How to avoid cowboy builders, our top ten tips

1. The first actual contact you will have with your potential builder is when you meet to discuss your project. These are only common sense guidelines but they really will help.
1.1 Did they turn up on time, because if they can?t make a sales visit on time it does make you wonder what their timekeeping will be like when they start?
1.2 Did they confirm the appointment a good builder is a busy in demand builder! They will want to make sure that their prospective customer has remembered the appointment.
1.3 Builders are renowned for being scruffy, it is after all difficult to lay bricks in a dinner jacket, but have they made some effort to be tidy before they traps through your home?
1.4 I think this is very important, do you get on if you are faced with seeing this guy every morning before you rush off to work, or he has to break it to you that there is some unforeseen issue. It is always better if you get on with your builder from day one.
2. The next contact you will have is when the dreaded quotation arrives and you find out just how much your project will cost.
2.1 DO NOT ALWAYS ASSUME THAT THE CHEAPEST QUOTATION IS THE BEST, cowboy builders will always price low because that is the easiest way for them to win the work. Once they have the job they will cut corners and rush through with little thought for quality in order to bodge it up in budget.
2.2 MAKE SURE YOU READ THE QUOTE PROPERLY, it is amazing how long people spend choosing food in a restaurant but faced with spending tens of thousands of pounds just flick through the quote.
2.3 MAKE SURE ALL QUOTES are like for like, many contractors use basic items when quoting because they are not sure at this stage on your choices. So tell your builder how much to budget for fittings, flooring etc.
2.4 Look at the quote is it one page? This is an important reference point for your costs, if your contractor has specified man made slates and you wanted new Whelsh slates the cost difference could run into thousands of pounds. So make sure the quote is comprehensive and well written. A good builder will be happy to issue two or three revisions of the quotation to make yours and his life easier once the construction phase of a project begins.
3. A good builder will be able to provide written testimonials from satisfied customers and will be happy for you to call those customers. Can they let you see jobs they have done? Are they recommended by other professionals within the industry? A good builder will have a number of close alliances with building professionals architects, surveyors, structural engineers etc, can they let you speak with some of their extended team?
4. Are they VAT registered, this may seem an odd point but give it a little thought? If a builder does two or three domestic extensions in a year they will be VAT registered. If they are not why not? They cannot be doing the volume of work to give them the buying power or experience needed to undertake a project much over ten thousand.
5. Quality this is important to everyone, then when they are faced with two quotes one for ?25,000 and one for ?28,000 they start thinking ?wow I could save ?3,000, that?s enough for that new car or holiday?. The car or holiday will soon be forgotten but that poor bit of finishing you could be looking at for 20years! So start with the end in mind, if a builder is rushed because he has cut the quotation price to the bone quality may slip.
6. Speed you can have a high quality job completed quickly but again only by the best and the best will cost your builder ?20-30 per day extra. He will need the best plumbers, plasterers, electricians, etc and as with all experts you get what you pay for.
7. Behaviour people rarely think about this but this causes more issues between customers and builders than people would expect. If you do have a problem with a member of your builder?s team have a quite word with the site foreman. There are cowboys out there that take great delight in shouting, having radios too loud, swearing in front of your children and generally bringing anti-social behaviour into your home. So check your builder?s attitude before you sign him up.
8. Cowboy builders will always talk down the disruption to win the work but be prepared all building work brings disruptions, just the skip on the drive will start to drive you mad after the first few days. This is your home or dream project but to be fare it is also your builder?s place of work, so let them use your toilet and plug their kettle in. The little things like offering the team a cool drink on a hot day will help your job get done quickly and well.
9. Cheaper for cash? This is a sure sign of a dishonest builder, if they are prepared to knock a bit off for cash that shows they are quite happy to commit fraud. Ask your self do I really want to have a fraudster as my builder?
10. Stage payments, most good builders will require stage payments this is standard in the industry for most jobs but make sure that the stage payments are clearly agreed on clear deliverables e.g. footings complete, masonry complete, roof complete, etc. That way everyone knows where they stand through the project, I have heard of builders suddenly asking for ?5,000 and expecting it in the next two hours. So make sure you discuss all these details before you start.