Six Useful Tips to Help you Recognise a Good Builder in London and the Home Counties.

So, you’ve decided to have some work done to your home, or even chosen to have a new property built, but who are you going to get to do the work for you? More to the point, how can you make sure that the builder you choose is reliable and trustworthy, that they will do what they agree to do and won’t let you down? Here are some key points that should help you feel confident you have chosen one of the best builders in London and the Home Counties.

Builder’s Contact Details

If you have a builder in mind, perhaps you were given their name by a friend or a colleague at work, how can you contact them? If you can only get a mobile contact number for them and they have no registered premises for the business, or a landline, then you have to ask yourself one simple question. If they don’t have any address for their business, how can they be a legitimate? When you think about it, if they don’t have a registered address for the business, how can any of the following be possible?

  • They say all their work is guaranteed, so how can you make a claim against them if something goes wrong?
  • They say they are insured, so how can an insurance company provide insurance if the business has no registered premises?
  • They claim to be a member of a building federation, so how is this possible without having an address for the business?

The Builder Mentions Payments in Cash 

With VAT adding 20% to your construction costs, and a builder who hates paying tax on what you pay them, both of you could, potentially benefit from cash payments for part of the work. Ignoring the fact that that tax evasion is against the law, if you hand over cash to a builder, you will get no receipt and if the builder decides to stop work and pocket your money, you have no legal recourse!

Up-front Payments

Often combined with a suggestion that cash would be better, some builders will ask you for an advance on payment for the work to be done to cover the purchase of materials. In reality, asking for a payment in advance is not unreasonable, and depending on the payment agreement, this can often reassure you either of the professionalism of your builder, or set alarm bells ringing. Most reputable, established builders will have an account with a builders’ merchant who will be providing the materials for the project. These accounts usually require settlement within 30 days. Consequently, with your builder, you can arrange to pay for materials in advance of the project’s completion, providing those materials have first been delivered to your property. If you have paid for the materials and the materials are on your property, irrespective of anything else that happens, you own those materials. Note that it is important that your receipt for the payment for materials is specifically itemised and not just a general, vague ‘Receipt for Materials’ invoice.

Recommendations for a Builder in London and the Home Counties

Word of mouth recommendation is the way many builders find work, and here at Vitex Construction that is exactly how we procure the majority of our work, and we are grateful to our past clients who have been very happy to pass our name on to friends who need to have some construction work done. However, there is a difference between a personal recommendation and a general recommendation. Our advice is to be wary of a recommendation such as “I’ve heard ‘so and so’ is good”, or “I’ve seen a couple of vans with ‘so and so’s’ name on them” as these really carry no weight. Ideally a recommendation should come from someone who has had work done by that builder and, better still, you are able to see what they have done.

We are perhaps fortunate to have worked with many other professionals in the building and construction industry, as well as having numerous completed projects that you can see. For your added reassurance, we can gladly provide you with the names of a couple of architects who will be able to provide you with their opinion on the quality of our work.


If your chosen builder won’t sign a contract, walk away, as without a contract, you have nothing to fall back on if anything goes wrong. That contract also must be sufficiently detailed to include all aspects of the work to be done, which may include obtaining planning permission in advance of commencing any work, design work, and all costs involved. The contract should also include time clauses and a schedule of payments to be made.

Insurance and Guarantees 

Any reputable builder will have Public Liability insurance and you should always ask to see a copy of it for peace of mind. That insurance covers the builder against any accidents or loss not just to you, but to the general public, as a result of the work they carry out on your property. While it is a very rare occurrence, let’s say, for example, that your builder damaged your neighbour’s property during the construction of an extension. That damage is estimated to cost £20,000 to repair. Legally, both you and your builder are libel for making good, financially, for the cost of the repairs. However, if your builder is not insured and can’t pay, then you will become liable for payment. If your builder is insured, then you will not be liable for any compensation payment to your neighbour as the builder will claim on their insurance.

When it comes to guarantees, once again it is important to look beyond the guarantee itself and more towards the builder providing the guarantee. Is it a new company and if so, have any of the directors been the director of any previous building companies? Legally, there is nothing to stop one building company ceasing trading if someone makes a claim against their guarantee, declaring themselves bankrupt, and then setting up a brand-new company. This means that any guarantee they provide is not really worth the paper it is written on.

If the building company you want to use is an established business with over ten years of trading, then any guarantee provided will have greater value. As a rule, general repair and non-structural building works will have a one-year guarantee, while major structural works should come with a ten-year guarantee.

If you want to know more about us here at Vitex Construction or want to check how we hold up against the above recommendations, by all means give us a call and we will be happy to provide you with any information you need that will reassure you that when it comes to a builder in London, or Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Surrey, Oxfordshire and beyond, you have come to the right people.