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This article was written and distributed by the Federation of Master Builders, the building industry's largest trade organisation, representing over 13,000 small and medium-sized companies throughout the UK. If you'd like to know more about the FMB, or would like to find a reputable builder, try the Find a Builder web site at:

The preparation portfolio - Having building work done?

The key to a job well done may well be homeowner homework!

Builders aren't mind readers so make sure you brief them carefully from day one with exactly what you want. Your latest home improvement may be the biggest undertaking you'll have made since buying your home. Whatever the job you want done, familiarise yourself with the practical facts before having fun with colour, style and design and you’ll smooth the way for your builder and your budget.

Smooth operation
Forget what you've read in the press. Finding a reliable builder may not be so difficult if you’re prepared to do your research.

Use a website like to help you begin your search. This site will put you in touch with a selection of vetted builders in your local area. Then meet them and decide whether you can work with them – after all they could be in and out of your house for the next few months if it’s a big project. You may have to wait for them though – good builders are usually busy.

Once you've found a builder you can trust make some firm decisions about what you want so you can brief him well. Use all the information and advice you can get hold off – to help you, the FMB has produced an Essential Guide to Home Improvement which has everything you will ever need for completing a successful project. Phone for your free copy on 08000 152 522, or download from

Try NOT to -

Be unprepared – lack of preparation before a major job starts can leave everyone confused particularly if the design is incomplete. John Pass of JP Construction in the North West says: “Many homeowners fall out or dismiss their architect once they have obtained an outline design and look to their builder to carry on and fill in any gaps. Good design and a good working drawings might not be cheap but they can save money. They help to avoid expensive alterations or variation work during the building stage and the project is less likely to run over budget or time.”

Misunderstand – There is no point in simply nodding when your builder is trying to explain, for example, the latest indirect water heating system to you. Admit a lack of knowledge and get them to clarify everything in layman’s terms. It’s good marketing for them if you know what they are doing so you can recommend them later.

Work alone – keep talking - not only to your builder but your partner too! Tony Wilson, a builder from Kent says that being given one story from the wife and another from the husband is destined for disaster. Builders aren’t marriage counsellors!

Keep shtoom - if you're unhappy about the work, say so! But do it the right way. There's no point moaning at the tiler about his tiling or the painter about his paint splashes. Save your comments for the main contractor. Don’t go overboard though. Tony Wilson says the most irritating interference he’s had from a homeowner was when they kept checking their DIY manual as the job progressed!

Most builders have great relationships with their customers. Here are a few things that keep them smiling:

  • Trust. You shouldn't have to be there every five minutes to monitor the job. Make regular arrangements to meet the main contractor and ask how progress is going. Trust and money go together and John Pass says he’s a much happier builder when the homeowner pays – on time! If you’ve agreed payment terms, stick to them. If unforeseen circumstances affect your finances let your builder know. They’ll be happy to come up with solutions, rather than be told: “I’ve run out of money.”
  • Communication. You’re going to be living and breathing with your builder for several months so keep talking, says John, and make sure you get on with them. As Tony Wilson puts it: “Be open and frank.” Tell them if you don’t want smoking, radios, cars parked on your drive, and so on. But do bear in mind that compromise is the key.
  • Peace. Okay, so they're the ones with the power tools. But if you have kids or family pets, it is a good idea to keep them out of the way while work is going on. If nothing else, this will prevent distractions - and accidents.


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DKM Construction are on The Builders Register


  © 2003 Federation of Master Builders. You can find more useful articles like this at:  
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