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Builder – A Broad Title – Know The Differences

The term Builder has a broad range of expressions and not all types will be working on your home. Not all types should be working on your home! Having a clear understanding about the meanings behind the terms will help you know who you’re dealing with and who to choose for your project.


  1. a collective term for anyone who works in the building industry – e.g. tiler/painter/labourer – these are workers not builders
  2. the principal contractor with a university degree in building who only ever wears a suit and a tie – professsional maybe but not a home builder
  3. someone who’s putting something together – cabinet/shed/bridge/birdcage – not a home builder
  4. a large company with a board of directors that does construction/remedial/civil works – professionals yes home builders no
  5. a residential building contractor (also a principal contractor) with staff and a collection of sub-contractors who is specifically educated, qualified and fully licensed to provide home additions/renovations/custom home building e.g. ‘Built for Living’ – yes a home builder

Important Tip: to make sure your builder is the right person for the job, ask to see their real building education qualifications as well as their contractors licence and when they obtained it (don’t be afraid to do a background check on them and their workers). Knowing they have the right qualifications shows they have respect for the industry and their fellow tradesmen, it shows they have made the sacrifices to get qualified and that they’re bringing that fundamental building knowledge (not bluff and guess work) to your project and you, the client.  


  1. someone performing specialist or trade work for a builder – e.g. electrician, plumber, bricklayer – they’re key in the building process but contrary to what some of them might like to have you believe, they are not builders
  2. a large firm who provides a specialist or trade service to large builders – not builders
  3. someone working full time for a subcontracting firm – either trade qualified or as a labourer – these are workers
  4. licensed specialist or trade contractor engaged by same type of firm to perform work independently on private residences/business – not builders
  5. a third party engaged by a subcontractor to perform a certain portion of works of the contract between the builder and the first subcontractor – not a builder

Specialist Trade examples

  1. Plumber/drainer/gasfitter
  2. Electrician
  3. Air-conditioning/refrigerant  installer/repairer

Note – All specialist trades must be licensed regardless of job type or size and all persons working on your home must be appropriately licensed for any work over $5000. Don’t be afraid to ask to see their licence and its currency – professionals will only be too happy to show you

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Meet The Author

I started building in the 80's, completed my Carpentry & Joinery trade and was first licensed in the early nineties. I continued formal training including the Advanced Certificate in Building Supervision (formerly 'Clerk of Works') and was granted my full builders licence in the mid nineties along with a few academic awards. I live in Sydney's south with my wife and we share our home with three kids, one dog, a cat, six goldfish and a budgie. I've been known to do the odd endurance event though presently my Sunday morning program mostly involves sleeping-in and taking the dog for a run. I also like to build things.

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