How to Spot a Cowboy Builder
Upgrading your home is both an exciting and nerve-racking process. You have decided what areas need improving, have spent time planning your refurbishments, and you might even have a specific image in your head of what you want the end result to look like.
However, there is often the fear that, for whatever reason, the outcome will not live up to your expectations. Frequent stories about contractors leaving homeowners with unfinished work or disastrous renovations do not help and can even put people off undertaking a project in the first place. According to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the UK economy misses out on £10bn every year because homeowners are afraid of hiring the wrong contractors. To avoid disappointment, they would rather not commission building work at all.
Therefore, we explore some tips that will help make sure you choose the right people from the outset. By knowing what to bear in mind when it comes to deciding who you want to carry out any work, you can enjoy your home restorations with peace of mind.
Do your research
First things first, looking up the company you intend to hire on the internet is always a wise choice. The online world has the answer to many of our questions, and it can help you understand whether a contractor is the right tradesperson for the job. Websites such as Trustpilot and Google are an excellent starting point because they feature independent reviews, so you can read about the experiences of previous customers, to verify whether your chosen contractor has a good track record, or not. You should also ask for a written quote. If it seems very cheap, there is a chance you’ll face hidden extras further down the line and that the quality of work will not be up to standard. Building an extension to a high standard using quality materials, including all interior finishings, decoration and flooring should be budgeted at circa £3,500/m² (including VAT).
If you realise that the builder has no registered business address, no landline telephone or contact number, or is unknown in the area, alarm bells should start ringing. No contact details mean that you will not be able to reach out for help during – or after – the refurbishments.
Examples of previous projects
Looking at a builder’s previous work can be a good indication of the quality you will receive. Reliable professionals will always be happy to show you examples of successful projects, and it will demonstrate the kind of work they are used to undertaking, as well as giving you ideas for your own build.
They are keen to start immediately
Reliable builders tend to be busy, as they are in high demand. As a result, there is a good chance they will not be able to start your work project as soon as you get in touch with them. Of course, tradesmen who carry emergency repairs will respond straight away due to the type of job. However, bigger renovations, such as installing new double-glazed windows or constructing extra living space, are unlikely to begin immediately.
It’s also worth remembering that building an extension will normally need planning permission and/or a building warrant, so if they are able to start work immediately, is your project going to be built in line with Scottish building regulations?
They won’t sign a contract
Another red flag you should look out for is if your chosen builder is not prepared to sign a contract. Putting things on paper is fundamental when it comes to building work, as it means the specification, costs and sometimes timeframes can be agreed by both parties
A legally-binding contract means you, and the contractor, have clearly detailed the work that is included in your project and avoids any misunderstandings once work commences. With no contract or paperwork in place, you will have nothing to fall back on.
They only accept cash payment
If a builder insists on cash payment and wants the money upfront, think twice before you hire them. While staged payments are common-place to cover the cost of materials as and when you use them, paying cash upfront is not. A trustworthy contractor will not ask to be paid in cash first.
Refurbishing and updating your home involves an array of important decisions. One of the most prominent ones is to find and pick a contractor you can rely on. There are many red flags you should look out for, from a lack of online presence and positive customer reviews or inclusion of a formal contract to the request of upfront cash payment.
By doing your research, you can prevent unpleasant surprises and carry out your home renovations with confidence.