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Choose the right builder

With so many 'fly-by-night' contractors out there, any building project can quickly turn into a nightmare. Learn what to look for when selecting a builder.


Not everyone has the skills - or the desire - to take on building projects, and it is in these instances that you will look at hiring a builder. Whether it is for a small project or to design and build your own home, you need to do some research to find the right builder for the job.

Workmanship is important

Any building project can be fraught with pitfalls and it isn’t for everyone since many projects typically entail patience and fairly deep pockets. We’ve all heard of nightmarish scenarios where builders produced sub-standard work, didn’t deliver at all or ran way over budget and time. As such, it is imperative to do your homework and understand fully what you are getting yourself into. Making sure you can actually afford such a project is also crucial from the outset.





Word of mouth

While a builder recommended by friends or family, or who is a personal friend, is usually a good way to go about things, this course of action doesn’t always work out, especially if you’re only contracting that person as a favour or to help them out. If things go wrong, not only could you end up with shoddy workmanship but you could also end up losing a friend or spoiling a close relationship.

Where possible, visit previous projects to see for yourself the quality of workmanship.

Get plans drawn up

Any building project is going to need approved plans, so it's essential to use a professional architect or architectural designer who has a good reputation and who will assist you throughout the building process. The South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) is a good place to start. Obtain at least three quotes for the job - keeping in mind that the cheapest isn’t necessarily the way to go. It could be that corners are being cut which means you’ll end up with a badly built house.

Registered professionals

It is important to contract builders who are registered with professional and reputable organisations. Here, in South Africa, there are two primary building organisations, the Master Builders Association South Africa (MBSA) and National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC).


This association functions as a federation on behalf of regional and provincial Master Builders Associations, who in turn represent contractors and employers who operate within South Africa’s building industry. The primary role of the MBSA is to promote the interests of the building industry in South Africa, to promote best practice and ensure sustainability. If you feel a builder has not delivered a satisfactory service, you can approach the MBSA for advice, inspections and mediation. The MBSA also offers standardised building contracts which can be used by members as well as the general public.


An organisation created to protect new home buyers. By law, all home builders have to be registered with the NHBRC and have to comply with the council’s building quality standards. To establish whether or not a contractor is affiliated to the council or has been suspended or deregistered, simply contact the body or check their website. There is also a warranty scheme in place which covers major structural defects caused by poor workmanship. Non-compliance and deviation from plans and specifications also falls under the NHBRC’s ambit.

There are other regional bodies that exist and that can assist with region specific builds and issues. Other related bodies include the Electrical Contractors Association of SA, the Institute for Timber Construction, and the South African Bureau of Standards.

Contractual obligation

When entering into any type of arrangement with a builder, a contract should be drawn up and checked by both parties’ attorneys. As previously mentioned, the MBSA offers standardised contracts. Altering these contracts is discouraged but if necessary, any changes made should be reduced to writing.

Lastly, when contracting builders, use your common sense. Be sure to obtain references, try and view some of the projects the builder has worked on and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It will quickly become apparent whether or not your house is really going to be the home of your dreams or the stuff of nightmares.

Adapted from article by


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