I’ve not posted a proper guest post in a while. Then, out of the blue, I get a genuine request for a guest slot with a genuine post already written which some of you might actually be able to scribble a comment to! It’s a bit of a guide which most will be fully aware of, but one or two stats at the bottom of the post might stoke the numerical interest in you. Enjoy!

Cowboy Builders and How to Avoid Them

Everyone has heard horror stories about cowboy builders: jobs not finished while they demand more and more money; builders vanishing into the ether clutching a fat cash deposit, or work being done so badly that it has to be redone. In rare cases cowboys can wreak such havoc that their work poses a danger to the customer. In fact, some people have shelved the idea of a dream extension or loft conversion simply because they are wary of falling prey to one of these sharks of the construction trade.

Here is a handy guide to follow so you can be confident the builder you are using is reliable and suitably experienced:


Get a written contract which includes details of work to be done; the start and finish date of the work and a payment schedule. While you may have to put down a deposit it should not be a huge proportion of the total, and the final payment should be for a short time after the job has been completed, giving you time to thoroughly inspect the job and test out the work done.

Use a trade reference company such as checkatrade.com, mybuilder.com and ratedpeople.com – all offer a platform for builders to prove their reliability and basic competence and for their customers to leave comments stating their approval or disapproval of the workmen.

Talk to the builder throughout the project, keep track of progress and make notes of any payments made or changes agreed upon. If paying in cash – which should be discouraged – insist on official receipts and file them safely.

Make sure you have full contact details for your builder – with just a mobile number it is all too easy for him to simply change phones and vanish.

Before agreeing on one contractor, get three written estimates from different companies to get an idea of what a reasonable price for the job would be.


As previously mentioned, don’t pay cash. It is too easy for a cowboy to vanish with your hard earned money if you do.

Don’t accept too low an offer – if it seems too good to be true; it is!

In 2011 OFT received 64 780 complaints about cowboy builders, and Consumer Direct slightly more at 70 000, however it is a fact that cowboy builders make up a tiny minority of the builders out there waiting to do a competent reasonably-priced job in a decent timeframe. The trick lies in avoiding those scam artists who will work harder to gain money dishonestly than most people do at their paid employment!

Kris Bannister is a blogger and writer for Thomson Local – online business directory.