1. NO VAT – Well, as you might have guessed the first warning sign is a request to be paid in cash with a promise on no VAT to be added. Legitimate businesses just don’t work like that. So avoid this guy immediately. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be making that offer yourself
  2. No reviews – Always check for reviews. A reputable company will have a review system set up which is monitored by an independent body such as Checkatrade. You can also check Google maps and search where you should find reviews, if you can’t find any reviews be very careful there could be a reason.
  3. No written quote or a badly written one – Just make sure you get a written quote and costing for the project. Get a time frame for each stage of the work, too. And if it doesn’t look professional. i.e. a computer printout or pdf document then walk away. Because a sloppy quote could mean a sloppy job.
  4. The low quote – Always get at least 3 written quotations. This will provide you with a sanity check. If you get a very low quote from one of the companies – be on your guard – especially if they want to start quickly. If you feel like a quote isn’t quite right always ask the question, any decent company will tender to your needs as a customer.
  5. The limited offer time close – If a company tries to pressure you into a decision by saying they can squeeze your project in before another big project starts, and that maybe they can give you a substantial discount to ‘keep the lads working’ – be wary. A good confidence trickster uses a time pressure close to hurry your decision making process, bypass your common sense and appeal to your own greed. A devastating combination.
  6. Do they have references? – Well nearly everyone does. So, my personal opinion is to take them all with a pinch of salt. Family members and friends will tell you anything. Unless you go around and spot visit the sites they are working on you can’t really be 100% sure here. But why not ask them to show you around a recent project? This is much harder to fake and a very reasonable request.
  7. A landline number – I am astonished at the amount of people who employ any tradesman – let alone a builder – who doesn’t have a landline number. Check on Google to see whether they have a physical address. If they don’t they have either just started out (so let them gain experience on someone else) or they are not a professional company. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying, they are not professional if they simply have a van and a mobile number. Walk away, this is not someone you should be employing on a flooring project.
  8. Wide boys and geezers – Yes, these clowns are still working in the industry. Immediately denigrating the work of other builder’s is a sure sign that you’re not dealing with a professional. If he is dirty, unkempt, in a dirty tracksuit, smells of fags or beer or tells you he’s just been working on site – he is not the man you’re looking for. Because quality builders have assessors and managers to meet their potential clients. Assessors and managers don’t get their hands dirty – but builders need managers and assessors. Someone has to organize materials to be delivered to site and be able to read schematics.
  9. Who does the installations? – If you are having your carpet installed by the retailer, this is an incredibly important question. Ask if the company uses its own installers or if it hires out sub-contractors.It is likely not a problem if a company uses sub-contractors, provided the company itself oversees the installations. Ideally, you book everything through the store itself, and contact the store staff if you have any problems. If the salesperson sells you the carpet and then hands you the phone number for the installer, or tells you the installer will contact you, back away (with your money). You may have no recourse if you have any difficulty with the installer, as the retailer may tell you the sub-contractor is a separate entity over which it has no control.
  10. Door to door sales – One really obvious way of spotting a cowboy company is when they come knocking on your door. Cold calling companies aren’t real companies. Good and reputable companies are always busy so they don’t have time to come asking you for work in this way

Any and all of the above should raise a red flag. Just take your time to make a decision and don’t allow anyone to pressure you. Use your common sense. Switch your middle class radar on – find someone like minded who shares the same values as you do.

If the company are members of a trade group – this can be a good sign. Also check that as cowboy building firms have been known to fake membership.  Some of the actual trade associations have no government backing or accreditation themselves. For example, the Painters and Decorators Association is run out of a house in Nuneaton. And I have never met anyone who couldn’t get a membership with them!

Finally – Good luck!