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Buyer Beware


So you've seen an advert from a company on-line with a lovely website offering garden rooms and offices. Looks good, but what do you know about them and their products?

Building a garden room or office that is designed to last in excess of 30yrs is not as simple as some people think. If you're looking for a cheap shed, and want a couple of local lads to knock you one up, then fair enough. You get what you pay for in most cases.

The truth is that a number of companies are indeed not all they seem to be - some have been bust a number of times and have resurfaced as 'Pheonix Companies" rising from the ashes. Some are small time joiners who will offer to build you one, but what comebacks do you have when things go wrong?

Of course there are times when companies fail through no fault of their own, but the ones to worry about are those which do so deliberately to reduce their long term liabilities (and cancel their guarantees), or to capitalise on the large deposits they've received from unwary customers.

So, to help you differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys here's a list of things we think you should check:

  • Do they have a fixed operating address or a showroom? Rogue traders are less likely to have either of these, and certainly are unlikely to declare where they operate from to make it difficult to trace them in the event of problems
  • Do they only have a mobile phone as a way of contacting them? Any self respecting business will have a landline but be careful, even numbers which look like landlines can actually be mobiles these days
  • Do they show photographs of the Directors or staff on their website? Be very careful if they don’t, as this is a way of concealing who is behind the business so that if they go bust, they can start again without being recognised as owners of the previous business
  • Are they members of Trade Organisations? Be careful as some trade bodies will accept ANYONE without carrying out any checks so long as they pay the fee
  • Do they ask for a large deposit upon placing the order? Anything above 10% is unreasonable and risky for you in our opinion. The remaining payments schedule should then be over the course of the build so you see what you’re getting before you pay up.
  • Do they issue a comprehensive Contract with all T&Cs clearly defined? Again Rogue Traders do not like formal contracts as they prefer to leave things 'open ended'. That way they can claim for 'extras' that you thought were included in the price.
  • Do they employ their own staff? Some companies (particularly those who offer a ‘National’ Installation service) employ foreign labour as they are cheap and will happily use sub-standard accommodation whilst working away to save money. They are usually on a ‘Job and Finish’ arrangement which means the quicker they get yours done the quicker they get paid and can move on. Remember, these people have no vested interest in the long term interests of the business. Or in you for that matter. So, as long as everything looks alright when they are done, they can get customer sign-off, get paid and move on. In this situation, corner cutting is rife, as they are all too eager to get finished and start the next job, and thereby make more money. Long-term liabilities are not a problem for these people as they won't be around to pick up the pieces..
  • Are their Staff DBS Checked? The company should be able to show certificates from The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) which proves that staff have been checked for criminal records and child safety. This is important when working at customer properties for obvious reasons.
  • Do they show videos and photographs of genuine customers talking about their experiences on their website? Rogue Traders are unlikely to have many, if any of these - and it’s usually easy to spot ‘staged’ shots or videos of their friends or relatives. Remember - the objective of a Rogue Trader is to hide their true identity - they don't want you knocking on their door anytime soon..
  • How are customer reviews presented? Lots of on-line reviews can be faked. Watch out for 'Americanisms' or pigeon English in the text. Has the business replied to the review? If it’s a short paragraph from ‘Mr G in Warrington who says they are great’ then that could easily be fake, as can other reviews from Feefo or such like. Remember, there are lots of companies out there who will generate fake company reviews subject to a small fee.
  • Do they show detailed ‘Case Studies’ on the website? These are much more likely to be genuine particularly if supported by customer photos showing them happy with their new room and better still, videos with customers talking through their experiences.
  • Have they won Awards? There is a lot of time and effort required in entering and winning awards. Plus the company that has these has a vested interest in its own longevity. Rogue Traders don’t win Awards...
  • Are they ‘Trading Standards Approved? It is very difficult to get this approval as Trading Standards carry out thorough checks of any business listed and also carry out annual audits. Rogue Traders cannot get registered with Trading Standards...
  • Are the building specifications clear and detailed? You need to know what you’re getting for your money as things can look similar on the outside but the beggar is in the detail. As we say: "It's what's under the bonnet that counts". A garden building is not just about what you see. It’s about what’s hidden inside, underneath, in the base, the walls, and the roof, that makes it rot or fail in 5-10yrs, or last a lifetime. It’s important that the foundations are built correctly and solid, that the Roof voids are ventilated, that the Roof timbers are engineered for snow loadings and a host of other crucial details. It’s easy to make it look good on the surface inside and out, but what’s in between matters far more when it’s Built to Last in excess of 30yrs.
  • Do they include the Base Foundations? You will find that a lot of companies suggest that it will be cheaper for you to get your own base laid. Truth is, they don't want to install the base because this is the part which is most likely to fail in the longer term. Even our smallest buildings weigh around 4tons, so its imperative that the foundations are installed correctly. We prefer to fit our own base and we guarantee the whole installation on that basis. If someone else does it then the liability is with the 3rd party.
  • Do they use SIPs Panels? The main benefit of SIPs panels is that they are a quick way to build a garden room, so installers love them. Three days on-site instead of seven? More money can be made. They also slightly improve the U-Values. However, the big problem is they don’t breathe, they lock in moist air and the building rots from the inside out. Yes, SIPs are used by large House Builders, but they have to work to Building Regs and install proper air circulation and extraction systems to avoid these problems. Garden room companies don't do this because its impractical and expensive. Some fit an extractor fan and say keep a window open (!) but most don’t even do that..be warned!

