Are All Builders Cowboys These Days?

Written by Posted On Monday, 12 May 2014 14:14

If you believe everything that you see on the TV and read in the press, then you could be forgiven for believing that Cowboy Builders are the norm. This isn't really the case of course and there are many reputable, professional and highly skilled firms out there to choose from. Building your own home is, however, a big investment both financially and emotionally. Choosing the 'right' builder is an essential part of the process, but how do you find that special someone?

Early Planning Stages

Many self-builders choose a plot, an architect and then a builder. This order is fairly sensible but it can make more sense to involve a builder earlier in the process. Given that the builder will be an essential ingredient in creating your home it's wise to have advice from the experts along the way. They should be included along with your architect in the whole planning process – they'll be able to highlight technical issues early on which can make a big difference in terms of cost later in the process.

References, References, References

The biggest pointer to the quality of a builder and their abilities is their reputation. Seek referrals from friends or relatives and other professionals, including your architect. Ask for references and/or examples of building work recently completed, focussing on projects that are similar to your own. Try, if possible, to speak to previous clients directly to gain some genuine insight into your potential builder's skills.

Local or Imported Builders?

Generally, it's wise to employ 'local' builders. Imported ones may not have the local knowledge, contacts and awareness of local building rules. While building regulations are standard across the UK, planning permissions vary and in sensitive areas, National Parks or conservation areas, it pays to have a builder who is fully conversant with all of the restrictions that might apply.

Experience and Specialisms

Previous experience of building the type of home you are planning is crucial. An uber-modern, green home is not the same to build as a standard house on a modern estate. Specialist skills may be required for some aspects of any build – flat roof construction for example is not as simple as it may seem and specialist firms like Marcus Roofing with a great track record on previous jobs  will be able to do a reliable well done job.

Making Friends

Depending on the size and complexity of your project you'll be spending a lot of time with your builder. Generally if you're building for the first time it's wise to employ a project manager and this individual will do most of the liaising with the builders. However, you should choose a builder that you like and trust; it's important that everybody involved can be honest, open and talk to each other. Even on the smoothest of builds things can go wrong from time to time and when tempers fray or personalities clash, this can make a serious obstacle to solving the problem and moving on.

Honey, I've Lost the Builder

As in any industry, some firms of builders are more financially stable than others. Those that have been established for longer periods are the most likely to be stable and well run. It's hugely important that you check the background and finances of a builder to be sure that they'll not be on site one day and suddenly disappear the next. Finding another builder half way through a project can not only delay things for a considerable time but can mean that some work has to be redone and losing a builder mid-project is a certain way to see costs spiralling.

Payment Planning

When it comes to quotes and real costs it pays to have an agreement in place with your builder. Try to ensure that you've accounted for everything that you will need your builder to do – forgetting to mention an extra wing or adding one half way through the project is likely to have your builder tearing their hair out and will potentially cost more than it needs to. Upfront payments are never wise but you'll need to agree stage payments that are fair to both you and the builder and any sub-contractors involved. Professional and reliable builders will be more than happy to take payments as the work progresses and this may also be necessary depending on your mortgage arrangements.

Happy Home Builders


Building your own home is a very rewarding project. It can be fraught at times but you'll almost certainly get more for your money and get exactly what you want. Working with the right professionals is a key part of the process and ultimately being able to get on with your contractors is one of the most important parts of that process.

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