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How to avoid cowboy builders when it comes to extensions and garden studios

Creating extra space on your property has never been more popular. Garden studios and extensions have taken off in a big way lately, with the pandemic forcing us to spend more time than ever in our homes.

But while Covid-19 and the national lockdowns are, in part, responsible for the recent growth in popularity of these spaces, they were already on their way to becoming a ‘thing’ long before the virus came to our shores.

And it’s no surprise really. Our lives are evolving in such a way that we’re demanding more space than ever before. So it makes sense to create more space by investing in a garden room or extension.

But if you’ve never embarked on a project of this type, you’re likely feeling a little unsure how everything comes together, not least how much it will cost. And with so many news stories reporting on less-than-savoury characters disguising themselves as builders, it’s tough to know who to turn to for support. How do you choose a reliable, reputable company to create the space you need?

Unfortunately, the term ‘rogue’ crops up all too frequently when it comes to trades. So, to help you avoid any pitfalls with your new garden studio or extension project, here are our top tips to achieve your dream build, cowboy-free!

Ask the people who have been there done that

Get recommendations from your network. Friends, family, neighbours or business colleagues - even your grocery delivery driver if you know they’ve had a studio or extension built recently.

Because these are people you know – people who have been through a similar process themselves. They’ll be honest about the process, whether good, bad or outright ugly.

Those who had an amazing experience with their garden studio installation will be more than happy to spill the beans on the ins and outs of their project. Equally, any who had a rough time with theirs will be quick to tell you more. Both ways, you’ll be left with a few company names to follow up with and a few to avoid at all costs.

Do your homework. And lots of it!

Once you have a list of contacts from people you know and trust, it’s time for some detective work. Not that you’re unhappy with the referrals from your friends and family, but it is still a good idea to conduct your own research and see what you think of those companies.

Take a look at their websites. Have they listed any testimonials or case studies to reflect their work? Do they list any accreditations to industry bodies? Check social media sites and Google too, for customer reviews.


Get at least 3 quotes

Extensions can vary drastically in price based on the complexity of the project – moving pipes or drainage, adapting structural walls, doing the necessary groundworks.

Modular garden rooms are more straightforward because they are manufactured off-site and are separate from the house, but if you want specialist features and extras, this impacts the price.

That’s why it’s a good idea to ask for quotes from a minimum of three providers to give you plenty of options for your project. Not just to compare costs but also to compare timescales, process, and service.

If one offers you a fantastic price but has zero availability for the next twelve months, they might not be much use to you if you require your extra space now.

Never make your decision based purely on price – if something sounds too good to be true, it often is. If one company is quoting far less than the other two, then find out why. Don’t rush into a decision until you’re sure you’ll get what you want for your money.


Make sure you meet the team first

You want to be sure your garden studio is being fitted by a reputable firm that knows their stuff so that nothing comes back to bite you later.

Some of your conversations so far may have been over the phone, which is no issue, except that a bespoke build usually involves a designer attending your home to assess the scope for a garden studio or extension.

Asides from surveying the available space, it is their chance to chat with you at length about your objectives and ambition with the project. It also allows you to see how they conduct themselves in person and act within your home.

Even when working outside, they will be at your property, and you should feel like you can trust the team before agreeing to the work.


Ask. Ask. Ask!

Another reason to make sure you meet someone from the team in person is to give you a chance to ask questions – don’t be afraid to give them a grilling. You're making a substantial investment, so it’s important that it’s right.

While you’re chatting over a cuppa, take the opportunity to quiz them on their process, how each garden room or extension is built, and the materials they use. Do they have accreditations, and if so, with which industry bodies?

Above all else, does your new garden studio build come with any guarantees? Ask for supporting evidence of certifications or guarantees, and you’ll soon find the cowboys are running straight for the hills at the mention of anything formal.

One final piece of advice, and perhaps the most important of all. Do not provide any money to a builder without first having a contract in place where you both agree to the works involved. It seems obvious, although with rogue builders operating every day, it’s a crucial step to take – and one any reputable builder will always recommend.


Smarter. Faster. Better

At Smart Modular, we’re committed to quality, and if you’re considering a bespoke garden studio, we’d love to provide a quotation. You can ask us as many questions as you like, and you can have complete confidence in our work. We even offer a lifetime guarantee – and we’ve got the client reviews to back up what we say.

So don’t be shy; get in touch and let us help you make your dream garden room a reality.

Smart Modular are UK leading designers, manufacturers and installers of garden studios. If you’d like to book a no-obligation design consultation, contact our friendly team.

Book your free design consultation and start planning your garden escape today

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