Dos and Don’t When Hiring a Builder

How to Go About Hiring a Builder

building terminology

The Building Sheriff, Chairman/Owner: “I get asked two questions all the time...”

The first one is:

“How to sort out problems that have arisen with tradesmen?”

This always comes attached to an understandably upset explanation of situations which should never have arisen in the first place. These are usually situations that could probably have been solved by a non-confrontational, sensible three-way conversation between householder, builder and a professional arbiter.

But this situation is sadly rare, so a (very often) genuine misunderstanding develops into a full-blown dispute and the courts (the one place no one wants to find themselves) are in fact exactly where the process can end up.

A Possible Solution

(This only applies if you are in dispute with one of the 95% of builders who are honest, responsible, experienced men. Not thieves who parade as builders).

Do your best to remember what led to the breakdown. Write everything down as accurately as possible. What was said to whom and when? Continue to do this with every contact you have with your builder until a solution is found.

Do everything possible to avoid going to court. There are two sides to every argument. In fact there are three if you take into account your opinion, your builder’s opinion and somewhere in the middle ground between the pair of you.

In nine cases out of ten your builder isn’t trying to pull a fast one: he doesn’t want a confrontation either. AND he will probably be in possession of highly relevant (technical) information that you might just conceivably do not understand. It’s very unlikely he is telling you outright lies.

However if you require a second opinion please see our “2
nd Opinion” section.

Remember, just because your friend agrees with your side of the story doesn’t necessarily mean that you are right. The builder’s friends will agree with him, but equally that does not make him right either.

Find someone whom you know isn’t just going to agree with you and explain the problem to them truthfully.

If you conceal any facts, it’s like lying to your aren’t actually helping yourself at all!

Your friend might be able to help you see the builder’s side of the argument or reinforce your position. Either way,
an independent third party opinion is often invaluable.

Someone ultimately has to make a move, I’m a firm believer that a conciliatory hand written letter, (a rare thing these days), outlining the problems with possible solutions, might, if not directly resolve the situation, pave the way for a normal conversation to take place. If it does, don’t let frustration get in the way.

OK ...Let’s deal with the second question.

“How do I find the right builder in the first place?”

Can we spend a moment please, considering the following?

There are 3 types of builder.

1. Good builders:

Which is what the vast majority of builders are.
These are honest decent traders, who do their best to please all of the people all of the time, foul up on that as often as the next person and then try to put things right as smartly and quickly as possible.

2. Cowboys:
These are stupid lads, chancers who are rubbish builders and just playing at it. They come and go and couldn’t care less. BUT they aren’t generally part of the next lot.

3. Thieves:
These are the so-and-so’s highlighted on my TV programmes. They actually set out to deceive and cheat and rob you.

Now, take any group of people who offer “a service” from taxi drivers to politicians and you get the same three defining groups. That’s because we are imperfect human beings.

So, how do you avoid the cowboys and thieves? Simple really. Apply a bit of common sense.

Don’t rush into anything and try to follow a few simple rules.

Before you even meet him…

You must prepare yourself before your first phone call to builders. You should really try and get 3 quotations. That means you should phone 6 builders... It is likely that one will never return the call. One will return it, make an appointment but never show up. One will turn up but won’t send a quotation.

That leaves 3 who will quote!

Things are slowly getting better. But you have to remember that virtually no builder you will ever meet is business school trained. He simply started building when he was young, perfected his workmanship skills long ago but is still trying to sort out the administration process 15 years later!


    There will be two reasons why...

      It is very likely he hasn’t really grasped a basic concept of good business practice: that customers are his bread and butter and that happy customers lead to good recommendations.

      Because he very likely undertakes his administration in his back bedroom office at 9 o’clock at night after he’s worked on the tools all day, had his tea before putting his kids to bed and maybe had a little snifter to make the day’s problems go away!

      Your first meeting

      Take a look at the man.

        It’s unlikely he will fit this description of course but you get the gist!

        Unless it’s a small, very straight-forward job, he should really have a notepad/smartphone and take a few notes. If he’s using the back of a cigarette packet and has had to borrow your pen, maybe his administration skills are sub par!

        Questions to Ask

        The following list of questions should really be put to him during his initial quotation visit. I don’t suggest you hit him with them all though. There is I’m afraid, a very fine line between what he will perceive as reasonable and the moment he might just turn and run, particularly if he’s only quoting for a day’s work!

