Advice for homeowners


Meet your
FENSA Advisor

This is Harry.

You might recognise him from our TV ad.

Harry works for a FENSA Approved installation company. He's on a mission to help professionalise installers and protect homeowners across the UK, so he started this advice column.

How to avoid the cowboy builder

The issue of cowboy builders is an important one and can never be understated.


Although the majority of tradespeople offer a great, professional service, you need to be aware of a small minority who are unskilled and can act in a criminal manner.


If unwittingly, you become involved with a cowboy builder, you could find yourself left with a very poor job. You could also find yourself out of pocket or even threatened in extreme circumstances. This is why it is prudent to take precautions to ensure you are dealing with a bona fide tradesperson.


Schemes such as FENSA, where registered companies are vetted and regularly inspected, ensure when you use them, you can be confident you will receive a competent, professional job.


FENSA proactively protects consumers from the cowboys - not only by withholding the scheme from those unable to pass FENSA's independent assessments; but also by reporting to Local Authorities and Trading Standards companies who erroneously claim FENSA registration, to enable prosecution. A Builder was recently fined for displaying misleading information on his van.


So, let's see how to avoid a cowboy builder.


Here is a useful check list:


Is his van unmarked?


Wrong: Most reputable builders will have their accreditations registered on their van. They would want to advertise their credentials. For example, a FENSA fitter will have the FENSA logo on his van with his registration number, which you can use to check he is legitimate.


Has he asked for full cash payment up front?


Wrong: A reputable builder will discuss payment with you and get it down in writing so you know exactly where you stand.


Do you know anything about the builder and his previous work?


Wrong: It is far better to get a recommendation from friends or family who have been happy with the service they have received from their builder. Or you could ask to speak to their previous customers and take a look at the work they did for them.


Does he want to get started straight away?


Wrong: This could be a sign he will start many jobs around your area then just disappear with your money and the work unfinished. Make sure you have the business address and landline number. Although, if he is a cowboy builder, it will more than likely be impossible to track him down.


So, try to follow these tips and you can help put an end to the cowboy builder. Take a step back and analyse exactly what you want. Do some research, take advice from friends and colleagues. Don't rush in to decisions. If possible, get 2 or 3 quotes from recommended builders. Make an informed decision!


Avoid Cowboy Builders with FENSA Approved Installers

Choose to work with FENSA Approved Installers for a compliant window or door installation in line with Building Regulations that uses energy efficient products. If you are unsure if your chosen fitter is registered with FENSA, a simple check could be the answer. You can find FENSA Approved Installers online when you search by postcode or company name. 

When you work with an Approved Installer, they will be able to self-certify when the job is done. This means you will receive a FENSA certificate at the end of the process, as evidence that the work was completed in line with Building Regulations, registered with local authorities and using energy efficient products. If you aren't going to receive this, you will have to go to lengths and expense to register this yourself. 

For more advice about how to avoid cowboy builders or find the right improvements for your home, explore our website. We regularly publish articles about choosing the right products and installers, so you can feel more confident that you are making the right choice for your home. 

Social media

What to check before appointing an installer

Check that you use a FENSA Approved Installer but also check the following:

  • Ask family and friends who have used installers about their satisfaction and whether they got a FENSA certificate.
  • Check the installer's references by talking to their previous customers.
  • Get at least three quotes and check you are being quoted like for like.
  • Cheapest is not always best and good contractors are always in demand.
  • Get quotes, timeframes and the fact that you will get a FENSA certificate all in writing. A proper written contract with an agreed completion date will help prevent confusion later on
  • Check the warranty on the installer's work and ensure they have enough insurance to cover their warranty. Domestic glazing installers that are registered with a competent person scheme like FENSA are legally obliged to provide warranty insurance to cover your installation should the company cease to trade within the life of the warranty.
A GGF Group Company