Your house is the most important space to you. Your builders and project planners should know and respect that when they enter your home to work on it for you, and should make every effort to make you feel secure in what they are doing to create a high quality end product.
A Cowboy builder doing a botched job is every home owner’s nightmare, leading to disruption leaking into every part of your life. Keep your home and family safe and coy with reputable builders, here are some tips in choosing and checking a builder’s reputation.
Before you hire a Builder
Be wary of unrealistically low or fast estimates – an attractive price will grab anyone’s interest, but if you’ve planned your build properly you’ll have a rough idea of how much the work should cost, incorporating materials and labour. An estimate too much lower than this should definitely be looked into, where is the saving being made? Is it true that some smaller companies who don’t earn over the yearly threshold don’t have to pay tax, so some smaller quotes may be accounted for by that, though an honest smaller company will always be forthcoming with information of this kind. Don’t be afraid to ask about quotes too far above your original plan too – were your original plans not inclusive of certain aspects of the build? Or are there some parts of the budget that are unaccounted for?
A Reluctance to write down a Quote or Schedule – Having a quote in writing is a contract between you and the builders, outlining an intention to keep to the planned works. Of course, if the build comes across some issues that are not the builders’ fault and you discuss any additional or reduced amounts of work with them, this can change, but make sure to have the changes written and signed too. If a builder or contractor refuses any written confirmation of estimates, it’s an opportunity to mess you around. You are well within your rights to insist on a written estimate from anyone you are employing to work on your house. Make sure that all materials and jobs are listed on a broken down quote that covers all work you want done.
Look out for an unwillingness to disclose contact details – Refusing to give a last name and contact number, or the information of their project manager is not reassuring but some disreputable builders will dodge the question by insisting that they do not have to disclose this information. This is not true, you have the right to request enough information to check the builder or building company’s history including any declarations of bankruptcy and court cases. Withholding contact details and open information about the company points to a reluctance to be looked up.
Beware of paying upfront or in cash – Again, some builders who work a limited number of hours and have a yearly income of less than the taxable threshold may not need to pay tax and so are able to ask for payment in cash. However, builders and companies should be forthcoming with this information, and any larger companies should be paying tax. Asking for a cash payment may be a sign that they are dodging tax, and could point to them cutting corners elsewhere. Paying upfront requires a huge amount of trust, money is needed to buy materials to carry out the building work of course, so be prepared to be asked for money early in the process for that, but paying in full before any work has begun isn’t a practice attributed to most trustworthy builders, beware of construction workers and companies who ask for this.
Can you always get in touch with them? – If you’re having trouble contacting the builder or company before work begins, what’s to stop them disappearing during the job? This is a common complaint from victims of cowboy builders, that the work begins and then stops, leaving the site in a disruptive state of disarray that has a tremendous effect on both lives and bank balances. Look for a company with a website showcasing previous work that checks out under investigation, testimonials and references, full contact details and, above all, a company or builders who are easy to get in touch with and trace.
Be wary of unnecessary changes to your planned work – Experienced and creative teams with ideas for home improvement that fits in with your own vision is a wonderful addition to your project. However, if every aspect of the planned work is not up for debate and your contracted builders are changing your designs, this could be a method of trying to upsell you something you don’t want. Another method of scamming more money out of you is finding mysterious problems with the house, materials or designs and asking for more payment to fix these ghostly issues. This is a fine line to tread, as there may indeed be issues that were unknown to you before now, so if you are unsure about advice you’re being given, don’t be afraid to get a building surveyor in to take a look and a second opinion.
If you are unsure about the builders or contractors working in your home at any point, trading standards are easy to contact and quick to respond to queries, do not hesitate to call them.