        It is also very important indeed never to forget that he will be judging you and his impressions will be reflected in his price. That doesn’t mean he will reduce it if he likes you. That will never happen.

        However, if he perceives you to be trouble ie he feels that you are treating him as a second-class citizen, he will increase it, often drastically and maybe, if you are a nightmare, he will just walk away.

        Be welcoming; listen to what he has to say about the work you are proposing and, like person-to-person meetings in general, be polite.

        From the builders’ point of view, trades people are now having to have to grasp that along with the brand new vans, co-ordinated Tee shirts, computerised invoices etc. that are manifesting themselves more and more these days (and which of course are all veneer), if they truly wish to be more corporate and professional, then it’s vital to show what lies beneath, this is what determines a good reputation.

        Builders Check List
        (in no particular order)

        Does he give a free written quotation?

        Make sure, even for the smallest job, that he gives an unambiguous description of the work and a fixed price. An estimate is something very different indeed!

        If he tells you that this is impossible because of potential problems which may occur, ask him to include these in his quotation with prices for each one should they occur. If he can’t work out what they might be, then he doesn’t know his job. Ask him to include the hourly rate he will charge (per man) to undertake any extra work. Get this in writing.

        He must also show you invoices for any materials he will have to buy relevant to these extras.

        Can he give names of references? (ideally for a job similar to yours - one that is both recent and local).

        OK, he may just supply his pal’s details but if you infer that you may try and visit the property to view his work then this is unlikely. When you do contact his referee make sure to have a have a prepared list of questions:

        Does he turn up every day until the job is done?
        Is his standard of work good?
        Does he keep a tidy work environment? etc.

        Does he have Public Liability insurance?

        Public Liability Insurance doesn’t cover poor workmanship or a ruined garden.
        It only pays out for accidental damage caused by his workforce.

        It’s the case today that a lot of smaller companies/one-man-bands do not! They might say they have but will start flapping if asked to prove it. This is because of “cherry picking” by insurance companies. A decorator can get PL insurance easily enough, but anyone who works above shoulder height or uses a blowlamp, will be quoted horrendous premiums.

        If he knocks the wrong wall down, the PLI company will tell him to take a running jump. If he accidentally knocks a pot of paint onto your carpet, this is different.

        Public Liability Insurance does not cover poor workmanship!

        Does he give a guarantee and what is its duration? Will he include an example in his quotation?

        There are two kinds of guarantee...

        One is an uncomplicated statement on his headed notepaper saying that he will return and sort out any results of poor workmanship or materials failure, before a certain period of time has elapsed.

        The other is an insurance-backed one with all sorts of clauses, some of which may even favour you!

        Does he charge VAT? Does his quotation state his VAT number?

        Any company with a turnover in excess of £87,000 per annum must be registered. This includes all the materials he has to buy, so a chap who’s constantly in work will almost certainly be registered. If he’s not registered ask yourself (and possibly him)... Why not?

        You can check VAT registration numbers

        What will his projected start date be? Is it on the quotation?

        Try and pin him down to a start date and agree this via email.

        Will his quotation state that all materials are to be provided by him?

        He can separate out, those which may have been agreed to be supplied by you ie a new carpet or the paint).

        Will his quotation state that all waste materials will be removed from site?

        Waste removal is expensive. A skip is £250-£300. Do not assume that waste removal is included in the quotation if it is not mentioned. Clarify this point via email.


        Will his quotation state that he will leave the house tidy every evening? Also if he is doing your bathroom for example, what facilities will he leave – a working WC?

        Not spotless, obviously, but tools and materials should be moved out of the way etc. If he is re-plumbing a temporary WC every night and removing it in the morning to continue with his work, this will be reflected in the price.

        Will his quotation state payment procedures?

        This is important, you both need to know and agree to, the progression of any initial and interim payments and when final payment is expected.

        Never pay anything up front on jobs under £1000. If he has no money to buy a few materials for a week’s work, ask why (metaphorically of course)! He’s got plastic hasn’t he? Why has he no local accounts set up? Cash flow – or lack thereof – is a major cause of concern for many builders.

        However, if he’s just arranged for £1000 of materials to be delivered on your driveway AND he’s made prior arrangement for interim payment with you, then that’s different.

        Never make a stage payment until you are happy that it is fully complete and the standard of work is good. If you are in doubt, discuss the matter with your builder as soon as possible. Not on the day he expects the payment.

