How to Spot a Cowboy Builder

Attic Conversions

We’ve all seen TV programs and documentaries about cowboy builders – those tradespeople setting out to make a quick buck by exploiting the vulnerable and trusting; plumbers who have apparently never seen water in their lives, or central heating engineers with a habit of causing dangerous gas leaks. Loft conversions and home extensions are also popular terrain for cowboy builders, and being able to spot one before they take your money is the best way to protect against shoddy workmanship and an empty wallet.

There is a fine line between a cowboy builder who is merely a bad or lazy tradesman (usually both) just acting the part, and an all-out thief who has little intention of actually carrying out the work they charge for. It is far easier to be caught out by a cowboy, so if you’re planning a loft conversion or home extension soon, follow these useful tips for spotting a builder who’s all talk and no action…

Things to watch out for:

  • Cowboy builders are renowned for drumming up trade with forceful door-to-door sales calls, aggressively dismissing the talents of local rival companies and insisting that you need work carrying out that you probably don’t. Be wary of doorstep pitches.
  • If you hire a contractor that suggests beginning work without getting proper clearance or planning permission from the relevant local authorities, it could indicate a cowboy desperate to get in and out with the cash as soon as possible. It also pays to be suspicious of anyone who says they can start straight away, as a good builder is usually a busy builder!
  • Look for a builder that offers a complete service that includes survey, design, construction and finishing of your loft conversion? Not only is this convenient and cost-effective, it also shows that they don’t specialise in individual areas that could be done on the cheap and without the need for accreditation, as a cowboy might.
  • Are you offered a fully itemised quote with no ‘hidden extras’ or admin costs and the like? If not, you could end up with some unexpected bills down the line for work that was not needed or even completed in some cases.
  • Does the contractor provide a guarantee or warranty for the work and materials offered? This protects against shoddy workmanship and cheaply sourced building supplies. Similarly, are the builders insured against accidents whilst performing the work?
  • Even small things like a company address with a landline phone number provide reassurance – if the only contact details you are given is a mobile number, proceed with caution!
  • Do they insist on being paid in cash, or offer you a discount for cash-in-hand payments? Any contractor that cannot provide a business account for payments immediately raises doubt.
  • If a builder starts to over-emphasise the scale of the work, trying to confuse you with technical terms and embellished language, it should start the alarm bells ringing in your head.

Things to consider:

  • Ask to see accreditations: are the builders working on your loft members of the Federation of Master Builders? This will guarantee a certain high standard of product and workmanship. Other associations, such as Fairtrades and Trustmark, may also indicate reliability.
  • Request references from past customers, particularly regarding projects similar to the one you wish to carry out.
  • It helps to get estimates from at least three different builders. Not only does this give you a good idea of the realistic cost of the work, it also gives you bargaining power.
  • Where possible, use a written contract that specifies everything from agreed price of the work to timescale and methods of waste disposal, and do not pay for the job in full before it has been completed.

LMB Lofts:

Why not bypass the risk of encountering a cowboy builder altogether, and come straight to the trusted professionals at LMB Loft Conversions. Our team of expert builders have the skill and experience to take on any project, and all hold full accreditation from a number of relevant sources, including TrustA Trader and the Association of Master Tradesman, as well as being registered Velux suppliers.

We provide first rate loft conversions, dormer conversions, bedroom conversions and garage extensions, all at highly competitive rates and with fixed quotations that include no additional extras.

Our website also includes a number of glowing testimonials about past work, giving you an idea of the standard of work we carry out, so avoid those dodgy cowboys and get in touch with the team at LMB today!


Keeping Your Loft Room Dry

Millions of homes across the UK have had a loft conversion, providing them with handy extra space. It can come as a real revelation to see the transformative effect a loft conversion can have on a home, and you don’t realise until the work’s been completed just how much potential the attic space of a house can actually have. Whether you’re looking to use it as an additional living space, a bedroom or a study, a loft conversion can make a world of difference to any home. Having said that, taking good care of your newly-converted attic is important and there may be some problems that occur from time to time – the important thing is to be prepared for them.

Some householders report damp problems in their converted attic room. It may take several years for these issues to emerge, but all the same it’s important to be prepared for them. If you spend thousands of pounds on having your loft converted, the last thing you’ll want is for it to be damaged by damp. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the potential causes of damp problems in converted lofts and how you might go about fixing them when they do appear.

Damp – and associated problems, such as mould – are caused by a mixture of wet and cold weather, and are more likely to appear in areas which are poorly ventilated. Where there is poor ventilation, excess moisture can often become trapped, and there you have the beginnings of a damp problem. In order to ensure your loft is protected from damp, take a look around and try to find whether there are any potential sources of trouble. Water leaking in through a loose roof slate or a blocked gutter can soon cause damp and mould, so be aware of this.

It’s also important to make sure that your loft’s damp proof course is sufficiently robust and offers proper protection against excess moisture. It’s worth recruiting an expert to check your damp proof course to ensure that it isn’t compromised in any way. Buying a dehumidifier can help to clear chronic damp problems, and you should be able to buy a good dehumidifier for less than £200. In addition to excess moisture, damp problems can occur where home improvement work has been carried out without allowing it to dry out properly beforehand.

Make sure that your loft is properly insulated, as this can go some way to reducing the risk of damp. Cavity wall insulation, as well as making your home generally more energy efficient, can offer some protection against damp and the various associated problems. You should also bear in mind that damp can occur when items are crammed into a loft space, as this hampers the flow of air and makes it more difficult to clear excess moisture. It’s easy to forget about this sort of thing when you’ve just had a loft conversion done and you’re excited about your new space, but by thinking ahead you can ensure you get the most out of your converted attic.

Janice Lincoln is a freelance writer who specialises in ways to improve your home such as a loft conversion or even a garage conversion.