**Rubicon Garden Rooms are Trading Standards approved - click on the link for more details:**


What our Customers Say

"Please convey my thanks to everyone and we were very touched at your kindness. You were all an absolute pleasure to have around and it felt very quiet without you!! We are absolutely thrilled with the Garden Room and have now painted the walls and ceiling and the laminate wood flooring and skirting boards are being fitted tomorrow. Once the skirting boards are painted we can move in the furniture and will be like pigs in muck!!! Many, many thanks once again, we are absolutely delighted with our Garden Room. After you left Heather sat on the decking with a glass of wine, this is the life! Take care and you all have a safe journey tomorrow. Thank you once again."

Andrew and Heather - Ruthin, N.Wales

“We did an awful lot of research and found Rubicon online. We drove across to Deeside to have a look at their showroom, and all the different examples on display. We liked managing director John Lyon a lot and his approach gave us confidence to start the process. All in all, it took a couple of months from deciding that we would have a Garden Office until the team arrived on site as they were very busy and we needed to book a delivery slot well in advance. Then they were here for about three weeks for the installation which included drainage and water supplies for a toilet and mini kitchen. The team were lovely guys – no nonsense and very diligent, polite, hard-working people. Dave likes to cook a bit – mainly cakes and pastries – so he baked things for them, which always helps to keep the team happy..! We now have a beautiful extra Garden Office room, which Dave uses when he’s working at home. He has a 30 second walk to work in the morning, and it means we are no longer in the way of each other. I believe that the building is also a thing of great beauty and I would absolutely recommend Rubicon to anyone considering something similar.”

David and Rachel - Manchester

"We trawled through the internet and Rubicon sounded like the best bet for what we were after. We made an appointment and went down to the showroom on Deeside. There we met Managing Director John, spent time looking at the different examples on show and examining the products, and then had a good chat about what we needed. We never felt rushed or pressurised, and had time to think about what we wanted - his whole manner makes him such a good person to deal with. We felt that we were getting a good product. What Rubicon offered was perfect for what we wanted and, once we started the process with them, the work was done in just two to three weeks. The team turned up every day at the time John said they would, and were polite and very easy to get along with. Having them here working in the garden was no trouble at all and I would recommend Rubicon without a doubt - in fact some of the neighbours have already been round to see it and ask where we got it. I can say hand on heart that John and his the team from Rubicon were the nicest people we have ever had work for us."

