How to spot cowboy builders

Who are Cowboy Builders & How to Spot Them

Have a look at these 10+ traits of a cowboy builder and bad contractors. Read to post to discover tips to avoid them and make sure that your work gets completed by trusted and professional builders only.

Don’t let your dream of a new home extension or a designer kitchen or bathroom renovation, transpire into a nightmare by letting the project go in the hands of cowboy builders!

These bad contractors are like gold speculators promising you EL-Dorado and pots of gold, only to leave you in a high and dry along with a severe emotional, mental and financial turmoil.

Unnecessary delays, baseless excuses, spiralling costs and shoddy jobs that require continuous rework are some typical traits when a cowboy builder is hired for the services.

Don’t let these convincing cowboy builders ruin your dream home.

At the end of this post, you will be able to spot a cowboy builder from a mile away and learn some effective tips to save yourself from the headache and chaos that they leave in their trail.

Who Are Cowboy Builders

The word “cowboy builder” originates from cowboys who were known to be reckless and unreliable. A cowboy builder is a builder that possesses no proper training or qualification and delivers low-standard projects.

A bad builder with little or no qualifications, who competes with honest builders, provides shoddy work, charges ridiculously low (too good to be true) prices, and lacks proper business sense or etiquette.

How to Spot a Cowboy Builders – 10+ Signs a Contractor is a Cowboy Builders

Apart from having no formal or proper training, cowboy builders are ignorant of the relevant building regulations and standards.

In fact, they even leave the clients unsatisfied with low-standard and shoddy work, charge ridiculous prices, and lastly, do not follow regular, legitimate business procedure.

Here are 10+ traits that show you are dealing with a cowboy builder/bad contractor.

1. Tells You about Work They’ve Done but Won’t Give You a Reference

When a builder is cagey about referrals or changes the subject when you bring up the issue of past jobs and fails to share you contacts that you can reach out to, are few signs that you just met a bad contractor.

A reputable builder will be glad to furnish you with references that you can contact and a portfolio of previous work done.

A builder who refuses to show you their CV or grant access to their satisfied customers is shady.

2. Quotes and Estimates are Invitingly Low

If a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is (except the gospel). Make sure to get two to three quotes before making any commitment.

However, a cowboy builder will rush you into making a decision, and will sometimes defend their low prices by telling you they just finished a project in your neighbourhood and have some materials left, hence the low price.

3. Wants Payment Upfront

A reputable builder will receive a down payment from you and go–ahead to finish the project before asking you for full payment (usually 15% upfront) or be paid based on agreed progress and stages.

If the builder asks you for full payment, and won’t let you know how long the project will take, such builder, is a con artist and has no plan to complete your project satisfactorily.

4. Doesn’t Want to Sign/Give You a Contract

As a thumb rule, always get a contract in writing and ensure you have a legally binding contract stating everything about the agreement, from materials to quotes, duration of projects and payment terms.

Where you don’t have a contract, you are at the mercy of these guys and could either end up paying more or have an incomplete project.

5. Doesn’t Work By the Books

If the builder insists on being paid cash, refusing to pay VAT and won’t give you a proper quote, you are in the presence of a cowboy builder.

Legitimate businesses operate by the book. If they are willing to cheat on taxes, that’s evidently a red flag to watch out for.

You shouldn’t pay with cash because you can’t get your money back if there is a problem, but with a credit card, you are protected to a certain extent.

6. You can’t find a Registered Business Address

If you can’t find a registered address or a landline number to call such that the builder keeps reaching you and makes it almost impossible for you to contact them, that’s a red light right there.

Work with reputable organisations that you can get when you have a complaint, not the one who is there until you make payment and then runs off.

7. Workforce Keeps Changing

If the people you see today are not the same as those you meet the next day, you are dealing with a shoddy builder for sure.

Before making any commitment, ask them what type of tradesmen will be on the site; if they are contractors or part of the team. If they are independent contractors, you need to ask who is responsible for managing the project; else, you are in trouble.

As a general rule, always work with a full-service building firm that doesn’t outsource any part of the project and has a fully seasoned in-house team to do your work. It’s for your safety both financially and mentally.

8. Keeps Appearing and Disappearing

In the course of the project, the builder keeps appearing and disappearing for hours, chances are they working on another project along with yours.

