How to Avoid Cowboy Builders

Friday, 5th May 2023

Choosing the builder for your renovation project is one of the biggest decisions you have to make. Here are five tips to help you find a builder that won’t let you down

Personal Recommendations
Without doubt the best source of information is a recommendation through word of mouth from someone you trust. Just because a friend or relative had a successful experience doesn’t guarantee you will have one, but in our experience it is always the best place to start. You can potentially view their finished work, openly talk through any issues and get an idea of what price scale they come in at.

Other recommendations to request are from your architect or designer. They have created the vision, have a wealth of contacts and a vested interest in ensuring a builder can turn that vision into a reality. Alternatively ask other tradesmen that you trust. If you have a good relationship with a plumber, ask them to recommend a builder – they work with other trades day in day out, they know the respected ones.

Well Marketed Locally
Keep your eye out for builders well promoted in your local area. Vans and advertising boards across sites indicate the builder or company is busy locally and happy to associate their name with their current and recently completed projects. Negative feedback on builders who cover a local area can be extremely damaging to their business and so the cowboys quickly have to move on.

It is standard practice to request a few references from your builder. Follow them up with a phone call and ask for some feedback – were they reliable, did they fix any issues, did they stick to the agreed price? Go one step further and ask to visit the builder on site. That will give a true indication of the quality of their work and if the site feels organised and well run.

There are a host of qualifications and memberships specific to each Trade. Ask your builder what qualifications he has with evidence and do your own research to validate these. Trustmark is the only government endorsed scheme which helps members of the public find reputable repair, maintenance and improvements firms. There are also an ever increasing number of websites which list or source tradesmen with feedback but consider these a point of introduction before making your own investigations.

Quotes and Contract
The quote, contract and paperwork will give you a real test of confidence before you make your decision. A quote should be specific detailing all agreed materials, prices and timeframes. The builder should be prepared to enter into a contractual agreement which indicates clear deadlines, payment milestones and penalties for delays. The extent or scope of the contract is dictated by the size of project and the client’s wishes but if a builder does not have the diligence or willingness to meet your needs on this, then steer well clear.

If the builder’s paperwork lacks detail, looks unprofessional and is delivered after it was promised, then their work probably will be too!