Whether you're embarking on a new-build or painstakingly restoring a listed building, here are the craftsmen with excellent foundations.

At the heart of every new-build house or successful restoration is a team of knowledgeable craftsmen who have the passion and patience to create some- thing of great merit. Whereas the dreams begin with the architect and then flourish with the interior designer, it’s the building firm’s job to make their plans real—and therein lies the source of a lot of challenges. Listed buildings are not known quantities, so these will typically present themselves at a point when they’re least welcome and, unless you’re using someone of merit to complete the build, that will be well after the original budget has been overshot.

One solution is to avoid cutting corners. Our list is largely made up of family companies, many of which have several hundred years’ experience in restoring and refurbishing period properties and employ their own skilled craftsmen, who have undertaken apprenticeships and climbed the ranks.

Whether it’s a full turnkey service— from securing planning permission right through to every aspect of interior design—to adding extensions or an oak-framed garden structure, these are the building firms with excellent foundations.

C. Tavener & Son Ltd

Established in 1846, the family firm works on high-end projects from Belgravia and Holland Park to Paris and Provence.

They say: ‘Attention to detail is at the heart of everything we do’

We say:  ‘This company is at the pinnacle of the London building trade’

020–7328 7111; www.tavener.co.uk

Carpenter Oak

An oak-frame building business of 30 years’ standing, this Devon-based company raises more than 60 frames a year, from oak sun-room extensions to high-end architectural oak houses in the UK and overseas.

They say: ‘If you’re looking to create an oak-framed house, extension or outbuilding, we have the experience to make your ambition come alive’

We say: ‘Has the complete team, from project managers to frame designers and carpenters, so it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a hassle-free turnkey service’

01803 732 900; www.carpenteroak.com

Ellis & Co Ltd

Award-winning experts in the conservation, repair and renovation of historic houses across Somerset and the South-West.

They say: ‘Our aim is to preserve the past sympathetically and honestly for the benefit of future generations’

We say: ‘Excellent option for repair or restoration of Grade I-listed houses. The firm’s recent work on St Giles House on the Shaftesbury Estate won a host of awards’

01749 342 706; www.ellisandco.uk.com

Ken Biggs

West Country-based family firm founded in 1928 that covers both complete new-build houses to general repairs and extensions.

They say: ‘We can cover a full spectrum in all aspects of construction to a project value of £6 million’

We say: ‘Johnnie Boden’s contractor of choice with an excellent reputation for friendliness and professionalism’

01761 470743; www.ken-biggs.co.uk


Oak-frame house builder that prides itself on its state-of-the-art equipment: 80% of the precision cutting is done by machine, with the craftsmen doing the scribe work, decoration and embellishment, much of which is done using traditional hand tools.

They say: ‘We blend traditional and modern construction techniques to create a traditionally jointed and pegged timber frame with all the comforts of a modern home’

We say: ‘A forward-thinking company with impressive technology skills’

01432 353353; www.oakwrights.co.uk

Prime Oak

best builders in Britain

Prime Oak can call on a range of experienced specialists to create bespoke solutions

Based in the West Midlands, this well-established oak-frame builder can do the full range, from an orangery or stable complex through to a new-build house. Sister companies include oak-framer Julius Bahn and the garden room and windows supplier Montpelier.

They say: ‘We provide an outstanding quality product coupled with exacting yet personal service’

We say: ‘Good all-rounder that supports craftsmanship by running an apprenticeship programme with local colleges’

Prime Oak 01384 296611; www.primeoak.co.uk; Julius Bahn: 03444 171400; www.juliusbahn.co.uk; Montpelier: 01384 279933; www.montpelierjoinery.com

R. Durtnell & Sons

Britain’s oldest building company (established in 1591), which works throughout London and the South-East and specialises in restoring and renovating historic buildings.

They say: ‘By understanding our clients’ needs and objectives, we are better equipped to deliver the high-quality buildings that have been our hallmark since the days of Elizabeth I’

We say: ‘A safe pair of hands for a contemporary new-build or restoration project’

01959 564 105; durtnell.co.uk

R. Moulding & Co

Salisbury-based family business that, as well as building and restoring country houses, has carved out work at Stonehenge.


best builders in Britain

An R. Moulding & Co craftsman hard at work


They say: ‘Everything we do is driven by the latest building standards and techniques, underpinned with the passion of our dedicated team and a core understanding of traditional materials and skills’

We say: ‘Skilled team that’s worked on country houses from all periods’

01722 742228; www.rmoulding.co.uk

R. W. Armstrong

A 60-year-old regional firm with a reputation for high-quality refurbishments and renovations of listed houses, as well as London town houses and smaller projects.

They say: ‘We are a residential builder in Hampshire providing high-quality building services for the county as well as for most of the South-East’

We say: ‘Reliable and knowledgeable, it’s responsible for building many designs by ADAM Architecture’

01256 850 177; www.rwarmstrong.co.uk

Stevensons of Norwich

A specialist in the design, restoration and installation of decorative ceilings, wall panels and stone-effect building façades.

They say: ‘We have more than 30 years’ experience working with plaster, lath and lime plaster.’

We say: ‘For decorative cornices and ceiling roses or their restoration, go to Stevensons’

01603 400 824; www.stevensons-of-norwich.co.uk


A family-owned, Oxford-based company involved in some of the grandest new country houses being built today as well as traditional country cottages and London penthouses.

They say: ‘We are no ordinary builder’

We say: ‘A leading firm, which unusually carries out most of the specialist trades itself rather than employing sub-contractors’

01865 254900; www.symm.co.uk

Walter Lilly

Very-high-end London builder whose recent projects include a £28 million subterranean extension and refurbishment of a 22,000sq ft Grade I-listed house in Mayfair and a £9 million fit-out on a 27,000sq ft house in Hampstead.

They say: ‘The brand is a byword for luxury and refinement’

We say: ‘London builders don’t get much grander’

020–8730 6200; www.walterlilly.co.uk