Builder payment woes

(23 Posts)
HoneywithLemon Fri 29-Jan-16 09:41:51

This is maybe a question for Judge Rinder rather than Mumsnet but here goes...We've had a builder in to knock through kitchen and dining room and install new kitchen and utility. We've had the knock through done - we had a quote in advance for the structural work and it came in under budget by about £100. Then we paid for the removal of a large inbuilt shelving unit and delft rail and a new ceiling. No quote for that but we were happy with the invoice and paid up no problem. He's a builder we've used before and we have not had any problems in the past (though admittedly his way of doing business is not ideal - he is reluctant to quote at all, and when he does things can change as the job goes along but his basic rate is £140 a day I believe).

We decided that the builder would make a bench for a belfast sink (with open shelves and one drawer, a space below the sink for washing powder etc and space next to the sink for a washing machine) in the utility and that's where we have a problem. We didn't discuss price beyond saying that if he could do it for what we would pay for a unit from Homebase or whatever would that be ok? He talked about £500 for a basic unit with sink and tap from Homebase or equivalent so that's the figure I had in mind. He asked for money for materials (£300 ish) and five days later (two of which were the weekend) it was made up and we went to have a look at it in the workshop. A week went by and eventually he came to fit it and he's spent probably a day doing that (involved some plumbing work but nothing fancy).

He's done a decent job. It's a functional piece, with a nice piece of work top on top, but it's hardly Smallbone of Devizes standard. He's now claiming for 77 hours labour at a cost of almost £1400, on top of the cost of the materials (£300) and belfast sink and tap (£300 ish).

Any advice? Be gentle. I'm annoyed with myself for not getting a proper quote, obviously, and I won't make that mistake in the future. We were talking about him making units for the kitchen but that won't happen now.

JT05 Fri 29-Jan-16 12:30:58

Can you ask him for a breakdown of the 77 hours work?
If he's local he'll have his reputation to think of and you might be able to resolve the cost.

Other than that pay up then slag him off to anyone you know!

evrybuddy Fri 29-Jan-16 12:59:33

Just so I get the numbers right - you were anticipating paying - £500 for the unit (incl materials & labour?) PLUS £300 for the Belfast sink and tap - so £800 in total.

He's now looking for £1400 labour PLUS £300 materials PLUS £300 sink and tap - so £2000 in total.

I agree that's a huge gap - I'm not sure if I was a builder, that I would think it was realistic to charge someone £2000 for one unit plus sink and tap.

We had an issue like that with a builder who was also loathe to provide proper quotes but always gave the sense that 'he knew what you meant'.

I remember having a chat with him once and he was moaning about some customers who, when he'd asked for payment, claimed he's quoted less.

I should have heard the bells ringing - he did exactly the same thing with me - quoted verbally £800 - then when finished, said (brass neck, blatant to face) 'So, I quoted you £1000......'

I gave him a look that would have frozen sunbeams but he was obviously so adept at pulling this trick - or oblivious - or early onset demented - and just carried on yacking saying when he'd be doing something else etc etc.

We'd had him working for a few weeks at this stage, and I have to say I wimped out of taking him up on it - because I was sick of the sight of him and just wanted him gone and I wanted him to finish the other jobs without a bad atmosphere and he knew all of this no doubt and was in effect taking the piss.

However, he will never get an hour's work on the basis of any recommendation from me - so I it's already lost him much, much more than £200 in jobs I could have told other people to contact him about.

Well, I wish I could give you decent advice - all depends on your relationship with him as a person and whether you ever will want to use him again.

Upthenoonoo Fri 29-Jan-16 13:05:53

2k for a Belfast sink unit is that right? Effing hell he really is taking the piss! I honestly have no advice, he didnt provide a written quote did he so i would him how come he verbally said £500?

HoneywithLemon Fri 29-Jan-16 13:14:42

Yes to evrybuddy's figures....

We didn't agree a price BUT we did talk about reusing the old units (which were horrible) OR putting a cheapo sink unit, sink and tap (which would come in at about £500 he said). He suggested he could make something simple and that a belfast sink would be nice. He was very keen to make the thing, said he had some wood he could use for the worktop which would look good, and I said he could do it. We talked about not wanting to spend more than I could get the units for from DIY Kitchens - and I showed him their stuff. I obviously was wrong when I thought he understood that I didn't want to go mad on the utility.

The job includes moving the plumbing so the sink is sited a few feet from where it's predecessor sat. Not sure what that means in terms of cost but it can't be much more than half a day surely?

If I'd wanted to spend £2k on a Belfast unit I would be looking at fancy brochures, not getting a local builder to do it.

HoneywithLemon Fri 29-Jan-16 13:17:02

Thank you for your comments all, by the way.

And I've just found out that husband has paid him - £180 less than he asked for, but I'm furious with him now!! He wanted me to let him sort it out and I knew he would cave in. Builder insists that he did spend all that time on it and it might have looked finished earlier in January but it wasn't.

I am properly fed up as I really did want him to do the rest of the work but now I don't want to, and I'm very cross with my DH to boot.

evrybuddy Fri 29-Jan-16 13:25:01

What sort of person is he?