Dennis and Val - Stockport

"Dear John, Thank you very much, all very professional from your company throughout the construction and installation. I cannot find anything, but if there is somewhere where I can place a review or recommendation on your web site I will be pleased to do so. Please just send me a link. As and when the garden, now under snow is complete, I will forward some photos, probably June the way the weather is. I have received a letter from Flintshire County Council asking for me to comment on your services. Just to let you know that I am returning it, highly recommending your company. All the very best to you and your company in the future. We are really pleased with our Garden Room and I would not hesitate in recommending you to any future customers. Just ask them to call me."

Mick and Barbara - Burnley

“I love my new garden room. Got to say this was one of the most enjoyable experiences of dealing with a company ive had for a long time. Finish is fab inside and out, its made such a difference, we use it all the time. Jake our son, won’t come out of there. Can’t thank John and his team enough of a great product at a great price….Thank you, etc etc.!”

Gill and Ben Henderson, Warrington

"We wanted to get a Garden Room that David could use as a separate office that was peaceful and quiet when he’s working from home. We liked what we saw at Rubicon’s showroom in Deeside straight away, and got on very well with the MD John Lyon – he immediately gave us the confidence that he would deliver what he promised, and he did. We took one of their standard Garden Offices and adapted it so that it would work for us, and nothing we suggested was a problem for Rubicon – they were really good to work with. They kept me posted all the time about what was going on, what stage they were at and who would be coming and what they would be doing the next day. They tidied up after themselves too, and really minimised any inconvenience. What was very important to me as well was that we had my elderly father staying with us at the time, he was 85, and they were so very respectful to him. Everyone from the young apprentice to the seasoned builders treated him brilliantly and talked to him about what they were doing every day while I was out at work. The Garden Office is lovely and warm as it’s fully heated, and so can be used all year round. I would most definitely recommend Rubicon Garden Rooms to anyone."

David and Kate - Frodsham

“Rubicon’s extension been fantastic, and it has really changed Ray’s life. It’s very warm and fully insulated, light and comfortable - it is easy to look after. We can get Ray in and out of bed and into his wheelchair much more easily, and it means that he has somewhere to go that’s his, for some quiet time. He loves sitting by the big window watching the birds and wildlife, or enjoying the views of the garden. The extension is very well made and went up quickly, and has changed our life. It means Ray has somewhere to sit, and we haven’t lost our lounge. When our three grandchildren come round, they love to go into his room and see him. I can’t thank Rubicon enough for the help their team have given us, they have been brilliant."

Ray and Josie - Mancot

“We had been looking for something to fill a big space at the bottom of our garden for some time and then Pat heard about a local Garden Room company through our friends at the golf club who had had one built for them. We went to have a look and were very impressed so contacted Rubicon for more details. I must admit that when we saw the showroom model we were so impressed that all logic went out of the window - we didn’t even consider the alternatives until after we had paid our deposit - not our normal way of doing things. But we needn’t have worried. I researched the internet and the price we had been quoted for what we had fitted represented excellent value for money. We could not be happier with our choice now and would like to thank Bill and Alan for doing such a great job - always smiling and nothing was too much trouble. We would highly recommend Rubicon Garden Rooms and are are actively passing on the message amongst family and friends. Good luck for the future”

Cliff and Pat Lovell, Llandudno

"Hi John, Just got back from a couple of days in London. I can confirm that invoice has arrived and has been paid. Many thanks for ALL your work. At our little garden party last Sunday all commented on the new Garden Studio - and one chap has examined it thoroughly (!!) and will contact you to arrange one for himself. All like the grey!! Hope you have a lovely Christmas, and hope we can keep in touch. Best wishes. PS Jan will send you photos with some plants in front!"

