How to choose a quality-assured building firm for your project

How do I check the credentials of a building firm? How will I know if they’re up to no good? Can I trust their references? How do I choose between them all? These are just a few of the questions homeowners face when deciding who will be given their precious project. It’s important. It’s no different from doing your due diligence on someone you’re about to employ – especially if large sums of money are at stake.

Cost My Self Build partners The Accreditus Register have surveyed hundreds of thousands of homeowners. Together, we’ve compiled a really valuable 10-point guide to helping you avoid a bad choice, and definitely not a rogue trader. Unfortunately they’re still out there.

At the bottom of the page we’ll explain what hoops building firms on the Accreditus Register have to jump through to be allowed onto their homeowner scheme. And a friendly demeanour really doesn’t cut it with these taskmasters.

1. Fully specify the project for like-for-like quotes

Do give each building firm the same information so that you receive a true comparison from each of them. That will be your starting point.

Don’t skimp on information; the more details you provide the more accurate the quote you’ll get back. Giving a full specification will remove the wiggle-room for unscrupulous builders to quote cheap and charge you for lots of extras.

2. Look for a promptly returned professional quote

Do associate a timely response with the firm’s general work ethic. Even if they can’t supply a price quickly they should give you the date of when you can expect it.

Don’t accept scant information and little evidence that they have understood your requirements. You want more than half a side of A4.

3. Check out the quality of their work

Do visit the job they are currently working on and speak with the householder.

Don’t rely on reference letters, or past customer referrals provided by the Building firm, they are all self-selected and you will only hear good comments. These may not even be jobs they did, and even if they were, will they be using the same team today on your job? Check Architects recommendations with the same diligence you would any other Builder.

4. Look into a building firm’s trustworthiness

Do ask customers whether they found the firm to be reliable, trustworthy, and whether they fulfilled all their assurances. Did they complete the project in the timescale promised and for the price initially quoted? Find out whether everyone on site was polite, punctual, knowledgeable, helpful and as clean as they could be.

Don’t use your gut feeling and intuition that they won’t cut corners, juggle too many jobs, or wangle their way out of snagging. And don’t base your decision simply on the person who visits you. They’re just one cog in the wheel, and may be particularly good at talking the talk.

5. Do a financial background check

Do make sure there aren’t any financial irregularities. It’s as simple as that.

Don’t assume the shiny vans are an indication of financial security. You’d be surprised just how many seemingly professional firms have been re-launched under slightly different names and have numerous County Court Judgments against them…

6. Investigate their Trade Association memberships

Do check whether the firm is a current member and research whether the membership even counts for anything.

Don’t assume a logo on a letterhead is legitimate or valid. And bear in mind that in the case of most associations, vetting is minimal and monitoring is rare.  Check what help they will give you if a dispute arises. In many cases it is derisory or non-existing.

7. Check that they have Public Liability insurance

Do ask to see their certificate and check that it is still current.

Don’t expect them to automatically, quickly or easily pay up if they put a ladder through your neighbour’s window or worse, cause an injury, when there’s no insurance in place.

8. Find out if they have a Mediation and Arbitration procedure in place

Do make sure that if any building work turns out to be defective for instance, you can easily resolve the situation. Of course it works both ways! If you fall short of your own obligations, you’ll be liable.

Don’t risk having zero recompense if incorrect or inferior materials have been used, or certificates are lacking. It could be a long, stressful and expensive slog.

9. Check that they will use all the correct health and safety procedures

Do find out whether they understand their Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 obligations. Ask to see evidence that they manage health and safety effectively.

Don’t forget that before you can hand over your CDM 2015 Domestic Client duties to the builder, you have a responsibility to make reasonable enquiries that your chosen building firm has an awareness of health and safety risks and a good track record in managing those risks.

10. Ask if they’ll be producing a written agreement

Do make sure that you are protected. A proper contract will include an explanation of the work to be carried out and the payment terms, so you’ll both know where you stand.

Don’t expect a passing conversation to count when there’s a debate about whether the goal posts have been moved or not.

So there you have it…how not to be robbed.

It’s a lot to think about, but crucial if you want to be able to sleep easy at night knowing that your project is in safe hands.

With some Registers, all a builder needs to provide is an email address, a UK address and phone number, and a reference (unchecked) from one or two recent customers. Some request quality checks and a questionnaire to be filled in. And more often than not builders are expected to deal directly with the customer over a complaint. That of course is not always the case, so do your research.

The builders on the Accreditus Register are vetted on many levels.

A builder from the Accreditus Register of approved tradesmen will be all of the following:

  • Checked, monitored and graded on an ongoing basis, and that’s whether they win a job or not.
  • Checked and monitored on an ongoing basis for financial irregularity (if they have any County Court Judgements against them they won’t make it onto the Register)
  • A holder of a current Professional Liability Insurance
  • Legally bound by a Mediation and Arbitration procedure to resolve any disputes
  • Bound by a Code of Conduct.

Only the firms that maintain the Register’s highest standards and comply with the contract remain on the books.

To find out how they get onto the Register in the first place, take a look here. We reckon you could become a member of NATO more easily, OK may be not…

What next?

If you would like to find a properly vetted building firm for your project why not get in touch. Either chat with us about the FREE service on 0117 916 7878 or contact The Better Business Group who operate the Accreditus Register on 01707 859900 or email them at

And if you would like us to produce a quote for your project that you can check against the quotes you receive from builders, for a further sanity check, then give us a call on 0117 916 7878 or find out more here.