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What contract should I have for my building work?

What contract should I have for my building work?

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A contract is a formal agreement between you and your builder which sets out:

  • The details of each party.
  • What is in and out of scope.
  • How much the work will cost.
  • How payments will be made.
  • Cancellation rights.
  • Start and completion dates.
  • Hours or days of work - you may want them to start work after 8:30am to enable the household to prepare for the day, or may prefer them not to work at weekends.
  • Who is responsible for obtaining and paying for consents and fees like building control approval.
  • Whether your contractor is properly insured.

Benefits of contracts

Having a contract protects you (and your contractor) and will help to prevent disputes, minimise misunderstandings and reduce stress.

You can also use individual contracts if you have decided to take on the role of project manager for your works. If this is the route you are using, you could have somewhere between 10 and 20 individual trades appointments.

You’ll need to list all the work you expect everyone to carry out in a scope of works.

Model contracts

In the UK there are a range of standard ’off-the-shelf’ contracts available for you to choose:

  • The Joint Contracts Tribunal, also known as the JCT, produces standard forms of contract for construction, guidance notes and other standard documentation for use in the construction industry in the UK. These are tailored to virtually every construction scenario, from large commercial sites to small domestic projects.

  • The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) offers simple contracts to its members so if you use an FMB-registered builder, you will get one of its small works contracts included for free. Find out more here

  • The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has produced a Domestic Building Contract, which is a simple and clearly laid out contract between a homeowner and a builder. You can use this for any domestic work, including renovations and refurbishment, extensions, conversions, maintenance and new buildings. Their contract ties in with the guidance it gives to architects under their Plan of Work, so will be familiar to any RIBA architect so you may be advised by your designer to use this version.

Further information

What's the difference between a quote and an estimate?

What to expect during building work