Building Guides

5 Tips for Avoiding Cowboy Builders

If you have decided that a project is too difficult, dangerous or time consuming to do it yourself, it is time to call in the professional. Hiring a tradesman rather than doing something yourself often means that you will be handing over a substantial sum of money and letting a stranger into your home. It is therefore important that you follow a few simple rules when looking for someone to do work on your house. For every dodgy rogue trader, there must be dozens of reputable tradespeople just waiting to do a good job. The problem can be sorting the good from the bad.

1. Get Recommendations

Often (but not always) the best way to find a tradesman to hire is to ask around your friends, family and neighbours. They will be able to tell you if someone they have hired has fair prices and a good quality of work. If you can’t get a recommendation from someone you know and trust, you can try using one of the many recommendation websites such as Rated People or MyBuilder. These websites use a feedback system so you can see which tradesmen have good comments from past clients.

2. Avoid Cold Callers

If a tradesman comes to your door asking if you need any work done or telling you that they have spotted a problem that they would be happy to fix, thank them politely and refuse. Ask yourself why any reputable tradesman would be wandering the streets looking for problems? Good builders, etc., will have enough work from recommendations to keep them busy. There may be times when a tradesman is trying to drum up new business by dropping leaflets. In this case, feel free to ask them for a quote if they provide the skills you need, but don’t jump in without shopping around.

3. Getting Quotes and Estimates

As a general rule, and even if you have been told about a reliable tradesman, you should seek at least three quotes for any major work you need doing. Once you have your three quotes, don’t just go for the cheapest one automatically. Consider recommendations, your gut feeling about the tradesman and any other information you have. Also, make sure that all three have quoted for exactly the same work.

You should also remember that a Quote and an Estimate is different. A quote means a fixed amount (assuming there are no changes made by yourself during the work) whilst an estimate is only a rough guide. Some trades find it more difficult than others to give a fixed quote, but most should be able to give you a very good idea of cost. It is a safe be that if someone estimates that a job will cost between £1000 and £2000, the final cost will almost always be nearer the £2000 end of the scale.

4. Ask for References

A reputable and reliable tradesman should have no problem providing you with references from previous customers, so never be afraid to ask for them. If a tradesman is making excuses or fobbing you off when asked to provide these, it is best to look elsewhere. Once you have reference details, make sure you follow them up.

5. Check Trade Associations

Most of the main trades (builders, plumbers, electricians, etc.,) have trade associations which can help you to find certified member. For builders, this is the Federation of Master Builders, plumbers have the Association of Plumbers and Heating Contractors. The websites for these associations usually offer access to a list of their accredited members to the public. Whilst this is not a fool-proof way of finding a reliable tradesman, it is a great place to start.