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Top Tips for Avoiding Cowboy Builders

By Guest Author | February 6, 2012

If there's any profession that gets to be the brunt of bad jokes and painful comedy skits, it's builders.  Just like used car salesmen, builders have a (mostly undeserved) bad reputation.  When people think of builders, they think of lazy, unreliable rip-off merchants that will charge you a fortune, use dodgy materials, leave your home a mess, and take so long to finish the job that you end up shivering your way through winter with a hole in the roof.

Cowboy construction

Courtesy © -

Cowboy builders do exist, but they are easy enough to avoid if you take a few precautions.  In fact, the only reason that they manage to stay in business is because most people take a "it won't happen to me" attitude when it comes to hiring tradesmen.

The following tips will help you to ensure that the builders you hire for your next renovation project are reputable ones:

  • Ask for references, and then verify them
  • Get everything in writing
  • Check that they have public liability insurance.
  • Ask if they offer insurance backed guarantees
  • Obtain several quotes from different companies before you hire someone
  • Ask for a written invoice, and pay it.  Don't work with people "cash in hand".
  • Look for a builder that is a member of a reputable trade body
  • Ask to visit recent projects with the builder so that you can see examples of their work.

If a builder claims to have ties to a major company, but pulls up in an unmarked van, and hands over a business card with a mobile phone number, that should be a big red flag.  Anyone can buy some tools and a white van, but that doesn't mean they have the skills to do a good job.  They could be a relative of someone that works for the big company, or they could just be trying to cash in on another company's good reputation.  If you have any doubts, find the company's number in the phone book, and ring them up yourself to check.

Remember, there's more to being a good builder than having an impressive collection of tools and an ability to talk jargon.  If you have any concerns at all about the quality or reputability of a builder, don't hire them.

Word of mouth is a valuable tool when it comes to finding a good builder.  If someone you know has recently had their home renovated, then ask them if they were happy with the end result, and with the way the work was carried out.

Remember, it's better to wait a few months to find a reliable, honest builder that does good work and that you'd be happy to let inside your home.  There's no point hiring someone for work that may take several months if you are uncomfortable around them, or have a feeling that they might let you down at a critical moment.  It's your home, and you deserve to have the best people available carrying out any work on it.

Written by Amy Fowler on behalf of Tool Orders, suppliers of heavy duty tools.

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