        Ask him to include a clause whereby you can keep some money back for at least a week after the finish date. Most (longish) jobs have annoying little problems that will require the builder to come back and solve them (snagging).

        Make sure that this “retainer” is enough to ensure he will return, or at least it will pay for another builder to come and sort them out.

        Will he require the use the house facilities?

        A tricky one this, 5 builders all using the loo now and again might just test the fortitude of whoever is cleaning it! Portaloos are being used more and more these days particularly on long jobs. You will ultimately pay for this (£30 per week depending on area and duration) however it may well prove to be well worth the cost.

        How long does he anticipate the job will take?

        This is very important, particularly with small jobs where it’s easier for you to gauge his daily rate. If he’s told you it’s a day’s work for 2 men, there are negligible materials and then he tries to charge you £1000... I’m afraid you are dealing with one of my previously mentioned type 3 builders!

        Check out our
        Tradesmen’s Day Rates to avoid this scenario.

        Don’t assume that being a member of a trades association means he’s not a cowboy or a thief.
        Don’t confuse trade associations with “competency schemes”. If an engineer is working with gas, it is a legal requirement that he must be a member of GAS SAFE.

        If working with oil, he must be a member of OFTEC.

        A window installer must be FENSA registered.

        Electricians have several to choose from. You can check if he (or the company he works for) is, by simply “googling”.

        Check these accreditations at

        Do you know his landline number and address?

        Obviously he has a mobile but do you know where he lives?

        Will he personally be carrying out the work with men directly employed by him, or will he sub-contract?

        What’s the point of doing all this vetting if some other mob turns up to do the job? If his “subbies” mess up, even though he is directly responsible as the original contractor, he may try to pass the buck onto them. This is one reason why you don’t pay until you are satisfied with the work.

        Subcontracting by the way is a perfectly normal process in the building industry. Most subcontractors have worked with the same parent company for years, are highly competent tradesmen and will give absolutely no problems at all.

        Be clear on his company’s setup BEFORE you accept the quotation.

        Will he be on site for the duration of the job?

        “He disappeared for three days last week” is a main cause of complaint from many householders. He was on another job of course. Builders do it because they hate to turn work down and or promise too many people too many things all at the same time.

        Often it is the aforementioned poor cash flow: they need the first payment from another job so that they can buy materials for your job so that he can finish it and you can then pay him!

        Organisation is required in any job and builders who “flit” are simply disorganised. It doesn’t mean they are bad builders though but it is a potential precursor of a problem.

        Describing the intended work:

        It’s vital that each builder quotes for exactly the same job or you won’t be able to make an exact comparison of prices. Get all your ducks in a row before you get a chap around to quote. Know exactly what you want and exactly where you want it!

        If you want an extension and one of your quoting companies offers a “Design & Build” package, then you should make sure the others you call offer the same service...Like for like! By the way, “Design and Build” just means the builder knows an architect whom he uses for all of his other jobs.
        Ideally you should ‘tender’ the job, that is pay for a QS – a quantity surveyor – to come and to quote the job for you from your architect’s drawings. The QS will give you the CORRECT price. It will cost you £350 but you will have the peace of mind knowing that choosing from an array of different builders’ prices doesn’t leave you feeling as though you are trying pluck a rabbit from a hat ie choosing the right builder and the right price!
        You then contact builders telling them that you have a QS’s price and ask them to state their case as to why they are the best team for the job.

        See below for more information on QSs.

        Ideally you should have several sets of identical architects drawings printed and give a copy of each of these to the different builders you call. (You must expect builders to take them away; they need to read them thoroughly at their leisure). But here’s what is likely to happen, particularly with smaller jobs:

            Don’t worry they are used to this, it’s all part of the process. You might try to soften the blow a bit by telling them you have whittled the quotes down to just themselves and one other and could they just make one small alteration so that you can compare like for like please!

            The builder’s quotation and your reaction

            Notwithstanding the above, the most important aspect of any quotation is the
            job description.

            Read this carefully.

            Does the quotation cover every single aspect of what you believe you asked for?

            What you said and what you meant may not have been the same thing.

            If it doesn’t, do not assume that the omissions are accidental and will actually get done.

            Phone him, get him to include them and resend his quotation.

            Why is the job so expensive?

            Perhaps you have only passing knowledge of what the process actually entails. I’m not just talking about the building process here. There’s all the other stuff the builder has to consider.

