Before you start a project with a builder for your new home, there are some things you should know. Not all builders are reliable, just as not everyone in every industry is ethical. In our imperfect world, the challenge is finding the right people and companies to work with who share your values and vision.

Deceptive builders take advantage of homeowners by hiding the truth and avoiding responsibility. They rely on the 3 D's: deny, deflect and distract. Spotting these warning signs early can save you a lot of headaches and heartache.

Don't feel bad - it happens to the best of us. But forewarned is forearmed. This guide will show you how to see through the smoke and mirrors, stand your ground, and do the job right the first time.

Knowledge is power; by the end of this article, you'll have the confidence to overcome any objection and the tools to call out dodgy work. Now, shall we begin? There's no time like the present to outsmart those who would take advantage of your good nature.

a person flying a kite at sunset
Photo by 愚木混株 cdd20 / Unsplash

The Age of Illusion: Why Deny, Deflect and Distract Is So Common

The age of illusion is upon us. In this era of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, the tactics of deny, deflect and distract have become commonplace. Recognising when someone is using these tactics on you, and strategies to overcome them are key.

Deny refers to simply denying the truth or facts of a situation. You present the evidence, and it's brushed aside as "not true". To overcome this, remain calm and restate the facts, and provide any evidence you have to back them up. Don't engage in a back-and-forth argument. Just keep bringing the discussion back to the facts.

Deflect means shifting the blame or changing the subject to avoid addressing the real issue. You raise a legitimate concern, and the person deflects by accusing you of something or pivoting to a tangential point. The key here is persistence and patience. Gently but firmly steer the conversation back to the original issue. Ask open-ended questions to make sure the important points are addressed before moving on.

Distract involves diversionary tactics to shift focus away from the actual topic. Excessive questioning, joking or sharing irrelevant information and stories are ways people distract from issues they'd rather not discuss. To overcome distraction, reiterate your key concerns and ask for direct responses. Let the other person know their distracting behaviour is obvious and unhelpful. Stay on track until you get the answers and information you need.

The age of illusion may be upon us, but by recognising these tactics of deny, deflect and distract, you can overcome them. With patience, persistence and dedication to facts, you can have constructive conversations even with those seeking to mislead you. Stay focused on the issues, and don't get distracted from the truth.

white sheep on white surface
Photo by Elimende Inagella / Unsplash

Spotting the Signs: How to Recognise When You're Being Fed Misinformation

When dealing with builders, it's common to encounter the "3 D's": Deny, Deflect and Distract. Recognising these tactics can help prevent frustration and additional costs.

Spotting Denial

If a builder denies there's an issue with the work or materials despite obvious flaws, that's a red flag. Politely but firmly stand your ground, provide evidence like photos, and get a second opinion from an inspector if needed. Don't let denial derail you.

Deflection: Passing the Buck

Builders may try to deflect blame for problems onto others like subcontractors or suppliers. Don't accept excuses - as the principal contractor, the builder is responsible for ensuring work is done properly. Insist the issue is resolved and hold firm to the original contract and timeline.

The Distraction Game

Some builders use distraction to avoid addressing problems, hoping you'll forget about them. Common tactics include abruptly changing the subject, giving vague answers or making empty promises to "look into it" or "we'll get back to you". Don't fall for stalling. Remain focused on the issue at hand and keep records of all conversations in case you need to take further action. If someone says they will look into or get back to you, politely ask for a timeframe, a date and time. Make a note of these details in your diary so you can accurately recall them in the future.

With awareness and persistence, you can overcome the “3 D's”. Stay polite but assertive, and remember that as the client, you deserve transparency and quality work as agreed. If a builder's behaviour seems unethical, it may help to warn others or report them to the proper authorities. But in many cases, by recognising these tactics for what they are, you can successfully counter them and end up with a job well done.

white and black cat sketch
Photo by visuals / Unsplash

Don't Take the Bait: Staying Calm in the Face of Denial and Deflection

Staying calm in the face of denial and deflection is critical. Don’t take the bait when builders employ these tactics.

Do not engage in an argument

Do not get drawn into a heated argument or debate. Remain composed and restate your position firmly but politely. Say something like “I understand this is frustrating, but my position remains unchanged.” Do not attack or make accusations, as this will likely only make the situation more confrontational.

Focus on facts

Deflect personal attacks and steer the conversation back to the facts and evidence. Builders may claim that problems do not exist or are not their fault. Calmly reiterate the issues, provide photos or other documentation if possible. Say, “Let’s focus on resolving the problems, rather than who is to blame.” If they continue to deny clear issues, you may need to be very direct, e.g. “The leaks in the roof and water damage are quite evident.”

Ask clarifying questions

When builders distract or deflect, ask clarifying questions to refocus the discussion. For example, if they blame a subcontractor, ask “How will this be resolved and the work completed properly?” Or if they claim an issue is not their responsibility, ask “Can you show me specifically in the contract where this exclusion is indicated?” Polite but pointed questions can help cut through distractions and push the conversation toward solutions.

