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Cowboy builders are very much in the minority, but they are out there, so how can you protect yourself? Treat them with suspicion if they:

  • EVADE giving you references or details of previous jobs
  • OFFER you a ‘cheap’ deal for cash-in-hand.
  • SUGGEST you can avoid paying VAT for cash
  • CONFUSE you with jargon and complicated explanations
  • INSIST that a written contract is not necessary
  • SAY they can start tomorrow (a good builder is usually busy)
  • CAN’T give you costings because ‘things may change’
  • LAUGH when you suggest showing them plans
  • GIVE you a surprisingly low quote
  • CAN only be reached by mobile and don’t have an address on their card
  • ASSURE you the details are their problem and you don’t need to worry
  • KNOCK the opposition

Whatever you do, follow our simple guidelines for choosing and working with a builder,

  • Ask for references and talk to previous customers. A good builder will provide you with credentials and references, so try to visit previous jobs similar to your own.
  • If the builder is a member of a trade association, check the membership criteria – and make sure they really are a member, rogue builders have been known to falsely claim membership.
  • Get estimates from two or three different builders. Be clear about what you want done and ask for a written specification and quotation.
  • Avoid adding to the job or changing your mind halfway through – it will usually cost more and cause delays. Confirm any changes you do make in writing.
  • Use a contract – the FMB has a Plain English contract for small building work.
  • Agree any staged and final payments before work starts.
  • Avoid dealing in cash.
  • If any problems arise whilst work is in progress, or you are unhappy about anything, talk to your builder right away.