Top Tips on How to Beat ‘Cowboy Builders’

Whenever you invest in improving your home finding reputable tradesmen to undertake the work is of prime concern – or you could end up losing cash rather than adding value to your property. And there are still plenty of ‘cowboys’ out there ready to take advantage of unsuspecting householders, as Dominic Littlewood and Melinda Messenger uncovered in their recent Channel Five TV series ‘Cowboy Builders’.

Hot on the heels of an episode featuring a botched loft conversion that left a family distraught and in danger, the West Midlands’ leading loft conversion specialist, Buckley Loft Conversions, shares its tips on how to avoid getting caught out by the bad guys and ensure your garage or loft conversion is the sound investment it should be.

Prevention is better than cure

John Davies, MD of Cannock-based Buckley Loft Conversions, which has been building garage and loft conversions across the Midlands for over twenty years says:

[pullquote_right] “Over the years we’ve been called in to help numerous families who’ve been left high and dry by cowboy builders. And the results of poor workmanship – particularly with loft conversions – can be devastating and, in addition to causing much stress and heartache, be downright dangerous. “As with everything, prevention is better than cure – putting a botched job right can often end up costing the customer far more than getting the job done properly in the first place. To help ensure you don’t get caught out, we’ve compiled a checklist of things to look for – and ask contractors – before giving them your garage or loft conversion job.”…John Davies (Managing Director)[/pullquote_right]

John’s top tips…..

  • Look for a contractor that’s a member of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB); other trade memberships to look out for are Fairtrades and Trustmark, all of which mean the company has been independently vetted and has signed an agreement to provide a quality service and end product.
  • Contractors may suggest starting work on a Building Notice which is acceptable but, in inexperienced hands, can lead to problems due to the drawings not being approved by the Local Authority. Although the construction could quickly start, it could become protracted if unforeseen problems appear that have not been taken into account with the Local Authority. This could result in alterations to the conversion and additional costs incurred.
  • Don’t confuse a low price with value – lower quotes often equate to a lower standard of work.
  • Check credentials of companies and ask for references from satisfied customers.
  • Find out exactly what’s included in the quote – does it cover everything from design and materials to labour and finishing? A good contractor should provide a price that will cover the entire job, so there will be no ‘nasty surprises’.
  • Look for a contractor that provides a complete service, from survey through to design, construction, fitting and finishing – it will save you the hassle, and expense, of employing an architect or separate contractors for jobs like plumbing and plastering.
  • Ask how they propose to carry out the conversion – work should be done from the outside of the house; minimising disruption to family life. If they say they plan to access the work space from inside, look elsewhere.
  • Find out what insurance the contractor has – they should be fully insured, including Public Liability and Employers Liability; ask to see Certification.
  • Do they have a guarantee or warranty? Any firm worth its salt should be confident enough in the quality of its work to offer a good warranty. Look out for a 5 year construction guarantee and the option to have a Government-backed Masterbuilders Masterbond 10 year warranty.

For more information and advice on garage and loft conversions or to arrange a free, no-obligation survey for your home anywhere in the West Midlands, Staffordshire or Shropshire call Buckley Loft Conversions on 0800 136 152.

Case Study:

One victim of cowboy builders that Buckley Loft Conversions is presently helping is Mrs Lyall, who wanted to add space to her Birmingham home to accommodate her extended family.

However, instead of gaining the space she expected, she was left devastated by the mess that the company originally employed to convert the loft made of her home. Having taken a significant sum of money in relation to the amount of work done, they had also caused significant stress to the family – rain was leaking into bedrooms making the situation very difficult, especially with her son’s two young children living in the house. Mrs Lyall decided to take action, calling Buckley Loft Conversions in to assess the situation.

[pullquote_right]“Buckley really have saved the day – we were living in a situation that was very dangerous, especially with two young children in the house. We have been very impressed with the professionalism and high standard of workmanship provided by Buckley – I only wish we’d used them in the first place!” …Mrs Lyall, B65[/pullquote_right]
MD John visited the Lyalls to assess the work done to date, and was shocked by the sub-standard quality of the workmanship. Not only had the job been undertaken on a Building Notice, rather than once plans had been fully approved, but there were significant flaws evident throughout the conversion. Unsafe scaffolding, incorrectly fitted Velux windows, a floor installed too high (so not maximising ceiling height), and the fact that work was carried out from inside the house rather than from outside, causing inconvenience to the family, are just a few examples of the bad methods employed.

The Buckley team immediately made secure the conversion and provided the Lyalls with a written assessment of the situation and a cost to complete the job. Once agreed, Buckley started work less than two weeks after the initial visit.

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