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How to Spot a Cowboy

If you are not lucky enough to be talented in the DIY department or do not know anyone who has the skill set that is needed to compete for a task, then you may find yourself looking for a professional tradesman. No matter if you find the tradesman on the internet, spot them on a leaflet or you have been given their number from a friend, you may find yourself wondering, can I trust them?

The answer to this question will usually be yes, but haunting stories of cowboys and the situations they leave people in having to lead the public to be cautious. And why should you be these they come into our homes promising to do work that we have put money aside for, but end up never finishing the work, not doing a good job or even running off with our money! But we are here to tell you that there are good, honest, professional tradesmen out that you can trust to complete a job.

To help you pick out the professionals we have conducted a list of tell-tale traits that will help you spot a cowboy.

1. Are they unwilling to provide you with any references?

If you ask any type of tradesman for references and they don’t have any or are unwilling to provide you with them, this should ring alarm bells! All tradesmen should have some type of reference whether it’s a phone number of a former client, a review or a picture of previous work.

The power of the internet made it harder for cowboy builders to get work. This is due to sites such as and, which allow customers to rate builders and their work. So if you aren’t given any references we suggest you google the company to see what others have to say about the company. But remember to try not focus on any negative reviews if the majority are positive as these reviews could possibly be from competitors.

2. Are their quotes considerably cheaper than others?

If a tradesman offers you a price that seems too good to be true from some work that needs doing, then it is probably a Cowboy. They offer these extremely cheap quotes to help them get the job, this then tends to end in them asking for more money or completing the work to an unacceptable standard. They may also be offering a cheap price as they are simply too inexperienced to understand the true cost of labour and the material that will be needed to complete the job.

We suggest that when getting any work done on your home or garden you obtain multiple quotes, as this will help you spot and tradesmen that may be cowboys or that are over charging. These quotes tend to be free, meaning you can get as many as you like until you feel confident with how much the work should be costing.

3. Do they seem business savvy?

When any professional is trained to the correct standard they should be knowledgeable and confident with the topic they are talking about. This also applies for tradesmen, they should be able to answer any question you have about the work you will be paying them to complete. If they seem unsure or unable to answer these questions you may have a Cowboy on your hands.

This is again why getting the tradesmen round to do a free no obligation quote is a great idea, as it provides the opportunity for a range of questions to be asked. Ask them questions about what they plan to do, why they are doing it and why the pricing is the way it is. While they are answering these questions, you should also be asking yourself questions, such as do they sound like they know what they are talking about and have they given you timescales that seem reasonable.

4. Have they asked for all the money upfront?

When it comes to any business where you receive a quote before any work the standard procedure is not to pay all the money upfront. Normally you will only pay a deposit before the work starts which is usually to cover the cost of materials which will be needed to complete a job.

If you are asked to pay all the quotes price up front then try asking why, or suggest to just pay a deposit.

5. What is your gut feeling?

If you have completed all of the above steps and still are not sure whether to hire the person, then our last suggestion would be to trust your gut! Sometimes we just get the feeling that something isn’t right. If you get this feeling about a builder, plumber or any tradesman trust it! You will only blame yourself if you don’t and things start to go wrong.