10 questions to ask a builder before hiring them

Selecting a builder or trade for any type of renovation or construction project can be difficult. Unless you or someone you know has worked with them before you may be feeling a little unsure or hesitant about who to pick. To make your decision a little easier it is essential that you tick off the following.

1. Are you licensed and insured?

This seems like an obvious step, however, we have heard many horror stories of people who didn’t check if their builder was licensed within NSW and only found out when it was too late. It is also a good idea to check that the builders’ ABN is current. This is a very easy process and can be done online in minutes.

– To check for a valid license, visit licencecheck.nsw.gov.au
– To check for an active ABN, visit abr.business.gov.au

2. Can I see some of your previous work?

Once again, this step seems obvious but is regularly missed and can be very costly. It is important to inspect a builder’s previous or current jobs in person so you can see the quality of their workmanship, how they manage their building sites and to get a feel for the standard the builder holds themselves to. If you are impressed, it will give you peace of mind that you are making the right choice. If you are concerned, you know it is time to get another quote.

3. How long have you been working in the industry as a licensed builder?

Having an experienced builder is crucial to the success of your project. Understand that there will be unexpected issues that arise during the process, and an experienced builder will be able to efficiently navigate around the issues to ensure the quality and the timeline remain uninterrupted while keeping the process seamless and stress-free.

4. Will you be the main contact person during the build?

A renovation is not only a relationship but also a partnership between owner and builder to achieve a common goal for the property that is under construction. It is important to establish who you need to build that relationship with. While some companies will have the person quoting the project be the same person you will be contacting during the process, others will hand off the project to a foreman or site manager who can sometimes become your primary point of contact.

5. Have you ever had any insurance claims against you before?

Before you hire someone, you need to know if and why the builder has had an insurance claim against them. Just because a builder may have had an insurance claim against them, it doesn’t mean they are not a reputable builder, it just means you need to learn the details around the situation and find out what happened and who was at fault. These details could play a big part in your decision to hire the builder or not.

6. Will you be providing me with home building compensation?

A Certificate of Insurance issued by icare HBCF (Home Building Compensation Fund) compensates homeowners for losses arising from defective and incomplete work where the builder or tradesperson: becomes insolvent, dies, disappears or has their building licence suspended by NSW Fair Trading due to non-compliance with a money order made in favour of the homeowner by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal or a court.

This is a legal requirement for all residential building contracts over $20,000 and you want to make sure that your builder is licensed to and intends to provide this.

7. Will you be providing me with a contract and a schedule?

Contracts are a must when engaging a builder for any construction works. This should clarify everything that is included and not included in the works and can save you a lot of issues and disputes during the build. Our recommendation is to enter into a fixed-price contract so there are no surprises in the middle or at the end of the project.

The schedule is equally as important as it will give you an indication of start and finish times for all stages of construction so you can keep an eye on whether the project is tracking well or being delayed.

8. What if there are variations to the original contract?

Variations can arise mainly because of 2 reasons: You have changed your mind about part of the build or the builder has found a problem with a certain part of the project. If this is the case the builder should always give you a separate quote for what this variation will cost. This then has to be signed off by yourself and the builder for the work to go ahead.

It’s worth noting that some variations may require further approvals from Council or a private certifier so it is always best to check before going ahead. Make sure it is clearly stipulated in the contract with the builder that no variation work is to be undertaken without prior approval from yourself. This will avoid you being left with surprise invoices at the end of the project.

9. What documents will I receive when the project is done?

This is no different from holding onto your warranty papers for your brand new washing machine and can form the basis of any dispute you may have with the builder later on. It will also give you the assurance that should there be any defects, you will be able to get them fixed.

This is especially important if you plan to sell the home as every purchaser’s solicitor will be asking for these papers to ensure the work was done to a high standard by licensed and qualified tradesmen.

These documents may include but are not limited to: Engineer reports, waterproofing certificates, electrical certificates, plumbing certificates, home warranty insurance, occupation certificate, private certification inspection reports, glazing certificates, building certificates from the council or DA approval.

10. Can you provide me with the contact details of your last three clients?

It’s the same reason why you check Google reviews before going to a restaurant. The best gauge for the quality of a service is to speak to the people who have most recently used that service. The reason why we recommend three is because there may be one client who was unreasonable and would never be happy no matter what the builder tried, or there may be one client who was too easy to impress! Either way, it is important to hear what a builder’s past clients have to say about their experiences.


We have gone through this process with all the builders that we work with, so you can rest assured that your next project is in good hands. Get in touch to ask any questions you may have or for an obligation free quote on your upcoming renovation or building project.

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