder who…
you know for certain has given you a fair price (you’ve compared it with at least three others and understand their costs and how they justify them – he may not have been the cheapest – but you understand his costs and he has been transparent and professional);

….who will do a bloody good job (you’ve talked to two of their past clients and have even been invited to go visit past clients and the work the contractor has completed)

…and finally,  you could get yourself a builder that you can actually bear to be in your home for the 2-15 weeks your project may take (you’ve discovered through the whole quote process that they and the people that work with them are really quite nice).

So – here goes. Get ready. Tick ’em off one by one. Good luck and happy building.

1. What and why?

Decide what project is going to add most value to your lives as a family as well as the long-term value and health of the house.

2. Planning Permission?

Ascertain if any planning is needed – either from your local Council or for those of us in living in Dartmoor National Park – from the Planning office of DNP.

3. Architect input?

Is your project of a large enough scale and complexity that an architect could help? From plans to construction drawings – if you think you need help of this kind, always worth a quick phone-call to your local architect to establish if they could be of service. (Check the directories page on the RIBA website

4. Proposal pack.

Get together a pack to send out to all your prospective builders. This could include;

a) A scope of works or brief
List all the work you want doing. Whether it’s a bathroom you want re-fitting or an extension you need building – make it as detailed as you can.

b) Construction plans/drawings
If relevant, these will be done by the architect and they are of great value for the builder. It means you will get your quote done more quickly and more efficiently.

c) Budget and time-frame
Be reasonable. Set a budget and an approximate time-frame you would like your project to work to. This helps the builder put your project into it’s own context – and can help them decide if its something they can or actually want to do. There will always be some projects that just don’t excite some builders.

d) Quote time-line
We always think this is really important. Set a time-frame for the quote process. Set dates for site visits by builders to assess project and take measurements etc (1-2 weeks); a date for delivery of a quote to you (approx 4-5 weeks from start of process) and a date on which you will decide who wins the contract (one week after receipt).

A timeline helps you see how each builder works – and how they communicate with you. For us builders, we can be confident you are not using our quote as a way of finding a cheaper price – and we can use the time to speak with other professionals and trades we may need to – including your architect.

5. Create a short-list of building contractors. 

Call around. Speak to local building firms in your area that you find through world of mouth (the best way), a website trawl (which sites pull you in and talk aesthetically the same language?) as well as adverts in local mags etc.

Do they sound businesslike? Do they sound friendly?  Do they return your call promptly? Are they available in the period you want the project started? What sort of contract do they use? Have they clients you could call – at the relevant stage in the process – who can recommend them and would be happy for you as a potential client to view the work completed?

Either way – create a list of between 3 to 4 builders you would like to tender for your work and send them out your proposal pack.

6. Sit back and let them do the work.

Wait for your quote on the deadline you gave. Brownie points for the builder who submits it early.

7. Comparing quotes. 

Some questions to consider when reviewing your 3 or 4 quotes.

Well laid out? Easy to read and understand? Enough detail? Sufficient breakdown of costs? Have they added contingency? How transparent do you feel they are being? If the cheapest – ask them how they could get the costs down so much. If the highest – ask them to justify.

Ultimately – you want to go with the builder that not only in your head you feel is going to do the best job – but that in your heart, you feel you are going to trust most. Yes, you can and should be able to trust your builder.

8. Stage one completed. Now you’re ready for the build.

Appoint your builder. Tell them the good news – why you chose them and when they can come over for a celebratory cup of coffee (wine goes down well too). Thank the other builders and explain to them  why they didn’t get the job. (Feedback of all kinds is very helpful). Agree the details of works with your new builder. Agree a payment plan. Agree the timeline. Sign the contract. Get ready for a beautiful new home (and a little bit of dust).

(See pic for not one of our most talented builders at Perrett & Family – but certainly the most aspirant)

To see our website and read some of our recommendations, visit us at or call Marco and Emma on 01364 631196 to talk building.

1 Comment
    Posted at 22:34h, 18 January Reply

    Builders are not mind readers so if the client is not prepared to put some effort into the project – particularly in regard to para 4 – he may find it impossible to compare quotations and will get the builder he deserves

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