How to avoid ‘Cowboy Builders’

Shoddy Construction

Most people, at one point in their lives will be in need of a builder, whether it’s to build a structure or fit floor tiles. When you pay for a service, you expect it to be finished to perfection, but in some cases this doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, there are some very untrustworthy people out there who take advantage of people’s lack of knowledge. Looking for a builder means placing your trust in someone you don’t know and giving them access to your property. Trust and respect is something that you would expect from someone you pay and employ to do a job.

People’s knowledge about building work is often not very advanced and this is where these workers take advantage. Most property owners would not know what work really needs done and for what price. Often, people don’t bother to ask for lots of different quotations because there is an urgency to get a job done.

A cowboy builder is a tradesman that asks for money but doesn’t finish the job you have asked for. There are a few signs to look out for when searching for a builder because you don’t want to end up losing money, so here’s some help:


The first step to hiring a builder is to do your research. It is a good idea to use a tradesman that family or friends have used or recommended. Have a look on the internet to see if they have a website, or if anything has been written about them. Another great idea is to pick a builder who specialises in the kind of work that you need doing. A tradesman should be happy to show you pictures or testimonials from other jobs because they would be proud of the work they have done. If they are not happy to do so, don’t do it! Another good idea is to ask the tradesman if they have Tradesman Liability Insurance.

Look Around

Never jump into employing the first person you speak to or get a quote from. By acquiring at least 3 different quotes you should see if someone if offering you a dodgy price, or if they are telling you, you need something done that you don’t.

get Every Agreement in Writing

If you request a quote, ensure that you receive it in writing so that you don’t end up questioning or arguing about the price you were given. It would also be a plus if you can get the quote broken down into as much detail as possible, meaning you can see all the little jobs they will be carrying out and how much they each cost. You must ask if the price includes VAT and if not, work out how much that would add onto the price.


Do NOT pay the whole job upfront. This has happened on many occasions and the builders can just run off with your money. You may need to provide the tradesman with an upfront cost for materials but this should be written in the quote. Payments for the job should be spread over the time of the work, so once a small job is finished, you pay the builder.


  • Won’t provide references
  • Want to start ASAP and are too keen about it
  • Are unwilling to write the quote
  • Ask for money upfront
  • Only accept cash
  • Won’t offer you a contract or doesn’t sign a contract
  • Offer cheap prices or estimates

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