Measure twice, cut once: Get the best from your building contractor

The Master Builders Association recommends following these steps when planning your building project

Quotes for building projects should be in writing and refer to the specification and the form of contract to be used, says Master Builders Association.
Quotes for building projects should be in writing and refer to the specification and the form of contract to be used, says Master Builders Association.
Image: Supplied/MBA

If you’re planning a building project, the Master Builders Association (MBA), which has been in existence for about 120 years, can help choose the right contractors for your building job. MBA members include contractors providing most services including general building, plumbing, electrical, painting, glazing, waterproofing, ceiling, flooring, tiling and carpentry.

The MBA recommends the following simple steps when planning your building project. As the old saying says, “Measure twice, cut once”.


  • Decide beforehand what you want done;
  • Formalise this in a plan and detailed specification; and
  • Have a budget estimate drawn up by a qualified person to give you an idea of your financial requirements.

Choose a reliable contractor:

  • Do your homework;
  • Contact the MBA for a list of home builders;
  • Make a shortlist of potential contractors;
  • Ask them about their recent projects and contact some of their clients for references; and
  • Ensure they are registered with the relevant authorities, such as the National Home Builders Registration Council (for a new build), the Workmen’s Compensation Fund, the SA Revenue Service (income tax and VAT).


  • Ensure the contractor has public liability and appropriate insurance to cover their work risk; and
  • Ensure that you have enough cover with your insurance company for alteration projects in respect of damage to your existing building and contents. 


  • Provide your tenderers with your detailed requirements and specifications;
  • Arrange a site visit to clear up any questions;
  • Get two or three quotes;
  • Make sure all tenderers have the same information;
  • Include allowances for items (prime cost) that have not yet been finalised at the time of tender; and 
  • Stipulate the building agreement/contract to be used and highlight any specific terms. Standard contracts are available from the MBA.

Accepting the quote and signing the contract:

  • Quotes should be in writing and refer to the specification and the form of contract to be used;
  • The quote should include all costs and should specify anything that’s not included;
  • Beware of very low quotes and always compare against your specification; 
  • Make a careful comparison between quotes received and list any questions for the preferred contractor before accepting the quotation;  
  • Sign your building contract; and
  • Hand over the site to the successful contractor. 

Quality assurance: 

  • Meet your contractor regularly during the project to monitor performance and quality; and
  • If you’re not qualified to determine defects, employ a building consultant or architect to monitor and administer the project on your behalf.

Extra work (variations):

  • Establish and agree on the cost of extra work or variations before starting; and
  • Commit the variation to writing, and record the extra cost or saving. 


  • Certain completion/payment stages should be agreed on beforehand and final payment must be made only after inspecting the completed work; and
  • If you’re using mortgage bond finance, make sure your contractor is aware of any relevant conditions of your loan and that the bank is aware of the contract you’ve signed.


The MBA recommends an MBA-approved contract be used and the above steps followed. 

For more information, visit the Master Builders Association website, call +27 (0) 41-365-1835 or e-mail

This article was paid for by Master Builders Association.


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