In a previous article, we went through the process that should ensure you find a contractor who is reputable and can offer guarantees that are worth the paper they are written on (see Using Professionals For Work On Your Driveway. In this article, we focus more on the ways that you can spot the cowboys – the people who will do a poor quality job and don’t rectify it when you discover the faults.
Don’t Deal on the Doorstep
Never deal with anyone who just knocks on the door and offers to do your drive, just because they just happen to have some spare tarmac or concrete left over from a job down the road. This is a sure sign of cowboys, and even if they’re telling the truth about the work down the road, there’ll be no comeback if the job isn’t done well, because it will have been unofficial.
It’s more likely that it’s a ruse and they will have moved on before your drive has set properly, leaving you a mobile phone number that rings unobtainable and a driveway headache. You can usually get rid of these people by asking for written quotes, If they are reluctant, then you’ve probably identified some cowboys.
Beware of Scant Details
Speaking of mobile numbers, beware of people who will only give out a mobile number and seem reluctant to give out a landline number or an address. This means that they don’t have an office or a depot and, although many companies can be run from home perfectly legitimately, it’s unlikely that a competent driveway professional would be able to do so.
Keep an Eye Out
Keep an eye on the local press and local news websites as well. If there are gangs of cowboys in the area, then this is often reported. Some Trading Standards divisions will put notices in papers and on their own websites if there is something fishy going on in the area, but many others do not. Some will comment on names of firms who are under scrutiny, but again others will not. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be consistency across the UK.
If you are interested in a particular driveway product, ask the manufacturer or distributor for some recommendations. At the same time ask them what amount of effort they put into vetting members, and what guarantees they can offer if there are problems.
In our article about using professionals to do this work we stress that (as with any other job on the home) you should Get At Least Three Written Quotes and immediately dismiss any companies who won’t provide one. They’re cowboys or they aren’t interested in doing the work, and either way you don’t want them anywhere near your home.
Getting Quotes: Ask Difficult Questions
Assuming you’ve got to the point of seeing companies on your short list to get quotes and assess them, it’s time to ask the tricky questions. Are they members of any professional organisation? There isn’t any regulation of companies involved in controlling driveways and path building, but membership of a professional body at least means they have been in the same place for a while.
Real cowboys simply won’t bother with enrolling or they will say they have when they haven’t. So check with the trade body that they are actually registered, how long they have been members, and how stringent their vetting process is.
Ask about insurance and guarantees, too. They should have a minimum of one million pounds worth of public liability insurance. If you are asked to pay a deposit, it should be no more than 10% of the total quoted price and you should get a receipt.
Keep On Asking the Questions
Let’s face it, if cowboys really want to rip you off, there’s a lot they can do to make themselves and their business look genuine. But if you follow the advice in this article and our other one on selecting a professional driveway company, then the cowboys are more likely to be put off and go in search of easier prey.