Stephen and Jan - Hawarden, Nr Chester

“This company may not be the biggest but they are surely the best. I drove my wife mad in my research for a building to run our business from after out-growing the spare bedroom I wanted something which could provide a distinct break between home live and work. To be frank there were not many companies within our locality, most of those i found were based down south and I wanted someone more local that I could put a face to ( and shout at if i needed!). A friend of mine had had some building work done recently and recommended I talk to them to see what they could do as he thought they also made garden offices. Best decision I ever made was to contact Rubicon the whole team are so professional and the product is fantastic. No complaints whatsoever apart from it did take a bit longer than I thought it would as they were very busy at the time. But the end result has been a triumph, exactly what I wanted at a competitive price and when i look at what i have saved by not renting an office it’s a no brainer…”

Phil Grayson, Northwich

"I saw Rubicon Garden Rooms online and wanted to find something that was nearby so that I could go and see what they were doing and talk to people face-to-face about it. I went along to the showroom in Deeside and I was very impressed with what I saw, and with the Managing Director John Lyon. I nearly ordered a conservatory but changed my mind at the last minute when I realised that one of these Garden Rooms would be nicer and much more use to me all year round. It was quite an investment so I took some time to think about it but eventually I decided to go for it and treat myself, as I was still working but also had my pension coming in. I went back for another chat and told them what I wanted and they just came and did it. They knocked down the old lean-to and started again and created this lovely room, leading on from my main living area. Rubicon Garden Rooms were just lovely to work with and did everything I asked. From the very beginning they gave me good advice and guidance and made it a really easy process throughout – I’d definitely recommend them to anybody else looking to extend their home simply and quickly."

Beryl - Talacre, N.Wales

"One of our disabled tenants required access to ground floor facilities, including a bedroom and bathroom. This need was urgent, so instead of a traditional build, which would be highly disruptive to the tenant, we approached Rubicon Garden Rooms who provided a high quality Garden Room attached to the property, which has the potential to be reused elsewhere in the future. We were delighted that Rubicon were able to quickly provide this essential modification to the property that met the council's rigorous standards for such work."

Cllr Helen Brown - Flintshire County Council

“We did quite a bit of research into companies that make them and chose Rubicon Garden Room as we thought a synthetic material would last better and we liked their range. Here in the Garden Room I can switch the laptop on and keep up with conference calls at any time, which is important as we have manufacturers in America and the Far East. Having this Rubicon room just gives us a bit extra space and lets me get away from the house when I need to. Their team were great, they cleared up after themselves every day and I couldn’t fault them at all. We’re very happy with what we’ve got, it’s a perfect, self-contained space with everything we need. and it makes a huge difference to my work-life balance.”

Nick and Paula - Halifax

"We had an office on a local business park, but being able to move into our own premises here has been a wise business move. We've got the perfect, self-contained space with everything we need. We can now open our French doors and have lunch on the patio in a lovely established garden, which is something most people would love. We did a lot of research and found that the prices were all very similar,” said Julian. “But what we liked about Rubicon was the fact that we could go and see their factory in Deeside and the examples they had on show. We also visited a few completed buildings and talked to the owners and we heard nothing but positive feedback so we decided to go with them. Most of the structure is prefabricated at Rubicon’s base and then they come and slot it together on site. They were great to work with – they were all very competent and everything I asked of John and his team, they delivered."

Julian and Kerry - Wirral

"Hi John, Hope you have enjoyed your weekend! Building is brilliant, we are extremely pleased with it, plaster is drying out nicely. I have sent over the last payment to your bank this evening.....On behalf of Clare & myself, I would like to thank You and the build team (Buster,Lee,Martin, Liam, Kurt & Dad), and not forgetting the window guys... for all your hard work and excellent eye to detail on our lovely pool room! Will let you know when everything is completed and you are welcome to visit with your Marketing PR person if you need any further photo’s. Look forward to meeting up for a cuppa soon :)"

Colin and Clare - Leicester

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