Builders - what you need to know
The term ‘builder’ covers a broad range of possible work in your home. In general, a builder will take on larger structural jobs like loft conversions, home extensions and full renovations. They’ll assess what needs to be done and arrange for various specialist tradespeople to complete the work, while managing the whole project. They’re crucial to making complicated jobs run smoothly.
What a builder can help with
- House extensions.
- Garage conversions.
- Loft conversions.
- Basement conversions.
A builder won’t typically be very hands-on with tools. Instead, they’ll be arranging materials, submitting plans to councils, organising tradespeople, and communicating with you what’s happening and what decisions you need to make. They’ll also make sure that everything is being completed within your budget.
When undergoing a big job, there are bound to be issues discovered along the way, and a good builder will communicate these with you, as well as any effect on how long it’ll take to complete the whole project. Always factor in extra time and extra budget into your planning so that you’re not caught out.
A conservatory is a good way to give yourself extra space in your house, and as long as you stay within the (somewhat extensive) planning guidelines, you won’t need to get any planning permission. Conservatories are available in uPVC, timber and aluminium, which will give you plenty of options when thinking about design, build and durability. Depending on your budget and your tastes, you can either go for a standard or bespoke design.
The qualifications your builder needs
It’s always a good idea to ask for proof of any qualifications that a builder has listed on a profile page or elsewhere. They might also have a card from the Construction Skills Certification Scheme.
The first thing you can do when considering a builder is to check they’re registered with an official trade body. There are several in the UK such as The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). These bodies have criteria that must be met in order to become a member, demonstrating the extent of their experience.
For example, with CIOB membership they look for things like degrees, technical qualifications, military training and educational backgrounds.
You can see a full list of bodies on the British Associations site, or with TrustMark.
Gas Safe and Part P
Builders will almost definitely be using a team of specialist tradespeople, whether they’re sub-contractors or fully employed by the builder. Anyone working with gas needs to be registered with Gas Safe, and anyone working with electricity (in England and Wales) needs to be registered with Part P. These tradespeople will have a valid ID showing their membership so that’s another thing you can check.
Competent person scheme
For any work that requires planning permission, your builder can take care of all of this if they’re registered with the competent person scheme. You can search the Competent Persons Register to check they belong to a scheme.
Planning permission and building regulations for building jobs
There are 2 kinds of permission and approval you might need, which you can read about in more detail on the government’s website.
- Planning permission – usually for major changes or new parts to your house (loft conversions, basement conversions, extensions etc).
- Building regulations approval – this can apply to even small changes to your house, and is to make sure that all homes have the same safety and design features set out in the latest government legislation.
A couple of extra things you might need to consider - if you’re in a conservation area you you’ll need to check with your local council about any further considerations. Also if you’re a leaseholder rather than a freeholder, you may need to get permission from them to get the work done.
Just remember you might need more than 1 kind of permission or approval to get cracking on the work. Use a builder who’s a member of a competent person scheme and they’ll take care of everything for you. You might also want to consider using an architect to help with the planning, design and necessary permissions.
If you don’t have the right approvals and permissions, this can result in fines, penalties, or serious issues if you want to sell your home. You may even have to pay to undo the work, so it’s important to get it right before you start.
Insurance for building work
Public liability insurance
Your builder definitely needs to have public liability insurance, which will cover you and them if someone gets hurt or if the property is damaged.
Insurance-backed warranties or guarantees
You can get this as part of the cost of the work, if your builder offers it. Check exactly what’s covered - it should include the cost of finishing or fixing the work if there are any issues.
Home and contents insurance
If you have home or contents insurance, check with your insurer to make sure you'll be covered while the work is going on. You might have to pay more for your insurance during and after the work. Your insurer will probably want to know what builder you’re using and what insurance they have.
Questions you should ask a builder
- Do they have public liability insurance and what does this cover?
- Are they registered with a competent person scheme and will they take care of all planning permissions / building regulation approvals?
- Do they offer insurance-backed warranties?
- How long have they been trading for?
- Can they give you up to 3 references of recent work they’ve completed?
- Do they use sub-contractors or their own employees?
- What experience do their sub-contractors/employees have and are they covered by insurance?
- Will they give a guarantee/warranty for the work and how long does it last?
- Will they source all materials and equipment?
See the latest questions that homeowners have been asking builders.
Check out how to create more space without moving house. Once the work is under way, make sure everything goes smoothly with our top tips for communicating effectively with your builder and how to make things as easy as possible. Last but not least, read advice from TV’s favourite property expert, and our brand ambassador, Phil Spencer – you and your builder.