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Having some building work done is notoriously stressful and disruptive of your home and your daily routine. Often large sums are involved and lots could potentially go wrong. Here we look at a basic to do list before appointing a contractor.

Finding a good builder

The best way is to get a recommendation through word of mouth. If someone, be it a friend or family, can vouch for them, then that would tend to fill you with confidence. Ask if the builder started and finished on time, kept the site tidy, cleared up at the end, struck to the agreed price and overall did a good job of work. Remember however some problems take years to become evident when a contractor has charged for installing a damp-proof membrane under a concrete floor, or putting trunking round wiring in a screed, without actually doing it. By then the builder may have disappeared and you may not be able to track them down.

You can find builders in your area who are registered with the Federation of Master Builders from their website. However, while standards for joining the Federation are high, it does not inspect the work of members. Also, some contractorss put the Federation’s logo on their letterhead even though they are not members. Ask to see their certificate of membership. You can also look for a builder under the Quality Mark scheme, a government-backed register with details of more than 500 firms. Finally you might try Which Local which has been set up by the Consumers Association to allow satisfied customers to recommend companies which have done good work for them.

Getting a price

Don’t rush into finding someone. Obtain at least three quotations (Tenders). The Building Cost Information Service will give you an idea of how much a job should cost. Don’t necessarily go for the cheapest quote; take into account the answers to your questions.


Find out if you need planning permission or if building regulations apply to your job before you go to a contractor. If it qualifies as ‘building works’, which includes everything from building an extension down to installing a new window or boiler, you are obliged to have it inspected and certified by your local council. Planning permission covers larger projects and for this you need to apply to your local council planning department, providing plans. The department responsible at your local council is called Building Control and they will tell you all you need to know. You will need the certificates when you come to sell your house as the buyer’s solicitor will want to see them.

Hiring a professional

An alternative for you is to hire an architect or surveyor to help you plan the job and then oversee it, which can be a good idea on larger projects. Typically, they will charge 10-13% of the value of the work but can save you money by knowing the right builder to choose, bearing down on costs and making sure you get good quality work

I would also advise to ask the prospective contractor for contact numbers of those who they have completed works for in the past.

Make sure you speak to them in case the builder has invented them. Ask to see the work and forget about anyone who won’t show you work they have done. Ask to see some older work as well as a recent job since there will have been more time for faults to become apparent.

Piperhill Construction pride ourselves in being one on London’s leading contractors. We are experienced and qualified to undertake all aspects of work; from new build, basement construction, refurbishment, through to fully integrated services and first class designer finishes. Whether working within design and build or traditional contracts, our unfailing aim is to meet all of our clients and their consultants requirements and to produce the highest quality finished project.

Please contact us on 0208 166 5607 if you wish to discuss a project.