How to avoid cowboy tradesmen

Many of the energy saving solutions we talk about on TheGreenAge involve doing some sort of work to your property or business – while some of these are easy DIY solutions, some require the help of a professional tradesman.

A good tradesman can be an absolute godsend, but how do you know that the tradesman you are going to be bringing into your home is not only trustworthy but also competent to carry out the work? After all, a dishonest or incompetent cowboy tradesman can cost homeowners a huge amount of money and time. In this article we want to share a few of our tips to ensure that you get the best people in for the job!

Tip 1 – Always go by a recommendation

People always talk about knowing a ‘great plumber or electrician’ – in our experience personal recommendation is one of the best ways to ensure you avoid cowboy tradesmen. If you are looking to replace your boiler or windows and one of your neighbours or friends has just carried out similar works then ask them if the person they used was any good. If they start singing the praises of their chosen contractor then chances are you should be okay!

If you are looking to get some unique work done, the best way to get your own recommendation is to speak to some previous customers of the installer. Ideally it is worth meeting these people in person to see the quality of their work, as it is relatively easy for the tradesman to give phone numbers of friends that have been prepped on what exactly to say. If you see the works for yourself then that should ensure that they are telling the truth.

Tip 2 – Qualifications often prove competence

There are lots of different qualifications and accreditations that builders can go through which demonstrate competence. In some cases, qualifications are a must – for example anyone working with gas must be on the Gas Safe register. A builder should be happy to provide evidence of any certificates they hold – so always ask to see them!

Tip 3 – Be very specific specifying the works you want carried out

If you want works carried out, ensure you know exactly what the works are and try as best you can to specify them. The internet is a fantastic tool to help householders do the necessary research before carrying out any work. If you tell a boiler engineer you are looking to install a new boiler for example – you need to specify the type of boiler and the manufacturer – otherwise they can pretty much install whatever they want on your wall (i.e. a lower cost boiler) but keep the price the same thereby making larger profits.

Tip 4 – Agree the price of the job before starting any works

It may sound daft to start works before agreeing a final price – but it happens more than you think. The tradesman verbally says the job will cost XYZ and then they sting you with extras and unforeseen additional costs. A cowboy builder might be highly competent but they might see an opportunity to take their client for a ride over cost. Avoid cowboy tradesmen by agreeing all works in written form that you can hold them too.

Tip 5 – Pick installers who specifically carry out the works you want

As the saying goes, Jack of all trades, master of none. Occasionally we come across tradesmen who claim to be able to do everything – which on the face of it sounds great. In reality, it tends to mean that their experience with specific technologies is far lower. From their point of view, it allows them to be able to capture a large customer base because they cover everything, but we would recommend bringing in specialists.

Tip 6 – Minimise upfront payments

Never, ever pay for the entirety of a job before anything starts – the lower the deposit you need to pay before works start the better, since there is more money left on the job so you have more control over the tradesman. Always retain 30% of the cost of the job to be paid on completion – this will ensure that the job is finished and it should also help the job is completed to your satisfaction.

A final thought….

It is worth mentioning that some installers will have an off day from time to time. While 99 jobs out of 100 may be perfect, there might be one job that goes less well. Unfortunately, it could be yours.  Most tradesmen will come back and ensure they remedy anything the homeowner is not happy with. If they are worth their salt, they will rectify all works until the customer is completely satisfied.

Think we missed something? Do you have a different opinion?

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