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How to find a reliable builder

Andy Stevens / 31 March 2015 ( 17 March 2021 )

Finding a builder for your project can be daunting, with reliability and cost all coming into question. Read our guide to help you find a reliable builder in your area.

It's worth taking plenty of time to research builders

Finding a good builder can be tricky and stressful, with the wrong builder potentially being a disaster for your project. We look at what steps you can take to find the right builder for your needs.

Ask around for builder recommendations

Personal recommendation is always the best way of finding a builder. It's a major undertaking, and you want to make sure you have complete peace of mind from the start that the right builders are doing the job for you.

Do your research. Ask friends, family and neighbours if they know of, or have used, reliable builders. Ask about the quality of the builders' workmanship, costs, reliability, how long it took them to complete the job and whatever else you feel you need to know.

Tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians have invariably built up a network of builders they'll have worked with over the years, so ask for recommendations from tradesmen contacts that you have and trust.

If you know anyone involved in the building trade, such as property buyers and architects, then find out whether they have a reputable builder that they use

Read our tips for avoiding a cowboy builder.

Look at boards at building sites

Keep an eye out for boards on building sites in your area so you have an idea of firms working in your area, but always do your own research too. Check online for reviews and get feedback from people who have used the builders before. 

Search online for highly-rated builders

Websites such as are a great online source for anyone looking for reliable builders and all sorts of tradesmen.

These websites hold the details of thousands of builders and building companies. Builders' ratings on these sites are based on the feedback from clients, so the better the job done by the builder, the higher the rating.

Government-backed is a find-a-tradesperson scheme that lists vetted traders. Firms listed on TrustMark  have been checked by for their trading practices, customer service and technical skills.

You will often find recommendations of builders from people you know on social media, too. But here's a word of warning: even though a builder may appear to have built a good reputation online, it's still important to find out more about their workmanship from those who have used them directly, if possible. Seeing is believing, after all.

Choose a reliable builder from trading associations

If a builder is a member of a recognised trading association, this is another way of sifting out the good guys from the cowboys.

It's not obligatory for builders to join a trading body, such as the Federation of Master Builders, the National Federation of Builders, or the Guild of Builders and Contractors, but you'll be giving yourself a level of consumer protection by choosing builders and building firms who are members, plus those who meet Government-endorsed trading standards with the 'TrustMark' seal of approval.

And one final big no-no to remember when choosing a reliable builder...

If anyone knocks on your door and claims to have spotted structural defects on your property, such as your roof, driveway or guttering that may need repairing - just never take their word for it. Always seek professional advice from a reliable builder before giving any work the go-ahead.

Once you've found your builder

Once you have finally found a builder that seems right there are many things to consider before agreeing to hire them. Use our checklist before you give them the job to make sure you are comfortable with the new working relationship.

Proof of reliability. Has your builder completed previous building work to the required standard, on time and within the agreed budget?

Timekeeping. Good timekeeping once arrangements have been made is also a sign of reliability. And remember: builders should only be paid for the hours worked. You won't want to pay someone who knocks off early and still charges you for a full day's labour.

References. Ask the builder for references from previous work - and follow these up with a phone call to the relevant householder if necessary. Make sure, too, that the builder has the correct experience and qualifications to take on the task.

Agree costs. Make sure as well that you're paying just for the builder you have chosen and not for sub-contractors (unless agreed), as otherwise this could have an impact on the final bill.

Ask about VAT, and make sure you know where the builder is buying his materials from for the job. If it suits you to do so, pay for work either in stages as it's completed, or pay for the whole job in a final settlement after completion. Always ask for receipts and keep a written record throughout the course of the work.

Check insurance. Make certain the builder is fully, and correctly, insured for the job. You don't want to be left high and dry should things go wrong - so it's wise to check your own insurance policies too.

Timescale. Agree with your builder how long the job will take, to minimise disruption and any chance of spiralling costs.

Local regulations. Make sure from the start that the work your builder undertakes complies with local council regulations. You may need to ask a council official to make an inspection.

If you ever find yourself taken advantage of by a builder read our guide on what to do if you have been ripped off by a cowboy builder.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.