Whatever kind of property development you’re considering, you won’t get very far without the right team and in particular, a really good builder.

Whether you’ve just purchased your own home or a buy-to-let investment that needs a complete refurbishment or have taken on the ambitious task of building a property, you’re builder will make all of the difference.

So how can you ensure that Bob the Builder is not Cowboy the Builder? While you can never guarantee that the grapes won’t turn sour, there are certainly steps you can take to minimise the risk.

Here are our top tips for making sure you find the right builder for you and that you get what you want.

Where to look

Use Checkatrade.com. This is the best place to start when looking for a quality tradesman as much of the leg work and due diligence would have already been done for you. There are also customer reviews and ratings on everything from reliability and timekeeping to workmanship and invoicing history. Also talk to people you know who have had building work done and see if they can give you any recommendations.

Get three quotes

To avoid a number of surprises and hefty invoices half way through the project, it’s important to give builders a detailed specification on your project so that they can quote as accurately as possible. So, when you have the quotes in hand, how do you choose between them? You should be looking at much more than the price - remember, there is always someone that will do it cheaper, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be good quality. Have the detail so that you can compare each aspect of the project. One may be charging for expensive materials that you don’t want to use and the others may not include the cost of materials at all.

Check out their work

Go and see some of their previous projects, preferably without them present, and ask their former customers the following questions:

  • Did they turn up when they said they would?
  • Did they maintain continuity on site?
  • Was the site tidy?
  • Was the standard of work good?
  • Did it come in on a budget? If not, why not?
  • Were charges easily negotiated?

Check out their credentials

So, you’ve now got three quotes and you’ve come across a builder that you like, he looks good and you think that you can work with him. You’ve gone and seen some of the work he has done and also received recommendations. He seems to have all of the right kit and may have worked with someone you know. His quote is right and he talks the talk.

But what else should he have?

  • Insurance – this is crucial. Do they have Public Liability Insurance? Accidents can happen! Do they employ anyone or contractors? They’ll need Employer’s Liability Insurance. Do they have their own equipment and tools, even a portaloo? They should have Contractors All Risks Insurance. Builders should be happy to show you their cover – if not, ask yourself why?
  • Registrations and Certifications - If you are having any gas work done on the property, it must be carried out by Gas Safe Registered engineer. There are no ifs and buts with this. You can check whether they are registered at www.gassaferegister.co.uk. Electrical safety is also something that is often overlooked. Your electrician be certified (or have someone check the work that is certified) to Part P of the Building Regulations – NICEIC, Elecsa or NAPIT for example. Windows should be installed by a qualified contractor, somebody who has a FENSA certification for example.
  • Licenses - You may be lucky enough to have a driveway or garden to drop your skip on temporarily but quite often we have to put them on the street. If you do that, then you need a licence from the local authority. They are usually about £40 and the skip company will apply for that but you need to determine whether the builder will take responsibility for checking or if it will be left to you. This is also the case if you are putting up scaffolding.

Doing your due diligence can mean the difference between an unexpectedly expensive and botched job and happy builders, a happy building site and a happy customer!