Cowboy Builders


A property TV programme review by Surveyors


As Surveyors we note that there are many television programmes covering the property market aired on terrestrial and satellite television stations which we review in this section of our website. Our television review is our light hearted opinion of the television programme and gives a breakdown of the programmes content. In no way are we advertising the television programme or receiving remuneration for promoting it on our website we are simply giving general information.

If you need help and advice with regard to building surveys, structural surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects reports, dilapidations or any other property matters please free phone
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Cowboy Builders is a forty six minute television programme screened on Channel 5 and produced by production company Ricochet Television and not just popular with Surveyors but a wide audience across the country. In 2012 the programme is in its sixth series exposing the nations Cowboy Builders. The programme reveals builders at their worst with a catalogue of building disasters across the country.

As Surveyors we have unfortunately been asked to see many a building disaster over the years we have been surveying preparing many Specific Defect Reports identifying the problem and possible causes.

Cowboy Builders has been renamed New Cowboy Builders and with this programme formula due to the number of poor builders in the country it can run and run as it exposes bad workmanship and owners left to live in unfinished homes.


Cowboy Builders Presenters

Dominic Littlewood Dom

Essex man Dominic Littlewood is a respected television presenter and journalist but not a Surveyor and champions consumer rights in his straight talking and direct manner. Dom is certainly not shy and is always ready for a challenge particularly when helping with consumer issues. After running his own successful business due to the number of media opportunities he became involved with he closed his business and concentrated on television and medial work. Dom has been a regular on the BBC The One Show as well as presenting on programmes such as Don't Get Done, Get Dom and To Buy or Not to Buy.

When suffering with Cowboy Builders Dom proves to be a great ally with a steady and firm approach to helping to track down rogue builders and highlight their bad work.


Melinda Messenger

Cowboy Builders' co presenter with Dom is Melinda Messenger who once was well known for her Page 3 modelling but today is a seasoned television presenter and Mum of three.

Melinda is upbeat and positive and understanding of the nightmare situation the programme is set to help with each episode. Melinda is tasked each show with experts on hand to put right whatever has gone wrong with the Cowboy Builders. With Melinda at the helm she guides the viewer through the various processes necessary to make good the Cowboy Builders' disasters and enlists the help of local tradesmen and suppliers to assist with materials to complete the project.

Although not a Surveyor Melinda understands the issues faced by each episodes participant's and after renovating a former rectory in Wanborough herself appreciates the skills necessary to turn a property around.


Cowboy Builders Programme format but not a surveyor in sight!

Cowboy Builders each episode visits a home owner who has experienced problems when builders have left poor workmanship and an incomplete job. The Channel 5 programme covers the length and breadth of the country, as we do as Surveyors, and each scenario has left the owners devastated as their home instead of being improved has become a nightmare to live in.

Cowboy Builders each week starts by outlining the building work that should have taken place and shows the viewer the outcome of the Cowboy Builder's work which has not been carried out professionally. The viewer has an insight into the occupier/s of the house being featured and learns how when the building work went wrong how this has affected their lives. A home should be somewhere everyone can relax and enjoy their surroundings rather than a building site unfinished or with building work that is so bad it makes the living environment unsafe.

The programme is set to reveal the Cowboy Builder who has left the devastation, often receiving large sums of money and vanishing without completing work. Surveillance teams are used to track the Cowboy Builder down and where possible they are interviewed in an effort to name and shame.

As Chartered Surveyors called in to carry out a Specific Defects Report or Independent Witness Report we identify issues and problems with building works which can often be structural.

Experts are called in to expose bad workmanship and presenters Melinda and Dom are on hand throughout the show to help the occupier to put right the poor workmanship and restore the property to a safe and secure environment.

At the end of each programme the viewer sees the reveal when the owners return to see the work that has taken place to put all the poor work right which is often an emotional part of the show as the stress of the time living in the nightmare of Cowboy Builders comes to an end.


Cowboy Builders Titles

The show each week is introduced by voiceovers from Dom and Melinda introducing the viewer to the outline of the programme putting builders to shame for bad workmanship with snippet shots of the home and occupants to be featured. Naming, shaming and taking the Cowboy Builders to task is the aim of the show and to repair the damage that the scoundrels have left behind giving the victims back their homes.

A large logo of the show title is show at the beginning of the show and at intervals which is an outline of a house with Cowboy Builders/ New Cowboy Builders logo and the front of the house falling down.


Cowboy Builders Music

The Cowboy Builders theme music is dramatic and bold to emphasis the nature of the programme as bad builders can dramatically change people's lives bringing stress and dismay.


Cowboy Builders Programme example

Series 5, episode 5 in Langley, Berkshire

The war on Cowboy Builders is far from over and across the nation families lives are still being devastated by unscrupulous rogues. Presenters are determined to shame every one of these builders.