            Particularly relevant to this are today’s Health and Safety requirements. No longer can a bloke shin up your roof slope to fix a tile, from a ladder tied to the guttering. He may be required to work from scaffolding and that’s expensive!

            The quote itself obviously wasn’t free, his time travelling, discussing the job with you then putting everything down on paper, will be added to the job price.

            He will also include travelling each way through an hour of traffic just to do the job. Buying the materials, finding a parking space, carting all his tools and equipment to the relevant area, cleaning up completely after himself, going to the tip or paying for skips. Then there are his men’s wages.

            Small jobs tend to be more expensive, per hour, than larger ones. This is the case for several reasons:

            To undertake several small jobs per week takes a great deal more organisation and running around than building an extension, where a builder is in the same place for weeks on end and can organise things to come to him.

            A builder has to consider travel to and from the job. This will be the same whether he’s there for a day, or 5 minutes. He will probably work in increments of half a day, so including travel that could be just 2 hours actual working. If he knows he won’t have the time to complete any other job when he finishes yours, he may charge for the whole day (especially as he will have to pay his labourer for the day).

            So, he’s charged you a day’s money for two men to do 5 hours work.

            Builders are generally not good at organisation and don’t like small jobs, so they charge more for them, to make the hassle worthwhile.

            Very few builders will undertake small jobs, so the ones that do, realise they have a monopoly and charge more.

            The public won’t stand paying £60 per hour, day after day for a builder. That’s £480 per day or £1900 per week! But most won’t think twice about paying a builder £60 to (say) put a slate back on - which takes ½ an hour from the time he arrives to when he leaves. In this instance why would he do it for his usual £20-£25 per hour? He will be spending more on petrol and travel time than he’s earning.

            Many people get annoyed if they are charged £60 to (say) change a tap washer, which should take the same amount of time. The public has a different perception of the work involved to change a washer, rather than a slate but in fact they are completely wrong. A slate can present very few problems. A tap washer can sometimes be a complete nightmare, take two visits and result in a complete change of taps! Give him a slate to change every time.

            Unlike the public, most builders don’t discriminate between types of work. It’s their time they’re charging for. If you think that an hour’s work on a tap washer shouldn’t be charged at the same rate as an hour on the roof, builders don’t.

            So, if you think he’s expensive, remember if you can’t do the job yourself, you will need to pay someone who can. They are entitled to a good living wage.

            Note this:

            The more “legal” a company is, the more it complies with the stringent Health & Safety regulations, the more direct employees it has (with pensions, holiday pay, sick pay to consider), the more it costs to run. This is passed on to you. Are you prepared to accept this or will you go with the cheapest quotation and then start complaining when you realise that old adage about peanuts and monkeys is actually quite accurate?

            Do you effectively want reputable men to do the job whilst only being prepared to pay for “cowboys”? Often it is this very fact that creates “cowboys”. If a roofer replaces 5 ridge tiles from a ladder it will cost you £300 less than if he uses scaffolding. You know he should use scaffolding but are you prepared to pay for it?

            Frequent Causes of Disputes

            The usual points of
            serious disputes

            Poor workmanship

            Of course it happens now and again, and don’t think the builder doesn’t know when it’s relevant. He may just be hoping you haven’t noticed.

            A gentle prod may be all that’s needed to get him to put it right.

            If he’s not prepared to even meet you halfway and if you have followed my previous advice regarding payment processes, then your main problem (after you have politely asked him to leave your premises) will be trying to get another builder in (sharpish) to take over.

            It is often tempting to ‘man-manage’ at all times ie watch over their shoulder as they fit your bathroom, however this extreme does not always provide the desired effect. Would you like your boss looking over your shoulder at all times? Of course not.

            Never pay for a stage of a job, or the job in its entirety until you are fully satisfied with the quality of the work.

            Charging for extras

            You cannot expect a builder to work for nothing. Once again if you have followed my previous advice this will have been covered on the quotation. Before the extra work begins either get a fixed price for it, or determine that he is undertaking it on the hourly/day rate he has stated in his quote.

            A fixed price is better but if you don’t want to pay it, you have a problem.

            Get everything sorted in writing before starting! If extras arise, agree a price and send this to be agreed via email.

            You didn’t read the quote

            Remember what your teachers said before you took your Latin exam? If it’s in black and white, it doesn’t matter what you think he should be doing, you really don’t have a leg to stand on I’m afraid.

            If the quotation doesn’t cover everything that you have discussed, ask the builder to detail this in an expanded version of the quotation.

