Avoiding the cowboys: How to hire a builder

Avoiding the cowboys: How to hire a builder

If you’re a homeowner, at some point you’re likely to need to hire a builder to carry out repairs or improvements. But with all the horror stories you read on the internet, the process can seem scary. How do you avoid the cowboys, and how do you make sure the work done is satisfactory? Here are some tips to help you hire and work with a builder.

Stay local

When you’re trying to find a builder to do some work for you, it can be tempting to cast a wide net, especially if those nearby are busy. But this isn’t recommended unless it’s someone you know or have hired before.

A local builder is easier to call back if issues arise or if you find further work to do. And they’re likely to be more willing to turn up. It can also be harder to check the reputation of someone who doesn’t live locally.

Don’t rush in

Taking time to do your research is key to successfully hiring a builder. Ideally, you want to choose someone with a good reputation, the right skills and plenty of experience.

A good way to start is to make a list of the local builders and building companies in your area. Then, check with family and friends, to see if they’ve used any of them and whether they’d recommend them. Builders may also have lots of online reviews from customers, which can help determine how good they are. They may also have their own website featuring case studies of work they have done in your area. Next, you can check to see if they’re members of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) for extra reassurance.

Now it’s time to narrow down your list. Some builders and building companies specialise or concentrate on certain jobs, such as renovations and extensions or maintenance and repairs. So, it can be handy to make a list of the jobs you want completing and see which builders on your shortlist are the best match. Looking at the descriptions on their listings and at previous jobs they’ve done should help with this.

Getting quotes

Once you have a shortlist of builders that you’re happy with, it’s time to contact them for quotes. Even if it’s just a small repair job, you want to get at least three quotes.

To make sure that the quotes you get are accurate and fair, invite your shortlisted builders around to assess the job and discuss your options with them. If there’s more than one way to complete a job, ask for separate quotes for each option. Also, ask for detailed quotes, as this makes it easier to compare costs and look for savings.

Sometimes quotes can seem a little excessive or too good to be true. You can check the average cost for most building jobs online, to get a feel for what’s fair. If quotes seem a little low, check that hidden costs such as scaffolding and skips are included.

If a builder says they’ll give you a cheap quote in exchange for cash up front, be very wary. This is a tactic frequently used by cowboys.

Working with a builder

Once you’ve found a builder, and you’ve received a quote that you’re happy with, you need to agree upon a start date. It’s rare that a builder will be able to start right away, so make sure you pin them down to a date, so you can prepare.

It’s also a good idea before they start work to check if you need to do anything such as move furniture or cars out of the way. If there are access or similar issues, make sure they’re aware of them. It’s also wise to check they have all the right paperwork in place. Your builder should have insurance to cover public liability and accidental damage and an insurance-backed guarantee, so the work they do is still covered even if they go out of business.

As you may have guessed by now, communication is a very important part of maintaining a good working relationship with your builder. Make sure you’re clear about what you want, and speak up straight away if you have any concerns. Keep an eye on progress, so you can be confident everything is moving along as you’d expect and that nothing is deviating from the agreed plan.


Home renovations you should never attempt alone (Unless you’re a trained professional)

Home renovations you should never attempt alone (Unless you’re a trained professional)

When it comes to home renovations, DIY approaches can be cost-effective and rewarding when done correctly. Unfortunately, there are some home renovations that you should never attempt alone. No matter how many YouTube videos you’ve watched or articles you’ve read, there are some situations where the stakes are simply too high and there’s potential for a major disaster to occur.

So, in this post, we’re going to explain what those types of renovations are and why you should always let a trained expert handle them.

Any structure-related work

The structure of your home is surprisingly delicate, and you could cause some serious damage if you’re not completely sure what you’re doing. Attempting to alter the structure, such as removing walls, could potentially damage your entire home and may cause upper floors to weaken or even collapse.

If you’re interested in structural home renovations, then you should always seek expert advice. Doing so will ensure that the structure of your home remains secure, giving you peace of mind and protecting you against a plethora of potential issues. Incorrect modifications and poor calculations will lead to catastrophic failures that will risk the integrity of your home.

Any work on your roof

Even if you have a friend or two to help you, we’d generally suggest not working on your roof unless you know what you’re doing.