If you have an issue and require a Specific Defects Report then do not hesitate to contact us at for advice / survey by a Surveyor.

This Cowboy Builders episode is in Langley in Berkshire where a family home has been blighted by an eyesore, the couple whom are to be featured live in their home with their three young girls. The couple remortgaged to fund an extension to give bedrooms to each of their daughters with a quote from the builder of £46,500 including all materials with work beginning in May two years ago. However during the five month the building work was taking place the builder demanded more money for materials which were in the agreed price with the owners eventually refusing to pay anymore and the builder leaving. The builder left the house in a terrible condition with an unfinished extension which the family dare not use as it is cracking up. The family are desperately unhappy with the three daughters having to share the same cramped bedroom and for 21months a large metal container in their front garden containing all there items which should be in their new extension.

As Surveyors we are often in the Langley area carrying out structural surveys and are always happy to help with property issues.

Melinda is in charge to get the house shipshape again and Dom is on the hunt to investigate and expose the Cowboy Builder responsible.

The Plan

The plan was a two storey extension at the side of the original house providing a new garage and cloakroom on the ground floor plus two new bedrooms for the girls with a bathroom separating them on the second floor. Then a rear extension adding a bigger kitchen and utility room and also the loft to be extended ready for an attic conversion in the future. There are excellent graphics showing the plan of the build as it should have been.


The building disaster


Instead the family were left with an unfinished extension and some alarming cracks in their existing house with the cracks having got bigger over the time that has elapsed. As Surveyors we known that cracks in walls can be a sign of major structural issues and the owners will need to get professional advice on gaining information as to what is causing them.

On the first floor the Cowboy Builders have left the property in such a state that is totally unsuitable for a family to live in with for example a wobbly banister made from a bit of chipboard and a couple too nervous to use the new side of the house due to the bad condition and therefore all having to live in the original part of the property in cramped conditions.

With the Cowboy Builder having the majority of the money the couple had budgeted for his original quotation and having left leaving the couple shattered with nightmare living conditions and very little money left for anymore work.

The Cowboy Builder needs to be named and shamed.

Dom is given the builders name and company name and told that he was in his late 60s/ early 70s. The mature Cowboy Builder has cleared off taking most of the couple's money and leaving them in dire living conditions and really should hang up his gloves and call it a day if this is the way he conducts his building work. How can any builder go home at night to sleep in their home leaving a customer in such a building nightmare?

Melinda talks to the three daughters about what they are most looking forward to having bedrooms of their own!


Calling in an expert builder

Cowboy Builder's expert builder arrives to inspect the work highlighting a major issue - as building the extension put too much weight on the foundations with the Cowboy Builder trying to strengthen them by underpinning with concrete. The builder should have dug a series of holes filling them one at a time but instead one massive hole was dug causing the rear of the property to shift and crack the whole corner pillar of the original house needs to be rebuilt. The timber holding up the new roof is not attached properly and is demonstrated where it literally lifts away!

As properties and building disaster go as Surveyors we have seen many a building nightmare which this is proving to be.

Upstairs the make shift banister can be removed with ease and the Cowboy Builders expert builder looks in the loft to find numerous issues with a major issue at the ridge where the structure is massively structurally inadequate. During the extension the builder was asked to expand the loft area so that it could be used as a bedroom in the future; taking away one end of the roof weakens the structure so when the new section was added reinforcement was required where the two sections meet however the Cowboy Builder failed to do this leaving the entire roof to twist and buckle under its own weight. With the load all coming to one point, which below has the bedroom where the three girls sleep (the family thought was the safest part of the house) but due to the major issues in the roof is certainly a very dangerous area! The Cowboy Builder tried to claim that these roof timbers were twisted before he started work but this really would not have been the case and now requires emergency propping.

The task ahead has several areas of concern, of course the attic which needs to be made safe, the rear wall which needs to be rebuilt plus the kitchen, utility room and three bedrooms which need to be completed and disposal of the container in the front garden.


Name and shame the Cowboy Builder

Investigation work starts, as the Cowboy Builder was older the couple felt that as he was a mature man he would know what he was doing, they wrote to him several times giving him the opportunity to come back and complete the work. They received a telephone call from the Cowboy Builder saying that he had been in hospital and would finish the job when he was able to drive again going on to ask what money he would be paid but he never returned. Dom wants to know was this a one off disaster or does the builder create a series of disasters with his customers.

As Surveyors carrying on Specific Defect Reports we always find it essential to have copies of any communications regarding property issues to help with cases particularly if they later go to court.

The wife tries to call the builder again a year and a half on from when he was last contacted, where he says he has had a new hip! The Cowboy Builder explains that he has not been able to do much work, he had not forgotten the family but ran out of cash and not able to work since working on their property other than the odd day here or there due to his hip. The Cowboy Builder shockingly says he has not much left to do in the Langley house! has he left anyone else like this? With the Cowboy Builders' claims that he is not working the programme investigate further with a surveillance team to see is he is working or not?


