#2 Choose a reliable contractor
You will meet contractors who will reassure you that the project will be executed on budget, and thus feel that you have agreed a good deal. Promising an unrealistically low price for an unspecified project is a common technique to ‘catch a client’. By falling for this trick you may ultimately end up paying double the proposed sum of the project because of ‘unforeseen costs’. The truth is that those expenditures could have been predicted from the beginning and listed as probable extra costs, or at least been identified.
The main reasons for such stories about home renovations are:
- missing details in the specification from the client that could help to make the quotation more realistic,
- estimations using cheap, often poor quality, alternative materials,
- the client focusing on price as the most important factor while ignoring the overall reliability, quality, customer service experience, communication time, project management and responsibility of a project.
In contrast to the above, a reliable contractor will identify and explain the likely additional costs and expensive elements, plus suggest good alternatives. Then you can compromise where necessary in order to control your renovation budget.
How to recognise reliable contractors?
- ask a lot of questions and want to know your project requirements in detail,
- provide detailed logical quotes and explain everything under scrutiny,
- work with you at every stage and explain various options,
- price all preliminary costs required to run the project and not just the work to be done, which would artificially make the offer cheaper,
- identify missing items in the plans and drawings, i.e. electrical points that are required according to building regulations.
A real example from GBG Building Services:
A client wanted to add a frameless glass balustrading to replace an old wooden one. We informed them about the likely costs of such items as a realistic Provisional Cost (PC) sum when quoting. They agreed to go ahead and explore this further.
It had to be safe, look great and also meet that budget. Knowing the subject well we offered a solution.
It was a system on a single rail hidden in the floor void with two separate low iron glass panes slotted from above. Our PC sum also covered additional supports to the existing floor structure that would be required for the system to be stable.
With this option we did not sacrifice on quality, yet ensured a slightly smaller cost than originally predicted. This was a pleasant surprise rather than a shocking disappointment for the client.
How should you and your architect cooperate with contractors to limit unforeseen costs of renovating a house?
- Allow a chosen builder to be involved early in the design phase to give pricing feedback as early as possible.
- Be realistic, think ahead and ask the builder how the project will be built and managed.
- Ask for details and write the answers down, for example:
- Are the site and project managers involved?
- How much time will the site manager be available per week?
- Who will pay for parking, skips and permits?
- Who will protect common areas?
- Are shop drawings and samples included in the joinery price?
- Will contractors dedicate enough time for site meetings to discuss, explain and cooperate with everyone involved?
- Scrutinise PC sums. Some contractors present them as realistic while others provide a minimum number in order to look cheaper.
- Trust when a contractor identifies in detail that the specification misses some obligatory items that may cost a certain amount of money, and try to negotiate from the beginning which of them will be absolutely necessary.