Fear not, as we’ve come up with five top tips that will help you to choose wisely.
Rely on recommendations
Has your neighbour recently extended their home? If you’re impressed with the end result, why not ask them which builder they used? Most homeowners are happy to chat on the doorstep about their experience and you might even be invited inside to have a proper look!
Other tradespeople are also a good source of advice, as they should have access to a network of local builders. Alternatively, ask your local authority building inspectors to steer you in the right direction. After all, it’s their job to make sure that you’re extension is built to the best possible standards!
Try trade associations
The Federation of Master Builders is the most well-known trade association in the construction industry. As well as having their references checked, new members are expected to uphold certain standards and follow a code of conduct. However, the association doesn’t carry out physical checks on the quality of members’ work.
It’s also worth checking out the Guild of Builders and Contractors, as builders who apply to be “trusted members” have to show that they’ve been trading for three years and supply financial references. Every member also agrees to provide written contracts and clear payment plans.
Being a member of the National Federation of Builders is an equally good sign. Members are expected to adhere to a code of conduct, as well as supplying references, so membership is a good sign that your builder is competent. The NFB also operates a complaints procedure and all members are covered by public liability insurance.
Test out TrustMark
Government backed trade approval body TrustMark is an umbrella organisation under which 30 schemes operate. Every company you find using its searchable database should have had its work and financial status regularly checked, although there’s no guarantee that the information featured is up to date.
While TrustMark offers several extra benefits, including optional insurance and a user friendly complaints procedure, anecdotal evidence shows that some homeowners have ended up in dispute with companies featured on the website.
Review websites are a great resource, as their searchable databases feature thousands of building companies. Once you’ve posted your project, builders compete for the work, but they can’t contact you unless you like the look of their profile, experience and customer reviews.
While websites like these can be useful, you should be cautious with builders that submit extremely low bids, as they may cut corners or add extra charges once your extension is underway.
Whichever method you use to look for your ideal builder, we always recommend getting three quotes before you make any decisions. Make sure that every quote includes materials, labour, all subcontracting and of course, VAT.