meeting a builder

Meeting a builder: 6 things you should do

Things you should organise before meeting a builder 

Good builders in Cambridge are in demand and they can be difficult to get hold of.  So to make the most of their time (and yours) it is important that you have key things in place when you meet them.  The list below outlines six things  you should organise.


Finding the right person to draw up your plans is as important as finding the right builder. The size of your project and your budget will determine your choice.  There are many options, the main ones are as follows:


Suitable for large extensions and alterations to period properties and the most expensive option. Make sure that the architect you employ has passed the RIBA Part111 Professional Practice Examination.

Architect technologists

Suitable if your extension is small scale, as these technologists may have studied as an architect but not completed all the exams.  Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists

House designers / building consultants

These may have an engineering background or often have worked as draughtsmen for local authorities. Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

Structural engineer

In addition to complying with Part A of Building Regulations (structure) you can also use a structural engineer to draw your plans for the building project. Institution of Structural Engineers

A builder

Some highly experienced builders provide a ‘Design and Build’ service.  Make sure that they have the relevant and technical qualifications and that they carry sufficient professional indemnity insurance. Chartered Institute of Building, Chartered Association of Building Engineers

Do it yourself

We do not recommend you do it yourself unless you are properly qualified as any of the above.

If your neighbours have the same extension as you would like you ask to use the same person they used. You may be able to buy the plans from them and save a considerable amount on the cost of the survey.

Planning permission

If you want to extend or build a property you must make a successful application for planning permission before any work can be undertaken.  The planning process can take up to eight weeks, and if permission is granted, planned works must be started within three years.  Most planning and building control applications are now submitted online through the Planning Portal.

There are a number of situations where planning permission is required related to the dimensions of your proposal. You will need planning permission if your project involves the creation of a new dwelling, either building from scratch or sub-dividing an existing home. Building extensions and outbuildings will also require planning permission depending on the size of the project and the level of permitted development rights.

If you live in a conservation area, and there are many in Cambridge and surrounding areas, you may be more restricted on what building work you can do and how it should look,  In addition, you will need planning permission to demolish buildings over a certain volume (115 cubic metres), as well as to demolish a gate, fence, wall or railing, depending on its height and location.  Anyone wanting to carry out works to a tree within a conservation area also needs to give the council six weeks’ notice.  Restrictions and requirements for works affecting a listed building are more detailed again.

Building Regulations

Submit your Building Regulation application to your local authority via the Planning Portal before you meeting a builder; then the drawings and supplementary information can be used to support the quotation.

Your builders can only price of the Building Regulation plans once you have approval. In no circumstances get in quotes from builders until you have the approved plans.  You will also need the Building Regulation drawing to ‘take off’ your material requirements.

Unless the planned extension is a porch, conservatory or detached garage built at ground level, taking up less than 30m2 of floor space, it’s likely that Building Regulations will be relevant to ensure your project complies with health and safety rules. Be aware that Building Regulations may be necessary if you want to:

  • replace fuse boxes and connected electrics
  • install a bathroom that will involve plumbing
  • change electrics near a bath or shower
  • put in a fixed air-conditioning system
  • replace windows and doors
  • replace roof coverings on pitched and flat roofs
  • install or replace a heating system
  • add extra radiators to a heating system.

Building Regulations approval is a separate process from obtaining planning permission for your extension, furthermore it is extremely important to ensure that your building project has approval from both.

Party Wall Act

If you are undertaking work directly affecting or close to a wall you share with your neighbour, you must involve them based on the requirements of the Party Wall Act.  It may be possible to come to an agreement with the neighbour(s) first.  Arrange to meet your neighbours face to face to explain your plans and how you will try hard to minimise disruption.  Serving a notice out of the blue is not the best approach. But you may have to employ party wall surveyors (both to represent you and your neighbour(s)).

After that, you need to serve your neighbours notice of your planed work.  There are three types of party wall notices, depending on the type of work proposed and its proximity to the party wall:

Party Structure Notice

Needed when making alterations that directly affect the party wall and include common jobs such as cutting holes to insert beams, cutting in flashings and removing chimney breasts. Two months’ notice is necessary.

Notice of Adjacent Excavation

For excavations within either 3m or 6m of your neighbour (depending on the kind of works involved). The adjoining owner has 14 days to respond.

Line of Juncture Notice

For the construction of a new wall either adjacent to or astride a boundary. You must give one months’ notice.

Structural engineer

Depending on the nature of the works it may be possible that you need a structural engineer – if a beam, foundations or roof design needs expertise beyond that of your builder. Whoever draws up your plans will advise you on this and you may wish to appoint your own structural engineer or take guidance from your builder or architect.

Research material

To accurately convey your project consider the use of aids when meeting a builder, perhaps do some research and bring the following:

  • Pictures – show photos of work you like or wish to emulate
  • Floor plans – map out layouts of where you want things to be once work is complete; this will help the builder understand what you are after
  • Budget and timeframe – two of your biggest variables which will determine what is possible
  • Questions – prepare a comprehensive list of questions

To discuss your home builder requirements with scuseme approved and recommended builders, get in touch here.  All personally vetted.

Dawn Giesler, is the founder of Scuseme Cambridge, a recommendation website that helps your family run smoothly. She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. For more information visit scuseme

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