The FMB Guide to Finding Trades You Can Trust

Source the best trades and builders for your home building project with this expert advice from FMB National President Jan Etchells
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by Federation of Master Builders
15th June 2022

Like choosing an architect, package home supplier or any other contractor, it pays to do your research when hiring tradespeople for your build. You should aim to appoint workers that you’re confident have the right skills, and who you think you’ll enjoy working with. But where to start?

Routes to Finding a Reliable Tradesperson

Recommendations from friends and family are a good place to start – especially if you can see the builder’s work first-hand. Look around your neighbourhood for building work, whether it’s ongoing or a newly completed project.

Knocking on a few doors can also pay off. When doing so, it’s worth asking whether the homeowner had any issues, and how these were dealt with.

If you’ve hired some of your team already, or have used trades you trust in the past, then suggestions can also come from there. Does your architect know a good builder or landscaping company, for instance?

For many people, the search for a builder starts online. While there are numerous trade finding websites available, they are not all equally reliable. It’s worth using a reputable trade association, like the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

FMB find a trusted trade or builder

Members of the FMB are vetted to check the company’s history, financial records and proof of insurance. Their work will also have been checked on site by an independent inspector to make sure it’s completed to a high standard.

So, you know that all the vetting has been done for you, and you can easily search for the trades you need online using the ‘Find a Builder’ tool on our website.

The Right Builder for You

Take time to create a shortlist and do your research on each company. Start by making sure they have experience of the type of project you’re planning. If you’re building a Passivhaus, for example, they should have an understanding of its principles and requirements.

A good tradesperson will also be able to show you examples of their work. Ask if it’s possible to visit a recent project and speak to the client to ask a few questions. Ask things like: was the project delivered on time and on budget? Did the builder flag issues early on? How was the communication?

Look for the right qualifications, too. Anyone fitting a gas appliance needs to be GasSafe registered, and electricians should be listed with a Competent Person Scheme, such

General builders aren’t required to hold a licence or have any formal qualifications – which can put you at risk from the unscrupulous practices of cowboys. While the FMB is campaigning for the introduction of a licence scheme, in the absence of any current controls, the responsibility to check your builder lies with you.

By starting your search with a trade association like the FMB, you’ll have peace of mind that you’re employing a Master Builder company that has already been thoroughly vetted and inspected beforehand.

Getting Quotes from Trades

When seeking prices for your project, it’s wise to aim for three quotes. To make these accurate, give your builder as much information as possible.

Provide a full specification of the requirements of your project, a list of who will be expected to do what (for example, do you plan to project manage and/or buy materials yourself?), drawings suitable for building control, planning restrictions, site access issues, and anticipated timescales. This should limit any misunderstandings.

Be aware that good builders are often booked months in advance, so plan ahead. If they can start on site at the drop of a hat, consider why.

Get the Admin Right

Ask your builder to provide a written contract. A good example will clearly set out who’s responsible for each element of the works, start and completion dates, details of any warranties and guarantees that have been agreed and payment terms. It will also refer to how changes to the project will be managed and what happens if it overruns.

The FMB offers free contract templates to its members that are jargon-free and easy to understand – so there’s no excuse.

And don’t forget insurance. A reputable builder should have public liability cover, but you might take out your own policy for peace of mind.

Jan Etchells is national president of the Federation of Master Builders and managing director of Syntonic, a professional building, plumbing and heating company in London. Find a Master Builder on the FMB website today >

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