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Working with your builder

Setting up a builder contract

Once you have chosen a builder, you will need to have a written agreement/contract covering the details of the work. Both parties need to be absolutely clear on the scope, stages, components and costs for the work.

Some pointers from the Federation of Master Builders:

  • The contract should detail exactly what work should be carried out, when it is to start and finish, the cost, broken down into installments and when these should be paid.
  • If timescale is important, you should agree a finish date with the builder with a penalty clause if they have not completed by this date.
  • Agree what constitutes a finished job (e.g. repaired and clean site).
  • Arrangements for rubbish removal and welfare facilities for the builder's contractors should also be agreed in writing. If you don't think you can share your bathroom or kitchen with the builders tell them so they can make other arrangements in advance and advise you of any cost involved (e.g. hire of port-a-loo).

Preparations before the builder starts

  • Building work is disruptive. Consider if you - or your pets - should move out for all or part of the building programme.
  • If you are staying on site, arrange for the builder to provide temporary kitchen or bathing facilities, if required.
  • Clear the area where the builders will be working - make sure clothes, books and furniture are out of the way. The builders may help you move heavy furniture. Furniture should be packed away or covered with dustsheets. Consider putting valuable items into storage.
  • Clear and protect any areas the builders may need for access, or agree that the builder does this as part of the building contract.
  • Check whether the builder intends to put up scaffolding over anyone else's land and ask their permission
  • Agree the location of the skip, which may need a licence and lights at night, when and where deliveries will be made and storage and security for builders’ tools.
  • Agree start and end times every day, with particular consideration for elderly neighbours and sleeping children. Also consider what is an acceptable volume for radios.

During builder work

  • Appoint a ’project manager’, who may be a paid third party or you or your partner. This person must keep regular contact with your builder and know when to be around for updates and decisions. If you or they go away, leave your builders with contact numbers.

  • Never be rushed into a decision. A reputable builder will take time to discuss a decision you are unsure of.
  • Keep a written log of progress, changes and delays, which you can refer back to if problems arise.
  • Try not to change your mind during the job as it can add to costs, but if you do, make sure all changes are agreed in writing together with any additional costs incurred.

On completion

  • On completion, run through the work, refer back to the contract, make sure you are happy with the work, that the area has been cleared up and you have all relevant paperwork and certificates.
  • On larger projects, it is common to retain 2.5% of the contract value for a 3-6 month snagging period. This should be agreed in the contract. Once the builder has attended to the snagging list, any monies retained should be promptly paid.


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