            Working with no quotation.

            There is only one scenario when this should possibly happen... You’ve known the builder for years and the job is a small one.

            No other situation exists whereby having no written quotation makes any sense to either party whatsoever!

            A quotation protects both you and your builder.

            Usual points of everyday annoyances

            He keeps disappearing

            If the weather isn’t the reason, he has another job on. (He’s not can’t afford to be sick). He knows he’s “out of order”, phone him until he answers and ask him what he’s playing at? He knows! He will be back of course and if you have laid down the law he won’t do it again.

            He’s messy

            If there is a mess at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, he’s still working, building is a messy business!

            If he leaves a serious mess every night, you’ll just have to tell him I’m afraid. He’s obviously a slob! He needs politely educating.

            His radio is too loud
            This is a serious problem with some builders and needs to be addressed. Tell him your neighbours 5 houses up the street are all complaining. This will show him how loud it is. Keep at him.

            Building Professionals and Regulations

            (It’s time to have a look at the other people and processes that may get involved with your project.)

            Building Professionals

            Architects, Structural Engineers, Building Inspectors, Surveyors (several types); you may need to employ one of each depending on the complexity of your job.

            Applying for Planning Permission

            Just what does need planning permission? Well, in different localities, positions relevant to the rest of your house, or just the size of your project, all the following may require permission. Some of them will surprise you.

              My advice is don’t just hope for the best and go ahead anyway. All-too-frequently, homeowners have had to pull it down 3 years later after dragging themselves and their families through protracted and expensive court cases.

              Follow the following process, it’s free and relatively easy and you will find out which restrictions apply to your project and whether you need planning permission or not.

              So… you want a new extension and for the moment at least, you’ve decided to organise it yourself. Here’s what you will need to do.

              Think hard about its position, size and shape.

              Make some sketches showing the above.

              Draw a 1:100 plan showing its position relevant to your house, the boundary fences and the public highway

              Discuss it with your neighbour.

              Believe me, this is the most important thing you will do. They will see it all eventually anyway and will probably be seriously miffed if the first time they find out about it is when a letter from the planning authorities drops through their letterbox.

              Make any adjustments you feel you can, relevant to his comments and /or decide at this point whether you want to carry on, even though you may be entering the first stage of an all out battle with him.

              Use the internet to search “planning permission household enquiry form”. Download this, fill it in, send it off, then wait a couple of weeks until you are told whether the planning committee will look favourably on your proposal or not.

              By this stage you will now have worked out whether you are going to carry on organising it yourself or have bitten off more than you can chew and get a “professional” (good experienced builder, architect, planning consultant) to either advise you or do it for you.

              If the planners don’t give you the go ahead, revise your plans and send in another form.

              Planners don’t tend to tell you what you can do. However they WILL tell you what you can’t do. This can lead to a bit of “submission ping pong” until you eventually get it right.

              So far, this has cost you a new pencil and some graph paper.

              Right, it looks like you will get planning permission, it’s time to get some plans drawn up by an architect or via a builder who has an in house design service (an architect friend) and then apply for Full Planning Permission.

              It may be that your project is allowed under
              “Permitted Development” but that’s irrelevant, you will still have to follow the process.

              Your project will be discussed in detail at the next planning meeting. It may just fly through, or a couple of recommendations will be made, or it could still be rejected. It’s unlikely at this stage that the whole project will be rejected but you may have to redesign that large window you wanted, or move the wall further from your (neighbour’s) boundary etc.

              The set fee for the planning application for an average extension is about £400.00 nationwide.

              An architect will charge a bit more than this to draw the plans. £400-£700.00

              It can take 2 months before permission is granted. In the meantime, you need to be calling builders and giving them your plans from which to quote.

              When you get permission, you can give your chosen firm the go-ahead.

              Party Wall Agreements

              If your intended work affects a party wall (ie a wall that is adjacent to a neighbouring property) you must seek agreement from the affected neighbour prior to commencement of work.

              But it goes further than that. It doesn’t only have to be a part of both homes, (i.e. if you drilled through it, you could see into your neighbour’s living room. It can also be:

              The exterior wall of a detached house that also happens to be the boundary line.
              A garden boundary wall.
              A garden boundary wall with a building against it (a detached garage possibly).
              The floors and ceilings of adjoining flats.

              The process also covers:

              Excavations within 3 metres of a neighbouring building where those excavations will be deeper than those of the building. (i.e. your extension’s foundation).