The reason is that your roof is a dangerous place. There could be loose or weak tiles, you could have pests up there, and it could be slippery if the weather has been bad. If you lose concentration for even a moment when you’re on the roof, then you could potentially fall off, fall through the ceiling below and injure yourself.

Let a professional handle it instead. Don’t try to climb up your roof and perform your own renovation works. Instead, leave it up to the professionals who have all the proper safety equipment and insurance certificates.

Any electrical work

Changing a light fixture might be possible for a skilled DIYer, but it could still be dangerous if it’s your first time doing it. Electrical wiring can be different from home to home, and even room to room, so there are cases where something might not be suitable for a DIYer to handle. Perhaps the wiring in your home has faults that need to be detected by a skilled electrician, or maybe you just don’t have the equipment to deal with it.

Leave electrical work up to the professionals so that you can stay safe. An electrician will have all the tools and knowledge to carry out electrical work quickly and efficiently, so there’s really no reason for someone to do it themselves and put their lives at risk. Even if you’ve viewed plenty of videos and read guides about how to do DIY electrical work, always make sure to play it safe so that you’re not putting yourself and others at risk of injury.

Therefore, unless you’re a trained professional in some of these fields, it’s always better to seek expert advice. Avoid potentially harming yourself and let someone else do a good job for you.


Exploring the key factors when selecting insulation materials

Exploring the key factors when selecting insulation materials

Today’s market offers a wide array of product choices, and the realm of insulation materials is no exception. Manufacturers continually strive to outdo one another by enhancing their product specifications. Some prioritise thinness in insulation materials, while others seek the quietest options and, for some, affordability takes precedence.

This post will delve into the essential considerations when selecting the right insulation materials for your needs.

What characteristics matter when choosing insulation materials?

When choosing insulation materials, it’s vital to consider ten crucial properties to ensure their effectiveness and suitability for your intended purpose. These key aspects include:

1.    Thermal resistance (R-value)

Insulation products with the highest R-value, such as phenolic boards, offer impressive coefficients as high as 6.00m²K/W. On the other hand, materials like EPS (expanded polystyrene) or XPS (extruded polystyrene) provide half as much R-value, measuring at 2.85m²K/W for the same material thickness. Polystyrene, like Styrofoam, stands out for its ease of installation and affordability while boasting excellent resistance to water exposure.

2.    Thermal conductivity

Low thermal conductivity indicates a material’s prowess as an insulator by reducing heat flow. Ideally, when touching an insulating material, one should feel minimal temperature variation. Any noticeable temperature shift signifies a material with high thermal conductivity (lower is better) as an insulator. Notable products with low thermal conductivity include Xtratherm SR/PR phenolic boards with a coefficient of 0.021W/mK. On the contrary, materials like polystyrene and mineral wool exhibit higher thermal conductivity, measuring at 0.034W/mK. In summary, insulation materials with thermal conductivity below 0.022W/mK excel in insulation.

3.    Moisture resistance

Effective insulation materials should resist moisture to prevent water absorption, which could compromise their insulating properties. XPS (Extruded Polystyrene) boards excel in this regard, boasting a long-term water absorption by immersion percentage (EN 12087) of WL(T)0.7. Conversely, glass wool is known for having the highest water absorbency among insulation materials.

4.    Fire resistance

Depending on the application, fire-resistant insulation becomes essential for safety. Top-tier fire-resistant insulation materials like Rockwool stone wool boards achieve an A1 classification, signifying total fire resistance. On the opposite end of the spectrum, polystyrene ranks as one of the least fire-resistant insulation materials. It falls into fire resistance classes E and F, making it the weakest in this category.

5.    Soundproofing

Some insulation materials possess sound-reducing capabilities, which are crucial in specific applications. The most effective material for soundproofing walls and ceilings is Rockwool insulation with a 100kg/m³ density, often used in places like hospitals, auditoriums, stadiums, commercial spaces and doctor’s offices. On the contrary, expanded polystyrene is less effective as a soundproofing material and is rarely chosen for sound insulation due to its limited sound-dampening capabilities.

