Working with a builder: how to interact effectively

Working with a builder can be difficult. Creating an environment of clear and simple communication between you, your design team and your build team is extremely important throughout the house extension process.

Here are five best practices of how to interact with your builder that they will genuinely appreciate, and which will help construction run that little bit smoother.

1. Communication mode

There will be regular telephone contact day to day. However, for meaningful communication that affects the outcome of the job, it is best to communicate by email rather than text, WhatsApp or similar. Emailing no more time-consuming from your phone and, importantly, it reinforces the line between the personal and the professional.

Be realistic on response rates, and don’t panic if you don’t get a response within seconds – builders commonly chunk up email and paperwork to designated times of the day when they aren’t in hands-on operation mode.

2. Interaction timings

The temptation to share any thoughts as and when you have them will be almost irresistible, but doing so will likely irritate the builder, who wants to get on with the job at hand. It will also cause frustration for you, as your queries go unanswered.

Rather than drip-feeding the builder your thoughts, questions and ideas, bundle them up and agree a convenient weekly slot to formally meet the builder on-site. Then you will be sure to get responses to questions, and the builder won’t begrudge your asking.

Meet during regular working hours – on-site that is typically Monday–Friday 08.00–17.00 and Saturdays 08.00–13.00.

This might mean you going into work a little later, or leaving a little earlier, but it is incumbent on you as the homeowner to make the time, not for the builder to sacrifice evenings or weekends – they too have life commitments outside of work.

3. Get it in writing

Following these regular site meetings, capture any resulting actions or agreements in writing, by email. This is in no way patronising to the master builder. In fact, it will help both of you in clarifying understanding of what was discussed and provide the opportunity to correct miscommunications before implementation.

Don’t forget, if specification changes have been agreed, your change order should also be updated to reflect this.

4. Remain professional

Building projects have a knack of surfacing any of life’s underlying issues that were otherwise lying dormant. The strain on finances, the angst of constant people in your house, moany neighbours, endless decisions, loud machinery, winter drafts and general clutter can be enough to make the most patient of us sour.

However, don’t unburden all these woes on the builder, as many clients unfortunately do. Equally, don’t be a saint – speak up if there is something bothering you that cannot wait until the next site meeting.

5. Set the mood

Most homeowners are surprised to learn this, but it is true that, as the employer, you are the apex authority on-site. As such, you wield the power to make the building project after the design process is completed an agreeable experience, or and an unpleasant one.

Bar none, happy building sites are created when the principal contractor is in a good mood, and they will to a large extent take their cue from you.

Follow these communication best practices to help you interact with your builder more effectively during works, and for you both to enjoy a smoother ride to project completion.


Check out our guide to help you finish a project on a high.

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