              Excavations within 6 metres of a neighbouring building, where those excavation will go below a line drawn 45° downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building.

              The type of work relevant to the procedure is that which might have an effect upon the structural strength of the wall or might cause damage to your neighbour’s side of it.

              This includes:

              Demolishing or rebuilding
              Increase a wall’s height or thickness
              Insertion of any type of damp proof course
              Cutting into it to take load-bearing beams
              Drilling into it to support structural beams etc. (as opposed to putting a shelf up)

              The Party Wall Act

              The Party Wall Act deals with the procedure that must be followed when a homeowner wishes to undertake any of the above.

              You should remember that gaining planning permission or complying with the building regulations does not remove the need to comply with the Party Wall Act where it is applicable.

              The best and by far the cheapest way to deal with the process is verbally. Speak to your neighbour, explain what is going to happen and get their reaction. If they say they are happy for the work to progress, you would be wise to give them a
              Party Wall Agreement to sign.

              Agreements are organised between neighbours. As long as this discussion is amicable there is no need to involve party wall surveyors.

              In general the agreement should set out a fair and reasonable framework to allow the building work to be carried out quickly and safely without causing any unnecessary inconvenience to the adjoining owner. It also sets out an inexpensive and straightforward procedure for both parties to follow if there are any problems, or damage occurs.
              (At the time of writing this article, I found a company of party wall surveyors via the internet, who will provide an agreement specifically customised to your needs, as each job is different, for £99)!

              If you are “the neighbour” reading this, not the householder undertaking the work, you might like to suggest that a Schedule of Condition is provided for you.

              This is a report providing a detailed and accurate report of the condition of your property before work starts.

              The schedule of condition serves to protect both parties in the event of a later dispute. If allegations of damage are made then the schedule of condition makes it easy for the owners to decide between themselves whether the damage came about after the works or existed before the work started. Even if the owners cannot agree, the schedule of condition is very helpful to any surveyor appointed to investigate the allegation of damage and can help to prove liability.

              (The same company of party wall surveyors will also provide this, at a cost at the time of writing of £495)!

              If you have tried and failed with the verbal route (either your neighbour refuses to allow the work, or won’t discuss the matter or doesn’t understand the building process you are proposing) a
              Party Wall Notice must be issued.

              This must be done at least 2 months before the intended start date of the work. It must go to all affected neighbouring parties and must include:

              A clear statement that the notice is being served under The Party Wall Act 1996.

              The date the notice is being served.
              The address of the property where the work is to be undertaken.
              The names of the owners.
              A brief description of the proposed work.
              The proposed start date for the work.
              If the notice is for excavation work, then a drawing showing the position and depth of the excavation must be included.

              It should also include information regarding what is required of the recipient. ie that they should:

              Respond in writing within 14 days of receipt either giving consent or registering dissent. Or make no response, in which case it will be assumed that dissent has been registered.

              No work may commence until all neighbouring parties have agreed in writing to the notice.

              (Our friendly company of party wall surveyors will provide this “notice” and send it to your neighbours for you for £50)!

              If the planned work is a new boundary wall
              up to, or astride the boundary line, the process is similar to the above but the notice needs to be served only one month before the planned start date of the work.

              Neighbouring parties must give written agreement within 14 days for walls
              astride the boundary (or a dispute is deemed to have occurred).

              No formal agreement is needed for a wall
              up to the boundary line, the neighbour just needs not to actually object in writing.

              If the planned work is an excavation within the distance/depth covered by the Party Wall Act, (covered in a previous paragraph), the notice needs to be served at least one month before the planned start day of the work.

              Neighbouring parties must give written agreement within 14 days or a dispute is deemed to have occurred.

              What happens if a dispute arises?

              If agreement cannot be reached and depending upon whether you are still talking to one another, a party wall surveyor or surveyors will have to be involved. The usual route is: one surveyor, who is agreed on by both parties, if everything is amicable. Two surveyors if you do not get along.

              Either way they will talk to each other, a
              Party Wall Award will be produced and if there are two of them they will also decide who is to pay their fees. This is usually the party undertaking the work unless the neighbour has involved his surveyor completely unnecessarily.

              The award will deal with the right to execute the party wall works, the time and manner of executing that work, and any other matter that arises between the parties connected to the works. In all normal circumstances the
              party wall surveyor(s) will prepare a Schedule of Condition report of the neighbouring property before works start in order to protect the interests of both parties in the event of a later claim for damages.