You know, if you query the cost, is he:

1. the sort to take it as though you've insulted his mother or is he

2. macho, arsey and aggressive or is he

3. mistrustful and likely to take it to heart and be inwardly offended?

I've not really met many builders of type 3 - mainly 1s and 2s to be fair - but I live in hope.

I think, if he was a reasonable person that I knew (as an adult and not just in the usual builder way) I would say:

'I'm kinda shocked by the cost of that sink unit work for the UTILITY - I mean it is only a utility room after all, and I did say, I would be happy with a homebase type unit which is way less than even a £1000 and you're looking at £2000.
To be honest, I can't look at putting more work your way at those rates - can you do anything on the price?'

It's a bit wimpy sounding, I know, but I don't know your relationship so you could adjust the tone for aggressiveness in either direction.

evrybuddy Fri 29-Jan-16 13:28:02

Cross-posted with the husband paying.

Don't be cross with DH - you might not have even got £180 off.

Life is short - you could have had weeks of misery and arguing - put it behind you - DH has sorted it - love him for that and move on.

It's shit but worse stuff happens - just don't use him again and don't recommend him - you'll soon find you can give much more than £2ks worth of work to other people.

HoneywithLemon Fri 29-Jan-16 13:48:30

Thanks evrybuddy, you are right, it's caused enough stress as it is. FWIW I would say that the builder is from the 1st category definitely. He wouldn't be aggressive.

filigree2015 Fri 29-Jan-16 17:05:52

We had a similar thing a while ago - tradesman told us during some work he did for us that there were a couple of extra things he'd need to charge us for, but it wouldn't be much. I told him that was ok, but that I didn't want any big surprises at the end, and he assured me there wouldn't be. I'd estimated the extra costs would be absolute max £500, then got handed a bill for more than twice that. I was really upset - and by that point the budget was running very low. We paid up because we could see from the invoice where most of the costs had come from (we'd assumed some things were in the original quote, then realised when we got the final bill that they weren't, but he'd not flagged these things were extra when he was doing them). Also I knew it would end up in a big row, and that would probably have upset me even more and he had our keys. He did do a good job, and we tried to focus on that and move on. Not used him again though - day to day he was a nice guy but I didn't trust him after that. I'm also much more attuned now to pinning quotes down, but it can be an imprecise science when there are 'unknowns' (eg state of walls under paper).

HoneywithLemon Fri 29-Jan-16 17:31:26

I agree, Filigree, old houses - it can be hard to predict when renovating stuff. We found half a wall down to the brick when we'd removed built-in book cases, and the coving had to come down with the ceiling (when taking the ceiling down hadn't been in the original plan).

I was expecting less for this job, and unlike structural work it should be easy to predict cost. But I think the problem here was that the joinery/cabinetry stuff isn't what he usually does. He was very keen to do it and it's my fault for not being clearer that I wanted to keep the costs down (but without going for the cheapest option), but then again he could have been a lot clearer.

I got home earlier and all his tools are gone. Despite DH paying him, I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't want to do the rest of the work. I think he is probably offended and stressed out rather than angry.

filigree2015 Fri 29-Jan-16 18:18:03

I really do sympathise - it sounds as if he viewed it as a little project / challenge for himself rather than thinking about what might have been best for you and your DH. We definitely had elements of that with the work we had done. It does sound frustrating because as you say you could have gone somewhere much cheaper or paid the same for a more 'special' job. But I agree it's done now - have a glass of wine tonight (or a cup of tea??) and try not to dwell on it. I'm sure your house will look lovely when it's all done.

I don't think it's unusual by the way for a builder to leave his tools during the week then take them home at the weekend - I don't think it necessarily means he's done a runner.

HoneywithLemon Sat 30-Jan-16 18:26:31

Indeed, Filigree. I'll update the thread with progress soon.

HoneywithLemon Tue 23-Feb-16 11:49:25

Further builder woes

Since the utility debacle we've ordered a kitchen which he is going to fit. In the meantime there have been a few bits and bobs to finish off following the structural work he did for us in December (taking a wall down between kitchen and dining room). There were no issues with that job at all, but it left a few things to do - skirting to replace, doorway to brick up etc. I didn't get a price for these (stupid again) but figured they were small jobs and he usually says, this will take a day, or two, etc. However, I feel like his days are short and one day is frequently turning into two. Kitchen isn't being delivered until end of first week of March, and we didn't expect him to be around much before then.

So,...Since the end of January he's pottered around for a day or two a week but we don't really feel we are getting good value. The payments he's requesting and the hours he's suggested don't seem quite right. We've also had issues with him wanting to be paid urgently a couple of times (sends an email late at night, followed by texts early the next morning and throughout the day). He did this last week. Message on Thurs evening asking for £295 for two days work plus materials, giving bank details (a new thing, we've been paying in cash up to now). DH at work in meetings, I was out of town with kids - we couldn't do anything and I had multiple messages during the day from him (he wasn't actually at work at the house at the time). I had a couple of issues with my internet banking and after a bit of fiddling about we paid him early that evening but it was stressful for me on an already busy day. I found that I had to deal with it though as he was saying he couldn't do any more work until he got paid/couldn't even go out of the house etc...It was all a bit wierd.