Get agreements in writing

Verbal assurances are not enough. Once you come to an agreement on next steps to resolve issues, get these in writing to avoid future distractions or denials. A quick follow-up email summarising the discussion and next actions can help provide accountability and give you recourse if builders do not follow through as promised.

Staying patient and composed, focusing on facts, asking questions, and getting written follow-up will help you overcome denial and deflection. Do not engage in confrontation, but remain resolute in your position. With time, even the most distracting builders may realise these tactics will not work, and become more constructive in finding solutions.

white Stormtroopers minifig
Photo by Daniel Cheung / Unsplash

Focus on the Facts: Redirecting the Conversation Back to the Core Issues

When dealing with builders who employ the “3 D’s”—deny, deflect and distract—it’s important to remain focused on the facts. Don’t get drawn into verbal gymnastics or long-winded excuses. Politely but firmly bring the conversation back to the issues at hand.

Stick to Written Records

Refer to any written contracts, quotes, invoices or correspondence you have as evidence. Say something like: “According to the quote dated XX/XX/XXXX, the work was supposed to include XYZ. Can you please clarify why that hasn’t been done?” Written records are hard to dispute and help avoid “he said, she said” arguments.

Ask Direct Questions

Ask simple, straightforward questions about specific incomplete or substandard work. For example, “The patio you installed is supposed to be 4 metres by 5 metres. I’ve measured it and it’s only 3 metres by 4 metres. Can you explain why it’s the wrong size?” Don’t let them change the subject or make vague promises to fix it later. Politely insist on direct answers and next steps.

Set Clear Expectations

Be very clear in communicating your expectations going forward. You might say something like: “To resolve this issue, I need you to redo the patio to the proper 4 metres by 5 metres size within the next 2 weeks, as originally agreed. Please confirm you will do so.” Get any agreement in writing or via email to avoid future misunderstandings.

Stay Calm and Courteous

No matter how frustrating the situation, remain courteous and composed. Do not yell, insult or threaten the builder. That will likely only make them more defensive and damage your ability to reach a resolution. Take a few deep breaths to stay calm before addressing issues or concerns with them.

With patience, persistence and a focus on facts, you can overcome the “3 D’s” and get your builder back on track. Staying courteous yet resolute in your expectations is key. Don’t engage in futile back-and-forth debates. Keep bringing the discussion back to the specific work that needs to be done properly to resolve the

brown wooden blocks with number 6
Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Overcoming the 3 D's: Proven Strategies to Cut Through the Noise

To overcome the 3 D's of deny, deflect and distract, you need to be prepared with strategies to cut through the noise. Here are some proven tactics:

Ask for specifics

Don't accept vague promises or generalisations. Ask for concrete details, facts and figures. Request to see plans, invoices, timelines, or other physical evidence to back up what you're being told. The more specific the details, the harder it is for someone to be deceitful.

Do your own research

Don't rely solely on what you're being told. Do independent research from reputable sources to verify claims. Check reviews and ratings from other clients or customers. See if dates, budgets, credentials or other facts line up with what you've been told. Forewarned is forearmed.

Put requests in writing

Verbal agreements can easily be denied or details forgotten. Putting requests, agreements, promises or other commitments in writing makes them much harder to dispute or brush aside later on. Written records also provide evidence and accountability.

Set deadlines and follow up

Give clear deadlines for when you expect to see tangible progress or outcomes. Make it known you will be following up, then actually do so. Consistently checking in makes it much more difficult for someone to be elusive or make empty pledges. Lack of follow through could indicate lack of legitimacy.

Trust your instincts

If something feels off, there may well be reason for concern. Don't ignore your intuition or natural scepticism. Some level of doubt could indicate you're being misled, whether intentionally or not. It's worth investigating further before proceeding or signing on any dotted lines. Your instincts have evolved to protect you, so listen to them.

With vigilance, and persistence and by employing practical safeguards, you can overcome deny, deflect and distract strategies. Staying informed and taking the initiative puts you in a position of strength.

Don't settle for stalling tactics, hollow assurances or slippery answers. Demand proof, call out contradictions and stick to your guns. The truth will out, eventually.


Now you have an understanding of the three tactics unscrupulous builders will deploy to avoid responsibility. But now you're onto them. You know what to look for and you're prepared.

Don't let their tricks throw you off. Stand your ground, ask direct questions and demand clear answers. Call them out when they deny, deflect or distract. And if they continue to avoid the issue, you know you've got a dodgy one on your hands.

Time to cut your losses and find an honest builder. The good news is, by being vigilant and aware, you'll dodge the shysters and find someone who'll do right by you and your home. Stay sharp! With the right builder on board, you'll get the job done and have a home to feel proud of.