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  • Writer's pictureCliff L'Aimable _Chartered Surveyor & Building Engineer

Cowboy builders -how to avoid them

Updated: Jan 15, 2023

Avoiding Cowboy builders a blog by Building Control Surveyors Corporate Approved Inspector
Avoiding Cowboy builders

The first steps

The first step is usually to design your project and ideally, you will need the help of an experienced professional, such as an architect, surveyor or engineer.

If you follow this route they will normally submit the building regulations application on your behalf.

Make an application to us at (get a fee quote first), then submit your plans for checking. Then use the checked plans to carry out your work.

In general for large building extensions, we would recommend a Plans Certificate route for your own peace of mind – but you must take into account that your builder must follow and use the materials specified on your plans if these have been given a Plans Certificate.

Our surveyors will check your plans when submitted to confirm they meet the current building regulations.

If they don’t, you or your agent will be advised of what work is needed to achieve compliance.

Your builder:

1. Obtain clear building quotes in writing and sign a contract that clearly defines a start, a mid-point and an end point (at least 3 stages), then do not part with your money until each of these stages has started or is well underway. Check if any VAT is payable.

2. Obtain at least 3 quotes from fully insured builders. Only obtain building quotes based upon your design plans that are building regulation compliant so as to avoid any shocking increases in costs.

3. Make sure you get a single point of contact with your contractor (e..g Project manager or Foreperson) , then make sure you hold at least weekly meetings to assure yourself that the work is maintaining progress and meeting target deadlines.

4. Make sure you verify your builders trading address (say from Companies House - Webcheck). If the builder is not listed ask why not.

5. Never pay large deposits i.e. 50% up front in cash for instance ! We find that successfully established contractors with good cash flow and cash reserves will not pressurise you for large amounts of deposit money upfront.

6. Make sure you go out and check the previous work of your prospective contractor, obtain references, and inspect some of their completed work. Ask if he has been third party checked and registered with say Checkatrade, Federation of Master Builders etc

Then once you start work on site, our surveyor will call to inspect the work as it progresses once you arrange that appointment.

Please note our surveyors are not your project managers nor do they check your work daily like a Clerk of Works would do.

It is your builder’s responsibility to ensure our building control office is contacted for inspection at critical stages of your build, and this will generally be explained fully in correspondence in the contracts with us (in our service plan). As a building owner, you should check that your builder is making appointments with our office.

Important stages

The start and final inspection stages of the work are particularly important and should be carried out before your builder leaves the site.

You need to get from your contractor:

a. Copies of all warranties for any installations fitted

b. Obtain copies of operating manuals

c. Obtain all keys and access arrangements for any doors, or shutters fitted.

d. Obtain for instance copies of any electrical, gas, glazing performance and or safety test outcomes before they leave your site.

(Your Final Certificate is the document which helps to confirm that the work inspected met the building regulations and it will be needed should you sell or remortgage your property in the future.)

As always do not hesitate in contacting our office if you need further advice in these matters.

For building regulation approvals get a fee quote from tel: 01992 710 763 Email:


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