Choosing a good builder for the vast majority of homeowners is a difficult process. All too often we rely on word of mouth and referrals, and whilst these can play a part in the decision making process, the best advice is to learn exactly what good brickwork and extensions should look like, so you can make that call yourself.

What about reviews? The problem with reviews and referees is that no builder in their right mind is going to give you the name and contact number of someone who is going to give them a bad reference. Even well known websites that promise to find a good tradesmen are flawed because they simply rely on reviews, left by untrained individuals who couldn’t tell you if an extension has been built correctly or not. Remember, reviews can easily be manipulated, so they should be taken with a pinch of salt. What can’t be manipulated is the quality and workmanship of their work, and if you arm yourself with a little building knowledge, this goes much further and allows you to make a decision based on quality and your understanding of good workmanship, rather than a review by someone who is completely untrained.

What you should do is ask the builder for the name and number of their most recent job – a builder is only as good as their last job, so inspection of the work should be carried out. When you arrive, one of the first questions to ask the previous customer is ‘when did they carry out the work?’ If it was sometime ago, this raises two questions:

  1. Was it really their most recent work?
  2. Why such a long gap? Good builders generally have a waiting list.

You can also see if your local planning department has details of the work and when was the planning permission granted. 

I also recommend that you ask for the name and number of a client who had work carried out two or more years ago. A good local builder will have no issues in giving you such information. The reason we want two years or more is because building problems often take a little time to come to light so by inspecting and speaking to a previous client of around this time, you get to gain a bigger picture of the builder and the longevity of their work.