For home building and renovation projects it’s always worthwhile taking the time to find a great builder. There are a few effective websites to find local tradesmen like “My Builder” and “Rated People” to get you some quotations, but there are a few pointers to consider before shaking hands with anyone to undertake your home extension or renovation project. And most important of all… a handshake alone won’t do.

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Should I get a contract with my builder?

Even if you’re just doing a small kitchen extension, a significant amount of money is changing hands so it’s important to stay in control, with confidence that the work is going to be executed well, on time and within your budget.

I’ve met too many homeowners who are afraid to ask a builder to sign a contract for fear of causing offence. Just because this is your home, or your prospective builder is a friend of a friend, doesn’t mean this arrangement should be informal. To them, this is business and you should see it this way too. Moreover, a contract can benefit the builder too since it will set out where you both stand from start to finish – nobody likes disputes.


Kitchen parquet floor


Extension home architect


London Extension bifolds

Images above from architects registered on Design for Me. Click to see their full profiles.


Do I need a solicitor then?

Thankfully, no! Your architect can either ‘administer’ a contract on your behalf or, alternatively, you can go it alone. However, I would at least recommend having a good set of documents to support the contract, i.e. plans/drawings and specifications, BEFORE getting quotations from builders. These documents will form the backbone of your contract and without them it will be difficult for both you and your builder to have a firm grasp of what the job actually involves!


Which building contract can I use for a home extension or renovation?

Option 1: Using an architect (or other architectural consultant) to administer the contract

Many homeowners opt to use the services of their architect beyond the design stage, to help deliver the project on site. There are some clear advantages of doing this:

  • Your architect can act as a fair and impartial go-between for you and your builder, making sure that the work being carried out is done in accordance with the drawings and specification.
  • They know the design inside-out, so are best placed to inspect the work as it progresses. Any mistakes or inconsistencies with the drawings are more likely to be picked up in time to put them right without cost or programme implications.
  • Architects have had professional training to understand all the details and jargon contained in your building contract… so you don’t have to.

There are lots of standard building contracts out there, but for home extensions or renovation projects we would recommend using something straightforward and suitable for a domestic project, like this one by JCT:

Option 2: Going it alone

If you’ve decided that you feel confident enough to engage your builder without the help of an architect, and have familiarised yourself with all the details in the design, we would recommend using a building contract which is fit for this purpose, like this one:


Kitchen extension camden

Islington extension architect

Extension Islington Architect

Images above from architects registered on Design for Me. Click to see their full profiles.


Before you even think about appointing builders…

The key to a successful end result is good research and planning and it’s wise to get an architect or design professional involved as early as possible to help with this. Finding the right one can be a bit of a minefield, which is why we created Design for Me in the first place. You can register your project with us for free and we’ll find the right architectural design professional for you in no time.

Emily  Design for Me

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2 Responses to “Do I need a contract with my builder for a home extension or renovation project?”

  1. Design for Me

    Thanks Ian, we’ve switched the links – well spotted 🙂

  2. Ian McHugh

    Very important issue for homeowners. We often provide support and inspections for homeowners even when they administer their own contract. Also worth a look at other good contract forms from RIBA and Federation of Master Builders. NB: Think you have the JCT contract links the wrong way round in the article!

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