              Once an Award has been made, all parties have 14 days to appeal to a County Court against it if they so wish.

              Once you have agreement, all work must comply with the notice. All the agreements should be retained to ensure that a record of the granted permission is kept. Any subsequent purchaser of either property may wish to establish that the work was carried out in accordance with the Party Wall Act requirements.

              Building Regulations & the Building Control Officer
              (building inspector)

              The Building Regulations exist to ensure the health and safety of people in and around all types of buildings. They also provide for energy conservation, fire escape, and where relevant, access and facilities for disabled people.

              The Inspector ensures that all relevant works comply with the regulations current at the time. He does not check the builder’s competency as a tradesman generally. If he comes on site to look at a wall plate fixing and sees some truly awful plasterwork going on, he will take no notice of it whatsoever!

              An extension will be built from plans. The architect should be fully conversant with every regulation and requirement and it is his job to draw those plans with enough detail to show the builder exactly how and where to fit all the component parts together and what size components to fit. (foundation depth, insulation etc)

              As the building goes up, a Building Inspector will liaise with the builder and visit the site at relevant times to check that each process is being undertaken as per the plans and as per current regulations.

              When the work is finished you the owner should receive a “Completion Certificate” from the inspector stating that everything was done according to the regulations in force at the time. Keep this document!

              Prior to commencement of work a “building regulation application” must be made.

              This used to be the sole domain of the local council but now independent inspectors can be employed.

              There are 2 types of applications.

              For larger jobs like extensions “Full Plans” are the norm. These are usually submitted by the architect.

              'Full Plans' means the submission of fully detailed plans, specifications, calculations and other supporting details to enable the Building Control Officer to check compliance with the Building Regulations. The amount of detail required depends on the size and type of building works proposed. A location plan should also be provided indicating where the building is, relative to neighbouring roads.

              The process:

              The plans will be checked and approved ahead of the works.

              Only approximately 25% of the total fee is payable on deposit of plans.

              A notice of approval or rejection must be issued by the inspector within a 5 week period unless the applicant (or Agent) agrees an extension time of up to 2 months from the initial deposit date.

              Upon commencement of work on site, the Building Control Officer must be notified and if only the plan deposit fee has been paid, the remaining inspection charge is invoiced after the first visit.

              completion certificate will be issued when the works are complete to the satisfaction of the Building Control Officer. This document may well be required if the owner wishes to sell the property in the future.

              Approved plans will remain valid for 3 years even if the Building Regulations change.

              For smaller jobs a “Building Notice” is all that is usually applied for. The builder usually applies for this.

              The 'Building Notice' procedure is suitable when small works are planned and therefore it is not necessary to prepare detailed plans. As no formal approval is given, a good working relationship between the Builder and the Building Control Officer is essential to ensure the work achieves compliance with the Building Regulations.

              This type of application is not accepted on commercial buildings or when a Fire Certificate is required.

              Together with the application a location plan should be provided where the building is shown relative to neighbouring roads.

              The Building Control Officer can if he deems it necessary, request structural details and calculations for the work. For instance if a steel beam is required, it’s pretty important to determine whether it’s size will have to be calculated by an engineer prior to supply and fitting. The builder must anticipate this problem. An experienced man will know if it’s likely, should know which inspector is overseeing the work (and is he the stickler type who want calculations for everything) and should have included any requirement for calculations in his quotation.

              The architect isn’t qualified to calculate steelwork sizes (unless as he also trades as a structural engineer!)

              He will show a beam in his drawings but unless he has been instructed to work in company with a structural engineer, won’t specify its size.

              If the beam is small (possibly forming the lintol of a new single doorway), its size will be well known both to the builder and the inspector. If the inspector agrees with the builder that if he fits the known regular sized beam, then calculations are not necessary.

              If the requirement for calculations is suddenly sprung on a builder, only a structural engineer can do this and it could hold up the job for a week and who pays the structural engineers fees?

              Types of work suitable for a 'Building Notice' include:

              Garage conversions.
              Alterations to domestic drainage.
              Removal of a load bearing wall.
              Insertion / alteration of door or window opening.
              Replacement windows.

              Building Regulations Fees are usually higher than those for obtaining planning permission.

              A “Building Notice” for a lounge/dining room “knock through” will start at £220.00.

              “Full plans” for a small extension start at £600.00

              Here’s a link so you can see for yourselves


              Good luck!

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