6.    Environmental impact

Environmental consciousness plays a vital role in material selection. While most insulation materials use petroleum-based resources or natural components like rock, situations may arise where petroleum-based options are undesirable. In such cases, mineral wool stands out as an eco-friendly choice with fewer chemical substances and complete breathability. Though its installation can be challenging, it supports sustainability and reduces environmental impact.

7.    Installation

Ease of installation is a crucial consideration for builders and DIY enthusiasts. Polystyrene is the easiest material to work with thanks to its lightweight nature and easy cutting. Conversely, the PIR board poses challenges due to intricate cutting requirements, often necessitating professional tools. Mineral wool can also be inconvenient for installers due to its potential skin irritation.

In conclusion

Choosing the right insulation material is pivotal for optimising energy efficiency and maintaining thermal comfort. Properties such as thermal conductivity, R-value, moisture resistance, fire resistance, soundproofing capabilities, environmental impact, ease of installation and cost should all be carefully assessed.

Selecting materials with low thermal conductivity and a higher R-value effectively reduces heat transfer. Consideration of the material’s ability to withstand specific application temperatures and its environmental impact ensures long-term performance and sustainability.

Choosing materials with appropriate resistance becomes paramount for applications prone to moisture or fire hazards. Durability is essential to ensure insulation effectiveness over time, while compatibility with the insulated structure or system simplifies installation.

While cost remains a factor, it should be balanced with overall performance and benefits. By considering these factors, informed decisions can be made to select the most suitable insulation material, thus achieving optimal heat transfer management and energy efficiency for specific needs.


Could red bricks be the right colour for you?

Could red bricks be the right colour for you?

In the realm of architecture and interior design, colour plays a vital role in shaping the appearance and ambiance of a space. Whether a residential building or a commercial structure, the choice of colour can make or break the aesthetics. Among the various materials and hues, red bricks have emerged as a popular and intriguing option. But the question that perplexes many is: Could red bricks be the right colour for you?

Red bricks are synonymous with warmth, strength and character. Often associated with traditional and classical architectural designs, they have long existed in human history. They have proven their versatility and timeless appeal, from the iconic red-brick facades of Victorian homes to the bold and striking contemporary buildings.

The colour psychology of red bricks

Red, as a colour, is known to evoke strong emotions. It’s often linked to passion, energy and warmth. In the context of red bricks, these attributes translate into a welcoming ambiance that exudes comfort and cosiness. The richness of the red hue lends a sense of solidity and grounding, providing a tangible connection to the earth.

This can be particularly attractive to those seeking balance and harmony in their living or working spaces. Red brick offers an excellent way to add texture and depth, creating visual interest without overwhelming the eye.

Compatibility with various styles

One of the striking aspects of red bricks is their compatibility with various architectural styles. They can blend seamlessly with diverse aesthetics, from rustic farmhouses to industrial lofts. In addition, they can be paired with modern materials like glass and steel for a chic and sophisticated look, or combined with wood and stone for a more traditional appearance.

Red bricks work well with various other colours and materials. They can be a stunning backdrop for lush green gardens, accentuate a minimalist white interior or create a balanced contrast with darker shades.

Practical considerations

Beyond aesthetics, red bricks also offer practical advantages. Known for their durability, they can withstand extreme weather conditions, providing an excellent option for exteriors and interiors. Their natural composition means they’re often more environmentally friendly than synthetic materials.

The texture of red bricks also contributes to their functionality. They provide a tactile quality, adding an extra layer of sensory experience to a space. This can make a place feel more homely and connected, enhancing the overall living or working experience.

However, it’s essential to consider the context and personal preferences. While red bricks have universal appeal, they might not suit every setting or individual taste. Their boldness may prove to be overwhelming in smaller spaces or clash with existing colour schemes.


Choosing the right colour and material for your building or interior design is a deeply personal decision, reflecting aesthetic preferences, lifestyle needs and values. Red bricks offer a compelling option for many with their unique blend of warmth, character and versatility.

Their timeless appeal, compatibility with various styles and practical benefits make them very attractive. Yet, the decision to use red bricks must be weighed against the specific context and personal taste.

Ultimately, whether red bricks are the right colour for you depends on a thoughtful consideration of these factors, aligned with your vision and desires. Like any other element in design, they can be a beautiful and meaningful addition when chosen with care and intention.