Cowboy Builders to the rescue as often Surveyors are with a report on what the Specific Defects in a property are

Work starts on the property a two week schedule and a plan approved by a structural engineer the first job is to make the loft safe and rebuild brickwork. Two props are installed in the roof to take the load why the Cowboy Builder did not do this is a mystery and a serious blunder. Repairing the substandard foundations is not as simple as hoped, a massive slab of concrete is proving too stubborn and will not shift this is the massive underpinning slab that the Cowboy Builder inserted. As it will not budge another scheme is devised where it will stay with new foundations constructed around the old ones which sounds easy but requires incredibly precise calculations until this work is completed correctly work cannot be started on the rest of the house.

As the Cowboy Builder is a mature at age, the investigation focuses on finding out if he has left other customers in a similar condition over the years he has been a builder. A telephone call to Trading Standards is made to find complaints have been made regarding his building work.


Cowboy Builder has left others in a similar unfinished state with poor workmanship

Dom visits one of the customers who made a complaint about the Cowboy Builders work and finds that the work was carried out whilst the builder had said he was too ill to work after he left the house owners in Langley. A sizeable extension and new drive was planned for the Cowboy Builder's client and similar to the situation in Langley more money was asked for with little work being carried out and a terrible mess - he was also asked to leave as he seriously let the customer down.


Too ill to work!

Dom also checks with a local builder's merchant very bad news the Cowboy Builder owns them money!

Interview with another dissatisfied client with this time the Cowboy Builder quickly erecting the brickwork then disappearing with the large sum of money for the whole job. The customer had to get another builder in to complete the job.

Over the years as Surveyors unfortunately we have heard this story many a time with builders' promises not fulfilling the building brief.


Back in Langley

Priority list, bedrooms, kitchen, utility area, garage door, Melinda is on the phone to get help calling on tradesmen of Langley getting them to help.


Further investigation

Dom looks into finances of the Cowboy Builder finding out that he was previously made bankrupt three times in an eighteen year period - incompetent and devious.

Another dissatisfied customer who was not told by the Cowboy Builder that he was bankrupt, which is a criminal offence, trusted the mature builder and again he left with the work incomplete.

Many customers have suffered with the way he conducts his business.


Work progresses

Back in Langley work is taking shape with a new garage door making the property now a secure place for the container to be unloaded with family members and friends on hand to help. The container has cost £1600 in rent over the 21 months and is finally removed from the site!


Cowboy Builder getting closer to tracking him down

Cowboy Builder's surveillance team have footage showing the Cowboy Builder working on a large mansion property when he had said he was only doing bits and pieces this is a major project health issues shown not to be an issue the Cowboy Builder has used this excuse to rip people off saying he is too ill to complete work but here can be seen going brickwork and blockwork on mansion!

The 71 year old Cowboy Builder agreed to be filmed on Cowboy Builders giving six references of people that he says have been satisfied with his work in the fifty six years he has been a builder. The Cowboy Builder agrees he has let the couple down in Langley and still has hopes of restitution to make good. Underpinning and loft he claims he did not inspect the work of his colleagues in these areas and defends some of his disastrous projects the programme has uncovered.

The daughter of the builder sends an email that he will not appear under the advice of his doctor he should not be put under any undue stress! Surveillance team show him again getting building materials then digging away at a property labouring! Too ill! hiding behind a doctor's note?


A happy ending which as Surveyors is always are aim

Back in Langley the bad work has been repaired, the family return, to find container gone at last from their front garden. Inside their home is a beautiful new kitchen, better than they could have imagined functional utility room and upstairs the girls each have lovely new bedrooms and not having to share a room again!

A tearful emotional reveal of their new home the family are overwhelmed with their living space restoring their lives to now get back on track.

The Cowboy Builder programme ends with a taster of next week's programme.


Cowboy Builders In summary

As Surveyors over the years we have witnessed many building disasters and with the television programme Cowboy Builders the viewing public can see some shocking examples of bad workmanship and families left to live in poor and often dangerous conditions.

The Cowboy Builders presenters Dom and Melinda are professional presenters not having a building background but are informative and knowledgeable with the building issues and determined to help not only get the home back to how it should be but also to name and shame the Cowboy Builder too.




Reference to other interesting articles on property television programmes

and property issues are:-

Homes Under The Hammer

Build, Buy or Restore?

Help! My House is Falling Down

Property Ladder and Property Snakes and Ladders




Independent Surveyor's Advice

If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a Surveyor with regard to building surveys, structural surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects report, dilapidations or any other property matters please contact
0800 298 5424 for a Surveyor to give you a call back.


Independent commercial property surveyors

If you have a commercial property, be it leasehold or freehold, then you may wish to look at our Dilapidations Website at and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site


We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).

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