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How to Find a Trustworthy Builder

By following these simple tips, you shouldn't go too far wrong.

Popular daytime television programmes such as DIY SOS and Cowboy Builders have placed the shoddy practices of some building firms into the public eye. They have also helped to raise awareness of the tell-tale signs that people should be looking out for when builders are trying to take short-cuts, often with dangerous consequences.

So, how exactly do you go about finding a trustworthy builder that has a good reputation and history for successful building work? By following these simple tips, you shouldn't go too far wrong:

1)    Get personal recommendations and reviews

Getting the advice from others is crucial in the initial stages. If your friends or members of family who live in the local area have had any building work done recently, ask them how it went. As they are closer to you, they won't be as worried about giving an honest opinion about the builder or the work that was carried out.

Alternatively, when in your research stage, contact your shortlist of potential builders and ask for any referrals/reviews they have been given directly from satisfied customers. If they are unwilling to do so then it is usually a sign that something is not quite right - these are then best avoided! Also consider the length and detail of the review   - usually a good, reliable recommendation will talk about all aspects of the work that was done.

2)    Check endorsement websites

There are now a number of websites that allow people to leave recommendations for a builder or building company. Sites like www.checkatrade.com allow you to search for and compare companies from your local area. Here you can see which builders have been left reviews by customers, whether these are positive or negative. Another, www.mybuilder.com allows you to post a job to a message board, which builders can then respond to, stating why they should take the job and allowing you to see past reviews for similar work they have carried out for others.

It's also worth looking at Trustmark (http://www.trustmark.org.uk/); a UK Government-endorsed website which only lists companies who have met certain quality standards.

3)    Get quotes and estimates
 
Make a shortlist of builders that you feel may be suitable to do the work for you and contact each of them to get estimated costs. Check if they are VAT registered - if not yet they have done lots of work in the past then ask if they are potentially evading tax - a sign that they aren't a reputable company. You should also ask about things such as planning permissions - something a builder should be aware of depending on the work that needs to be done on your house.

You may also want to check that their safety certificates are fully up-to-date and that they have public liability building insurance to compensate you in the event of further damage being down to your house, or if any injury to any of the building workers is suffered in your property.

4)    Draw up a written agreement

It is well-advised to get a written agreement drawn up with your builder prior to any work starting. This should include start and finish dates, a full specification of the work that needs to be done, a detailed payment schedule for exact costs (so they cannot charge extras along the way) plus a clause stating what happens in the result this agreement is not kept to. One of the most important rules, whatever work you need doing is to never agree to make the payment in full upfront.

Of course, things can go wrong during the build and your builder may find that they need to buy something else to get the job done. However, they should make this clear beforehand and agree with you what happens in this situation, not after the work has started.

5)    Maintain a good relationship

Although you want your builder to be open and honest with you, one of the best ways you can have a good relationship with a builder is to treat them with respect. Don't constantly pick at their work, make sure payments are made on time and ensure that the work you need doing is explained in full upfront.

If you are getting any building work done make sure you are covered for any eventuality. The Co-op Home Insurance offers policies for buildings cover to ensure your property is protected in the event of damage being caused.