There’s no denying that renovations and home improvements can be a very exciting time. After all, our homes are our castles and we work hard to make sure that we have somewhere lovely and welcoming in which to live… which is why it’s so absolutely vital that you do due diligence and as much research as you can when it comes to choosing the firm to carry out the installation of sash windows in your London house, or whatever other work you’ve decided upon.
If you’re questioning whether this is really all that necessary, have a read of this article on the Independent website about a couple who sadly hired some cowboy builders to do work on their house – only to find that they took over their home while they were on holiday, sleeping in their beds, having parties, subscribing to Sky Sports and using the side of the £250,000 house as a toilet.
Delia and Mick Cunningham came home from holiday to find that the rogue traders had also made a mess of the £34,000 renovation job, as well as effectively moving into their house. Upon their return, they discovered that all their food had been eaten and there were empty vodka bottles littering the kitchen.
They had spent thousands of pounds bringing the builders in to do the work on their three-bed property in Hardingstone, Northamptonshire, with the plan being to carry out structural repairs so they could sell the house and relocate to Anglesey in order to be closer to their son.
They were quoted £34,600 by the firm in question to replace the brickwork and guttering, insulate the walls and fit new foundations. They were told the work would take five weeks to finish so they went to stay with their son while the builders were in – but when they came back, they returned to a ruined house.
The work began back in February and seven months on, the property is still a building site, with a second company brought in to finish it also leaving it half-done.
Ms Cunningham said: “The place was a tip. These two labourers, who we think might have been homeless, were living here and they didn’t realise we would be back. The worst thing is they had been sleeping in our bed. They had used the food out of the fridge and cupboard.
“We found cooked food in all the pots and pans and some was stored in the fridge. It was everywhere, even in the garden. The two men had even watched pay-per-view items on our Sky subscription. They had disconnected the gas so we had no hot water or heating. But they had managed to find two electric heaters and our blankets and had really made themselves at home.”
How to spot a cowboy builder
To help you avoid finding yourself in a similar situation, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the signs of a cowboy builder so you can steer well clear and not waste your time or money. Here are some indications that the firm you’re looking at isn’t above board.
#1 Being in a rush to do the job
If someone seems too keen to get the work done quickly, it’s likely that they won’t do a good job. Likewise, be nervous of anyone who regularly leaves the site early before the work has been completed.
#2 Asking to be paid in cash
Never pay for anything in cash and be suspicious of anyone who asks to be paid in this way. Cash payments mean you will find it hard to sort out any problems with the work after the builders have left. Also never pay for any work before it’s all been completed, or you could find that the builders simply don’t return to finish the job.
#3 Very cheap quotes
Remember that if something seems too good to be true, it’s because it probably is. Yes, of course you want your home improvement projects to be as cost-effective as possible but if someone offers you an incredibly cheap quote, it’s likely because you’ll have to fork out for hidden costs later on or because they don’t intend to do a good job.
Always seek at least three quotes for every job that needs doing, so you can contrast and compare, and make sure that you’re getting a fair price.
#4 Refusal to sign a contract
Never do any work with any company if they refuse to sign a contract or give you any paperwork whatsoever. This will mean you don’t have any hard copies to provide proof in a legal context if something happens.
#5 Not being VAT registered
No reputable building company would work without being VAT registered so always check this out before enlisting the services of a tradesman or firm.
#6 Doorstep calls
Always be wary of someone knocking on your door unannounced, telling you that they’ve been looking at your house and can see that there is work that needs to be done. Chances are they’re just looking to make a fast buck – and they may not even do any work at all, simply running off with your money at the first opportunity they can get.
How to find a reliable builder
It can be quite daunting looking for the right kind of builder to do the work you need doing, with so much choice out there these days, but there are ways to make the process easier for yourself. Here are some top tips from us here at Box Sash Windows.
#1 Word of mouth
Speak to friends and family in your local area to see if they can recommend anyone to do the work you need doing. This will help give you real peace of mind that you’re hiring a qualified and professional building company, and will also give you the opportunity to go and see the work that they’ve done for yourself before you hire them.
#2 Read online reviews
Another great way to find out the truth about building companies is to read up on other people’s experiences with them – and you’re sure to find all sorts of reviews online, so do spare the time to have a look.
#3 Use tradesman websites
There are numerous sites out there that allow you to search for reliable builders, such as Rated People, with ratings based on feedback from customers – so the higher the rating, the better the job. There’s also TrustMark, which is a government-supported tradesperson scheme that features vetted traders.
It’s a sad fact of the world we live in that there are people out there looking to take advantage of others but as long as you remember this and are suspicious, you should be able to hire a professional firm without too much trouble at all. And, of course, if you have any questions regarding window refurbishment or installation, get in touch with us today.