The Insider: How to get the best from your builders


My friend Luke, a builder, is doing some work in my place this week. "It's not very clear," he suggested of the job list when I first sent it to him.Luckily, as we know each other well, clarity came fast. But the situation got me thinking: what else makes a job hard for a builder – and, is in turn, troublesome for you, the client?

Tomato, tomayto

Never assume that your builder shares your taste. "Even the most skilled craftsman won't have your style sensibility," suggests Luke. "So be very specific about what you want, show images and sketches – and be aware of how many ways there are to do most things, however small."

The price is right

"The first thing to frustrate the builder is quoting for jobs – then finding that the client has added things yet expects to pay the same," says the interior designer Françoise Murat (

All for one

Avoid a "cost plus" payment – a day rate plus materials. "It could go on forever!" explains Murat. She also advises drawing up contracts (downloadable from the Federation of Master Builders: Even on small-scale projects you should each sign a written list of the jobs to be done. Go through it verbally first.

Beat it

Planning a major renovation? "Consider moving out," advises the FMB. Making builders move possessions or put up dust protection slows work (and may cause resentment on both sides).

Talking time

Meet regularly to discuss progress – "to check the work and keep on top of things", says Murat.

Done – and dusted?

Finally, as the FMB points out: agree in advance what "finished" means. And, when it is, pay on time: a good builder (if you're lucky) is for life.

Find Kate's blog on afforable interiorsat