An Article About Cowboy Builders
There are 3 types of builder.
These are honest decent blokes, which is what we are.
We do our best to please all of the people all of the time, foul up on that as often as the next man and every now and again mess up on something or other which we then try to put right as smartly and quickly as possible. Just like you in fact!
These are stupid lads who are rubbish builders and just playing at it. They come and go and couldn’t care less. BUT they aren’t generally part of the next lot.
These are the chaps highlighted on the telly programmes. They actually set out to deceive and cheat and rob you.
Now, take any body of people who offer “a service” from taxi drives to politicians and you get the same three defining groups. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. That’s because we are imperfect human beings.
So, how do you avoid the “wronguns? Simple really, apply a bit of common, don’t rush into anything and try to follow a few simple rules…..
Give immediate short shrift to the “door knockers”.
“We was just passing and your roof looks proper dangerous missus”!
If we ever see problems on a neighbouring property, we tell the owner of the house we are working on. If they then tell their neighbour, all well and good.
Never pay on the day the job is completed unless you know the builder well
We always invoice, even for small jobs. Mind you we very often leave the invoice with the client as we leave the job and tell them we would like payment within a week please, (and feel very lucky if we get it)! This is a real confidence builder for clients. It shows people you are solvent and established.
Ask friends and neighbours to recommend a good builder.
Make sure they have used them though. Second hand referrals are after all, just hearsay!
Ask for references, ideally for a job similar to yours.
All he will do is give you the name of his favourite client of course but at least it’s something to go on. He will have to call them first to OK it with them, so you can’t expect to get to them before he does and in the end it might be his mate who you speak to. Give them a ring, ask them lots of pre prepared questions and try and drive past to have a look if it’s possible.
Don’t assume membership of a trades association means he’s not a cowboy or thief.
One of us was a member of a very well known association for 25 years. He was never vetted, nor did he ever have to supply references. In fact he was recruited by a “travelling salesman” who drove around visiting building sites. He joined when he first started building, purely to give the impression of competence and stability. This of course he now possesses in superabundance!
Don’t confuse trade associations with “competency schemes” here. If a plumber is working with gas, it is a legal requirement that he must be a member of Gas Safe. If working with oil, he must be a member of OFTEC, a window installer must be FENSA registered. Electricians have several to choose from. You can check if he (or the company he works for) is, by simply “googling”.
(Actually the word “simply”….. and any attempt to discover any fact at all, ever, on the bloody internet, are for this writer, seriously mutually exclusive)!
If he’s not Gas Safe registered and he intends to fit your gas fire, never mind thieving from you, he could be preparing to be your murderer!
Always get three quotations – you do not have to accept any. If you are unhappy, find more builders.
The point of this, besides getting prices of course, is simply to observe builders. You have lots of experience of people and their behaviour, use it! Does he inspire confidence without a hint of being a chancer? That might mean he’s a very good con man of course but if he ticks all the other boxes in this list he might just be your man!
Do you know his land line number and address? Obviously he has a mobile, he’s a bloody builder!
Is he VAT registered?
It doesn’t necessarily matter if he is not, but if he says he is, remember to ask for his VAT number to be provided on his quotation. It’s mandatory to be VAT registered when a company grosses over £68,000 per year and that’s not difficult, as all the materials which are bought are included in this amount. So, if he doesn’t charge VAT, why? Has he only just started trading, or does he never get any work, or is he not declaring (a proportion of) his income to the tax man. Much as we admire and wholeheartedly defend the internal revenue system of this great country of ours, it doesn’t necessarily follow that a tax fiddler is a cowboy builder!
Does he have Public Liability insurance and will his quotation state this?
You will probably find that most blokes don’t! They might say they have but will start flapping if asked to prove it. This is because of “cherry picking” by insurance companies. For instance to insure his tools against theft, a builder must not only lock them in his van but must lock that van in a garage overnight. A decorator can get PL insurance easily enough, but anyone who works above knee height or uses a match to light his fag will be quoted horrendous premiums for public liability. Most roofers today are just winging it!
(Nothing new there then).
Does he give a guarantee and what is its duration? (Will it be worth the paper it’s written on)?
Will he personally be carrying out the work or will he sub-contract?
What’s the point of doing all this vetting if some other mob turns up to do the job? If you know they are his direct employees then OK but if “subbies” mess up, even though he is directly responsible as the contractor, some blokes will argue the toss with you all day. This is one reason why you don’t pay until you are satisfied with the work.
Will he be on site for the duration of the job?
Personally this writer never flitted from job to job, it peeed of everyone including himself. Builders do it because they hate to turn work away and / or promise too many people too many things all at the same time. Organisation is required in any job and builders who “flit” are simply disorganised. It doesn’t mean they are cowboys though!
How comprehensive is his quotation.
Don’t expect glossy brochures, but if there is a full, unequivocal description of the intended works, with payment procedures, approximate start date, duration time, segregation of any materials to be provided by you, details of rubbish removal, details of how he will clear up at night and protect existing fittings...snap his hand off!
The Building Sheriff
Cowboy Builder Buster
An Fun Insider’s Guide To The Various Tradesmen In The Construction Industry
A-Z of Job Pricing