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7 tips for finding a reliable builder

Finding a reliable builder can be tricky - a simple web search for 'house builders near me' is likely to overwhelm you with options, and how do you sort the good from the bad? Thousands of pounds are handed over to rogue traders every day.

So, to secure your investment, it's vital you pick a reliable contractor. Use our top tips to help you find the best builders in your area, then make a shortlist to compare them.


Finding a reliable builder

There are lots of ways to find a builder, but how do you find someone reliable?

  1. Ask friends and family for a referral

Asking for recommendations from friends, family, and neighbours is a great place to start in your search for a builder. Referrals from people you know and trust, are much more credible than from someone you have never met.

If you have connections to tradespeople in the area, ask them who they would recommend. Plumbers, electricians, and tilers will have a network of local builders they work with regularly, and no doubt they will have their favourites.

Likewise, if you're using an architect or draughtsman on your project, they may be able to refer you to a reliable builder that they've worked with previously.


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  1. Check out jobs in your neighbourhood

Look for ongoing work in your neighbourhood for help finding a reliable builder. Most construction firms will put a board outside the property to advertise their work, so you can take down their details and search for them online.

You can tell a lot just from looking at the site - pay particular attention to:

  • how clean and tidy the site is
  • whether the neighbours appear happy
  • the builders' conduct on site
  • how safe the site looks

Don't stop there though, because this is only part of the story. Be sure to do your homework and research the company in more detail, before you contact them.  If you feel comfortable, you could even knock on the door as ask the homeowner if they're happy with the work they're having done.


  1. Search online using member directories

Online membership directories like Checkatrade are not just useful for finding a reliable builder, but you can also discover how their previous customers rated them.

Builders joining the scheme are checked rigorously to ensure they meet the high standards set by Checkatrade. What's more they're subject to ongoing vetting so you can be sure that every tradesperson listed on there is the best in their area. You can search by trade, company name, or simply 'local builders near me'.

Over 1 million customers visit the site every month, and Total Trades is proud to be listed on the site, with more than 50 reviews and an incredible average rating of 9.63.


Making a shortlist

Once you have plenty of recommendations, make a shortlist of builders to contact.


  1. Check accreditations

Before you start adding home construction companies to your shortlist, check their accreditations are genuine. Builders don't have to be part of a trade association but, sadly, there are some that fraudulently claim to be members in order to win work.

Most trade associations like the Federation of Master Builders, dedicate a section of their website to searching for members. If your builder says they are accredited, but you can't find them listed, it could be a sign you're being misled.


  1. Talk to previous customers

Ask your builder for references, and don't be afraid to approach previous customers to ask them about their experience. In particular you might want to ask if the builder:

  • completed the work on time and in budget
  • was tidy, courteous, and punctual
  • kept noise and disruption to a minimum
  • communicated clearly throughout
  • flagged up any problems early

Builders who refuse to give you contact details for old customers should ring alarm bells. You should consider why they don't want you to speak to their previous clients.

And, when you do speak to them, ask them what their relationship to the builder is - you want to make sure you're not speaking to a relative or best friend who may be creative with their recommendation.


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Comparing builders near me

Now that you've got your shortlist, start to gather the information that will help you compare them.


  1. Get three written quotes

When you have your shortlist, obtain written quotations from each builder so you can compare like-for-like costs. This should include full details of what is included and what's not, like site maintenance, clearance, building materials, and so on.

If it's a particularly complex or long project then a builder may ask for a deposit to pay for materials before they start. You can expect this to be between 10 and 20 percent, but never pay more than half the cost of the job upfront.

At Total Trades, we are passionate about making sure that our customers feel in control of their finances. Our pricing is clear and detailed, so you know what you are paying for, and if we need you to make staggered payments, this will be agreed at the start.


  1. Ask the right questions

Finding a reliable builder doesn't end there. Before you make your decision, the Federation of Master Builders recommends asking these key questions.

  • Do they have insurance (public liability)?
  • Are they VAT registered?
  • Do they work with other tradespeople?
  • When can they start?
  • What happens when the work is finished?
  • Do they offer a guarantee on the work?

A professional builder will have a plan in place for handing over the work once it's finished. They will need to make arrangements for snagging, and sending on any warranty documents, certificates, or instruction manuals.


Choosing a builder

Reputation is everything in the building trade, which is why we treat every project as if we were working on our own home. Care and quality are words we live by at Total Trades, but don't just take our word for it - our customer testimonials and Checkatrade reviews, prove that we come highly recommended.

We are a family-run business in Doncaster, and we understand how challenging it can be to find a builder you can trust. Using our top tips, you should have no trouble finding a reliable builder in your area, armed with enough information to make a shortlist and compare the final contractors.

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