In fact the day before (when he was working at our house and texted me to ask if I could bring £50 home as he was skint. I didn't bring it and it was rather awkward when I had to tell him I'd not been able to go to the cashpoint.

Yesterday he turned claimed three hours labour for hanging a door (which I thought he'd finished last week!) and sticking a bit of dado rail up, and again sent an email asking for money in the evening to DH followed by a text to me at 7 am this morning!

It's stressing me out and we haven't got to the kitchen fitting yet. I want to find someone else now.

Previously we've been on friendly terms. He's done work for us before a couple of times including a similar project in our last house. He's also down a lot of work for a friend of mine and she's had no complaints. I don't know what is going on in his life, but the carry on with the money coupled with the feeling that we aren't getting good value, and the hangover over the utility, makes me want to find someone else who will be transparent. All in all very awkward. I don't know what is going on with his finances but all of this is leaving a sour taste in my mouth and we are (both DH and I) finding it hard to get this across without causing bad feeling.

I've texted him today to say we need a quote for the kitchen and he shouldn't do anything else until we've agreed a price sad.

Celeriacacaca Tue 23-Feb-16 12:11:59

You need to have a face to face or phone conversation and say you're not prepared to carry on the way you have been regarding payments/hours. He may leave the job at this point and you'll have to find someone else to fit the kitchen but this is not a usual way for a tradesman to work.

lalalonglegs Tue 23-Feb-16 12:13:00

It sounds as if he has become contemptuous of you - he knows you'll pay up and he doesn't really see why he should give you good value. His work might be good but you seem to be paying a very high premium for it - I'd start getting quotes from other kitchen fitters and then take a view on whether you want to use him or not. I don't understand why you are worried about causing bad feeling - he is royally taking the piss and he has completed enough of the work for you to be able to hand it over to someone else if you choose to.

origamiwarrior Tue 23-Feb-16 12:23:00

It sounds like he is using you as a cash machine (in that he's having money woes at the moment, so when he runs low, he sees you as somewhere he can go for a couple of hours and potter around doing nothing much, and then bill you for the time).

The problem with a kitchen is that there is so much scope for unanticipated 'extras' (drilling holes in cabinets, sourcing and fitting missing skirting board, diverting pipework, cutting down depth of cabinets to fit, replastering around the fridge etc) that he'll be constantly charging you for these 'extras' even if he gives you a so-called 'all-in' quote (and since he has a track record for over-charging and spinning out jobs to get more money, that would soon rack up).

We pay our builder on a daily rate, but my god, he works like stink non-stop, doesn't even take a break for lunch, so we have no worries about being taken for a ride. Every time DH arrives home from work he is amazed at how much has been done in the day.

njptvr Wed 24-Feb-16 15:23:39

This chap is taking the piss and as a couple of other people has said seems to now be taking advantage of you.

I run a company and believe me I understand the difficulty with cash-flow at times but my cash flow problems are just that, MINE and not my clients.

It saddens me that the days of contractors not giving proper quotes and taking people for a ride are not a thing of the past. It can be hard to quote renovation type jobs accurately and things will change on site but its at that point you need to have a conversation with your client and be honest, that way they will trust you.

I am genuinely sorry to hear of your current woes, he is doing nothing for the reputation of any jobbing builder or contractor.

I think it is time to cut your losses and find someone else!!!

Ragusa Wed 24-Feb-16 19:21:16

Mmmm he is really taking the piss In futur. Why in this country do tradies so often di this??

note to yourself, never never never, and I mean NEVER, commission someone on a day rate basis. You may as well give them a blank cheque.

Ragusa Wed 24-Feb-16 19:22:06

Well that was incoherent smile sorry. But you get my drift ...

HoneywithLemon Thu 25-Feb-16 09:15:49

Thanks for all of the replies. I've had a text from him this morning saying can he have £70 for some doors he had stripped for us (and he will give us the address if we want to go to collect them). This was after I said on Monday no more work until we get an estimate.

I agree we need a conversation. Unfortunately I'm preoccupied with a crisis at work and it's taking all my mental and emotional energy atm. I found out on Monday that I have to be redeployed and as I should have have been told 4 months ago HR are trying to rush me through the process. I can really do without the builder woes on top. It has been really getting me down and stressing me out., causing rows with DH etc.

I am going to get a price for fitting the kitchen from a joiner we know and trust (who will give us a quote up front). I'll need a plasterer/electrician/plumber too but I can get quotes for that stuff too - will just be a bit fiddly. Luckily we have room to store the kitchen units if we have a delay.

lalalonglegs Thu 25-Feb-16 19:27:39

Is he basically saying that you don't get your doors back until you pony up £70 despite telling him that you didn't want him to do any more work until you had discussed costs?

HoneywithLemon Mon 29-Feb-16 19:32:40

Kind of. He had the doors stripped before Christmas. (He was going to make a new cupboard for them). We don't need them now.

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