Professional Architects and Designers in Solihull Est. 1981

riba chartered architects practice in solihull

10 things builders need to know about working with domestic clients

Posted in Top Tips | Written by Vicki Potter

We believe that developing and maintaining trust between a builder and their domestic clients is paramount for the project to run smoothly. For over 40 years, Cross and Craig have fostered relationships between homeowners and builders locally. Based on our experience, here are our top tips to help nurture a good relationship with your client, and some guidance on how your architect can help.

1.Always visit the client before providing your quote. Many clients will dismiss your tender if you haven’t made the time to visit the property and talk through the project with them. Contractors are not always chosen on price. Some clients will go with a higher price to work with the firm they liked best at their first meeting.

builders scaffolding for domestic project

2. Be explicit in your quote. Money is always tight on projects and domestic clients will assume your price is a fixed final price unless you state clearly what is excluded.

3. If you include for every eventuality, you will price yourself our of the job. Just be clear in your quote what might incur extra costs so that everyone has realistic expectations. (As contract administrators, part of our role is helping explain these situations if and when they occur, such as the foundations needing to go deeper than the standard 1m).

4. Most people appreciate that programmes are out of date as soon as they are issued, but issue one anyway. Don’t be overly optimistic about the speed your team works. Manage expectations. If you start running behind, just be honest about it with your client. Experience has shown us that it is better to have these hard conversations early on, even if you think you can catch up the time.

5. Keep the client up to date with extra costs, as you go along. It is the unexpected extras that suddenly appear on the final account that always cause the disputes. (Part of our role on site is recording these variations as the project goes along).

6. No matter how much pressure you are under, don’t do extra work without agreeing a budget price first. If the client does not agree with your costing, you will be out of pocket and the trust will be gone.

7. It is extremely stressful living on site during an extension or refurbishment project. Domestic clients want the project over as quickly as possible. If you don’t have enough people on site each day, they will feel neglected and lose patience. Overrun is the most common reason for the relationship to break down. Particularly if you have other local sites so the clients can easily monitor the progress on their extension compared to your other projects. Again communications is the key. Let your client know if there will not be anyone on site for a few days whilst the screed dries, for example, or whilst you are waiting for materials to be delivered. 

8. Remember that tradesmen talk and the clients will invariable overhear them. If your subcontractors are complaining about an issue, the client can lose faith in your ability to complete the project, even if it is a misunderstanding.  

9. If you are not an expert, just say no. Clients respect honesty. Don’t fit a kitchen, lay a lawn, tarmac a drive or fit a ventilation system just because the client wants you to. Everyone makes mistakes when they are not familiar with a product or its’ installation, and your clients will start to doubt the quality of everything else you have built as well. (Your architect can help explain this to the clients and assist you in finding a specialist if you need one).

10. Get up to speed with the new Building Safety Act 2023 and your obligations as Principal Contractor. Be aware that if there are no detailed construction drawings or you are making design changes to the approved drawings during the build, you may also be taking on the role of Principal Designer. As such, you will need to sign a declaration to Building Control that your designs are compliant with the Building Regulations in order for a Completion Certificate to be issued.

If you are not comfortable taking on the liability of designing the construction details, or your insurance won’t cover you for this, insist to your client that they obtain a Building Control level drawing from their architect. Rather than apply for a Building Notice, the detailed drawings should receive a Building Control Full Plans approval before work starts. 

Some builders like to deal directly with their domestic clients. However, your architect can help avoid many of these issues. At Cross and Craig, we manage the requirements of Building Control and other legislation. Part of our role is making any design changes required and ensuring they are compliant and approved. We can document any variations during the work, agree them with the clients and issue extensions of time and valuations.

For further information about the role your architect can play during the construction phase of the domestic project, please do get in touch with us on 01564 773927 or


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