One of two things can happen. Either your project is abandoned for a period costing you more money, or they vanish into thin air completely, leaving your renovation project without a roof.

9. Faults and Jobs Just Keep Coming Up

Unexpected challenges will indeed pop up in a construction site, that is why legitimate builders have contingency budgets for.

Cowboy builders will keep coming up with problems that need fixing and offer to get it done for a nominal fee, stretching your patience and wallet.

70% of homeowners said they overspent their budget by over 30% when carrying out a renovation.

10. Has No Knowledge of the Building Regulations

One of the worst accidents in the UK’s history, the Grenfell Tower fire, happened because a cowboy builder decided to reduce the quality of the building materials. The contractor in charge of the project had no knowledge of the building regulation and safety codes.

Having a builder who operates with the highest standard is critical if you want a structurally sound home built to last.

11. Doesn’t bothers about health and safety

Bad builders are least bothered about taking precautions. A slight negligence could lead to injury and severe health hazards to all the people involved that includes you as well.

And being the homeowner, you will be liable too for anyone who gets injured while working at your place.

Question them about everything they know about best building practices so that no damage occurs and you stay well informed.

12. Always on your door

Bad builders always keep standing at your door and are desperate to take up your work. They keep on knocking and poking you again and again till you give them the work.

Plus, a little background verification will reveal that they have been working under different names and are reluctant in sharing their personal details.

Tips to get rid of cowboy builders: The solution

Tips to get rid of cowboy builders

You need to spend equal time and energy in finding a good and professional builder in the same way you approach while hiring an employee.

After’ll, you home is the most important aspect of your life!

Let’s have a look at some smart ways to get rid of cowboy builders or bad contractors.

1. Multiple Quotes

Getting a quotation and estimates from multiple contractors help you get the reality check.

Make sure to get a signed contract that clearly mentions the estimated costs and project timelines.

2. Get things in written

A professional builder will always discuss your needs and requirements before making the quotation. The estimates are always shared in written format either digitally or in a hard copy.

3. Understand what you’re paying for

Make sure that the agreement covers each and everything you are paying for.

An ideal and good builder will include a proper break-up of things what they’ll be doing at that price to avoid future hassles and miscommunications.

If you’re unable to settle for a fixed price, try limiting the areas that hold a scope where prices could be a concern. Try to get a written agreement from builder that if any extra work is required, you’ll be informed before starting.

4. Choose a busy Contractor

If any contractor is cold calling – beware they’re not genuine. Unlike cowboy builders, reputed and ethical builders are always busy.

Professional builders don’t have time to keep on banging your doors and poke you to get into contract.

5. Judge by appearance

A genuine and trusted builder or contractor would be dressed smartly and look professional. Unlike the bad builders, the vans would be properly branded and marked with their company name or logo.

6. Check qualifications and registration

Make sure that the builder you are hiring is a member of a professional body and is registered.

This automatically adds to the credibility of the builder and makes sure that your home is in safe hands.

7. Go with personal recommendations

The best way to avoid a cowboy builder is to get recommendations from your family, friends, colleagues etc. As they have already worked with the builder, the chances are conning are negligible.

You can explore websites or search engines for best and trusted builders. Look out for testimonials, ratings and reviews on various platforms.

But, you need to be very diligent as the website can be fake or would have been built in just a matter of few hours. The best way to check the legibility of the website is to see how old it is.

There are all possible reasons to be sceptical about a new website rather than a one which is a decade old.

8. Always pay on completion

It’s imperative that paying the entire money upfront multi-folds the chances of builder running away and getting conned.

To ensure that the delivered quality meets your expectations, always pay post completion.

A good and reputed builder has sufficient funds and is able to bear the expenses even if it doesn’t charges a single penny from you.

There is no harm in giving a small percentage of the full amount as upfront money but paying in full rings the alarm bell.


TEL Constructions-UK’s most Trusted and Reputed Builders

Cowboy builders can destroy a house project, cost you tones of money and steal your peace and mental sanctity.

TEL Constructions is the UK’s most trusted and reputed builder well-known to deliver high-quality projects backed with true professionalism and 100% genuineness.

Our 10 years of legacy and huge client base is a valid proof of our phenomenal success. Our in-house team of certified designers, seasoned workmen, engineers and logistics make us stand unprecedented in the construction industry.

Planning to renovate your home or building from scratch?

Reach out to us for the best quote and a free site visit today!