how to find a builder

How to find the right builder

Expert advice on where to start your search and what to look out for

By Victoria Purcell | 18 August 2022

Finding the right builder can make or break your project, so it pays to do some research. The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) outlines some tips on how to find a builder, and what to look for.

It’s worth noting that right now, the building industry is suffering from a skills and labour shortage. According to the FMB, 61% of small builders have delayed jobs in Q2 of 2022 due to a shortage of skilled tradespeople. So, the biggest question might be where to find a builder in the first place?

In partnership with the Federation of Master Builders
how to find a builder: use the federation of master builders' find a builder tool

Photo: Federation of Master Builders

How to find a builder

1. Ask for recommendations

Personal recommendations are a great way to find a good builder. Ask to view their past work in person, and speak to the homeowners – how did the builder manage issues, and did they deliver on what was agreed?

2. Search a trade checking website

Most of us start our search online. But bear in mind that trade checking websites often only perform financial and legal checks on their members – they don’t inspect their work in person. Use a service such as the FMB’s Find a Builder search to find a Master Builder who has been thoroughly vetted and independently inspected beforehand.

3. Pick a local builder

Local builders should understand local planning rules or may have worked on similar properties on your street. But if you’re choosing companies based on who’s pushed a leaflet through your door, be sure to do your homework.

builder measuring a piece of wood on a building site

Photo: Sutad Images / Adobe

What to look for when vetting a builder

1. Trade qualifications

In the UK, builders aren’t required to hold a licence or any qualifications by law in the way that other trades do, like electricians. This lack of regulation can put homeowners at risk from the unscrupulous practices of ‘cowboy builders’.

The FMB is campaigning for a licensing scheme to be introduced, but in the absence of any current licensing controls, the responsibility to check your builder lies with you. Membership of a trade organisation like the FMB is a badge of trust to look for. Trade organisations will check their members thoroughly before they join.

At the FMB, all members are professionally vetted, including credit, trading history, insurance and company director checks. They are also inspected by an independent assessor on site, able to offer you a written contract and warranty for their work, and bound to abide by the FMB Code of Conduct.

Registration with TrustMark can also be a good guide – it’s the Government Endorsed Quality Scheme for trades that work in the home. But double-check whether their registration is active by looking them up on the TrustMark website.

2. Reviews and testimonials

See what others say about the builder and check if they have worked on similar projects. If you’re building a new eco-friendly home, for example, they will need to have an understanding of the principles and requirements.

3. Get three quotes

You’ll need detailed quotes rather than estimates in order to compare costs on a like-for-like basis. Aim for three quotes and provide as much information as possible to the builder, such as the full requirements of the project, who’s expected to do what (do you want to buy any materials yourself?), and drawings or plans for building control.

If there is a big difference between quotes, thoroughly check what is included. For example, if you’re renovating your kitchen, does the quote include costs to remove the old cabinetry? Asking to separate costs for labour and materials can also help. Remember, unforeseen issues can occur during a building project, and the cost of building materials is currently rising rapidly due to shortages.

how to find a builder: use the federation of master builders' find a builder tool

Photo: Federation of Master Builders

Final checks

Ask your builder about their insurance. Always ask to see certificates, including one that shows public liability cover. You should also check when they can start, as good builders are often booked up for months, which can impact your build timeline.

Finally, always make sure you enter into a written contract with a payment schedule so that all parties are clear on what has been agreed.

Begin your search today

Search for a builder online at fmb.org.uk and get your next self-build or renovation project underway.

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