Finding the Right Builder For Your Home Extension

Brian Berry from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) explains what you need to know before hiring a builder for your extension project, and how to spot a high quality tradesperson
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by Federation of Master Builders
30th August 2023

When you’re planning a home extension, finding the right builder could be the most important decision you make. But how do you go about finding a builder that’s reliable, can deliver on quality, and understands what you want to achieve?

A friend or family member might offer you their builder’s details, but remember that it’s wise to ask a few questions about what they were like to work with. You might start your search on a trade checking website. These platforms often perform background and financial checks on their members and so offer some protection for homeowners, but most don’t check the standard of their work.

One way to find a reputable builder is through a trade association, like the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). We vet our members, and their work is independently inspected on site before they can join, giving you peace of mind that we’ve checked they really know what they’re doing.

How Many Quotes Should I Get?

It’s worth getting three builders to quote for your work. Any more can add confusion and some companies can refuse to provide you with a quote if they think there are too many competitors in the running. Here’s a rundown of what to include when you ask for a quote:

  • An overview of what you want (and what you don’t).
  • A full spec of requirements, such as lighting, windows etc, as well as who supplies what.
  • Plans or drawings suitable for building control – provided by an architect or draughtsperson (if not using a design and build service).
  • Details of planning permission and any restrictions.
  • Information about site access and conditions. A good quote will provide a full breakdown of each element of the build, so you should be able to check like for like and query anything that’s missing. Ask whether the final price includes VAT, and if any costs might be subject to change – for example, due to material price increases.
rear kitchen extension with arched glazed doors

FMB member Pencil and Brick was the winner in both the Large Renovation Project and Bathroom Project categories at the 2023 London Master Builder Awards for this rear kitchen extension in Southwark

What Should I Look For in a Reliable Builder?

It’s worth remembering that you don’t have to hold a minimum level of qualification or a licence to call yourself a builder. So, how can you be sure their work will come up to scratch?

At the Federation of Master Builders, we are campaigning for a licencing scheme to help give homeowners protection and remove rogue traders from the industry. Until then, the responsibility to look into your builder and their work lies with you.

Being a member of a trade organisation like the FMB is a badge of quality in itself. Choosing a builder with us means all the hard work has been done for you, as all our Master Builder members are:

  • Vetted, which includes looking into their trading history and carrying out credit and insurance checks.
  • Independently inspected by the BBA or RISA on site to ensure work is of a high standard.
  • Bound to abide by the FMB’s Code of Conduct to act with integrity and follow the standard practices expected.
  • Able to offer you a written contract and warranty for their work and expected to pass on relevant certificates.

What if I’m Experiencing Problems with My Builder?

Where do you stand if, for instance, the quality of work isn’t high enough, or if your builder isn’t sticking to the schedule? Firstly, your builder may have a complaints process outlined in your contract. If that fails, try to resolve the matter by putting it in writing to your builder, explaining what you want them to do and providing them with a reasonable deadline for response, eg 10 days.

When you use an FMB member, you will have access to our impartial dispute resolutions service, which can help you reach an outcome before needing to take any legal action.

Should I See Examples of Their Work Beforehand?

Look at the type of projects your prospective builder has completed in the past. If you’re looking for a company with specialist knowledge (such as timber frame builds or heritage properties), now is the time to be picky. A good builder is usually proud of their work and should be happy to show you photos and reviews. You could even ask them to show you around a project they’ve recently completed so you can see the standard of their work first hand.

FMB Member IPSUM (UK) won in the Kitchen Project category at the 2023 Yorkshire & Trent Master Builder Awards for this contemporary addition in Nottingham

Before you go ahead It’s important to sign a written contract before work goes ahead, to avoid confusion and provide you with a legal footing should any disputes arise. It should include a summary of the work to be carried out; details of who is responsible for each element; start and completion dates; insurance and warranties; and information about site restrictions. Ensure it also explains what happens in the event of insolvency; the project overrunning; who will put right any build issues; and how disputes will be managed.

All FMB members can provide a jargon-free contract that’s easy for you as the client to understand. Your contract will set out the terms of payment. It’s common for payment to be split into stages, and for a deposit to be paid to cover the initial cost of materials.

For building works like an extension, your builder will usually take a project management role, employing and co-ordinating subcontractors and suppliers. But if you have a particular supplier or tradesperson you want to use (such as a glazing fitter), then let your builder know early on.

Brian Berry is the chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders. He is also a member of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC). Search for a Master Builder on the Federation of Master Builders’ website.

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