Note: This document will be amended from time to time. So do come back to see if there are any updates.

You have obtained Planning Permission for your project and you have also received Building Regulations Approval. Two major steps out of the way!

Tip: Do not start work until all statutory processes are formally completed (including discharge of any relevant conditions).

Affordability & Budgeting

The most important element of any project is affordability and budgeting. Estimating the project costs based on £/sq.m is very approximate and doesn’t take into account site specific items such as, piling, underpinning, Party Wall Act costs, demolitions, sewer diversions etc.

You will need an accurate and approved set of drawings showing as much information as possible on what you require, from the type of bricks to be used to the finishes on the walls.

Also factor in a contingency fund of at least 10%-15% to deal with last minute changes in design, layout or to deal with any unforeseen circumstances eg. Rising damp or woodworm!

Now it’s time to find a suitable contractor to see the project through to completion.


A good builder, that you can trust to do a good job, on budget, safely, promptly and cleanly, is hard to find, but they do exist.

There is a well known project management model represented as a triangle, which links the three most important constraints, Quality, Time, Cost.

The Quality - Speed - Cost conundrum

The Quality – Speed – Cost Conundrum

This principle, interestingly, applies to many aspects of life but more specifically to construction. In the ideal world you would like the project built quickly, to a very high standard, at a low price. In practice this is virtually impossible to achieve. One attribute, will always suffer.

For example if you choose to build:

  1. to a high quality and low price, it will take longer to finish

  2. quickly and to a low price, the quality will suffer

  3. quickly and to high quality it will not be cheap

 So you need to decide what are your top priorities in quality, budget and timing. Do not expect a builder, however good, to be a market leader in all three.

The most practical approach is to pick two attributes from the above and negotiate hard on the third!


Remember: You are looking for a builder not a new best friend. But it is still important to be able to trust and get on with your chosen contractor.

Word of mouth is a good starting point.

Speak to family, friends and neighbours about projects they have done.

Check a builder is in a trade body

Ask the builder how long they have been trading.

Check for memberships of the Federation of Master Builders, the Guild of Builders and Contractors, or the National Federation of Builders.

Check also CheckAtrade and Rated People.

However, do not be fooled by the badge. Contact the relevant Trade association and verify the builder’s membership credentials and also how long they have been a member.

Ask for references and check them out.

Contact those who provided the reference and if possible visit them to see how happy they were with the builder, and see for yourself the builder’s conduct, quality and workmanship. Look at the finished products and judge straightness, clean lines, consistency. Are the tiles well laid? Are there brush marks in the paintwork? Unfortunately you would not be able to check the non visible items like, foundations, insulation, electrical installation and plumbing.

Ask about a builder’s experience and qualifications

The builder’s experience must be relevant to your project. You don’t want the builder to be learning new skills at your expense.

Check whether the builder uses sub-contractors

That happens in many projects. Make it clear though that it’s the builder who carries the ultimate responsibility and not their subcontractors.

Does the builder have insurance if something goes badly wrong?

Typically builders would have personal and public liability insurance from £2m to £10m per claim, depending on the project size and complexity. Make it a condition that they show you a valid insurance certificate. To be absolutely sure, call the insurance company and confirm that the builder is properly covered.

Always ask for a detailed quote

  • Check how long the price is guaranteed for;

  • Avoid the ‘free VAT’ deal.

  • Draw up a contract if the work you require is substantial;

    Put details of the job down in writing – the more thorough, the better. Your contract should outline what work is to be done, start/completion dates, security, safety, the cost of the work and materials, payment plans, catering and lavatory arrangements, hours of work, cleaning up and the disposal of waste materials.

  • Avoid paying upfront or a cash deposit – it should not be needed unless you request specialist building materials or the job is likely to take a long time to complete.

  • Ask the builder to set out, in writing, what is specifically NOT INCLUDED in the quote. Never assume anything. This very important step will help avoid many disputes later.
  • Remember, the council’s building control officer will check the work meets the building regulations in the key areas; however he/she cannot check everything!

  • Keep a final payment until the work is complete and all completion and commissioning certificates have been issued and snags rectified.

  • Guarantees – are they offering a guarantee on a large scale job? If it is a new build you will need a guarantee on the property.

 Tip: Only build what has been approved by Planning. Deviate from that, without permission, at your  peril!


Prepare a construction contract

Get a Contract

V1.2 – Last Updated 18 May 2015