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Choosing a builder - v low quote likely to mean shortcuts taken?

(14 Posts)
bitzermaloney Mon 27-Dec-10 16:07:12

We have some quotes from builders to do a 2-storey extension to our house, and there has been a massive difference between the quotes - £20k between highest and lowest. We gave them all very detailed plans so we know what is included and what is not. The lowest quote is 9k below the next lowest! The builder who has given us that lowest quote has done work for two of my friends (a ground-floor extension and a loft conversion for one, and a new kitchen for the other), who are both pleased with him and his work.

However, one of the other builders warned me against pushing the successful bidder down on price too much, as some might take short cuts that would be problems later on.

How would I know if a builder was taking inadvisable short cuts? What kind of short cuts might they take? Obviously I am very tempted to take the lowest quote, since I've had good reports for him as well, but the earliest work he did for my friends was only 2 years ago, so possibly not long enough ago for problems to be revealed? I am just wondering how he can do it for so much less than the others...

Granny23 Mon 27-Dec-10 16:12:52

Maybe he is just desperate for some work? Better to have work on which you just break even without making a profit than no work with your overheads (workshop, van, NI, etc - still to be paid.

ChippingIn Mon 27-Dec-10 16:46:30

Supply & demand determine the price of everything. Some builders recognise this and adjust prices accordingly. Some builders trade on fear - people who 'fear' using a cheaper builder who mistakenly believe the most expensive will be the best.

If your friends have used him and are happy with his work, it's a good start. I would check out his quals and ask for references etc

overthehillmum Mon 27-Dec-10 17:04:03

Hi, Could I just add that you should only pay in increments, get a breakdown of the costs in material and labour, and only pay for the material as it arrives on site, agree the payment terms - on completion of set areas or percentage complete, I can never believe the amount of complaints about builders being paid in full and not carrying out the work, no reputable builder will expect payment up front.If there is a problem with the building it is easier to negotiate if there is a balance to pay.

TDada Mon 27-Dec-10 17:10:33

yes, look out for short cuts and variations. You will need a comprehensive and detailed spec to mitigate this.

lalalonglegs Mon 27-Dec-10 17:35:33

It could be the more expensive ones don't want the jobs as much; it could be that they are still playing the boomtime trick of trying to cop a bit of the increased house equity for themselves (happened a lot in London). You've given them very detailed plans but have you given them a specification so they know exactly what materials/finish you are expecting?

Personally, I don't think #20k is such a huge difference - a two storey extension is probably costing the best part of six figures. When did this builder do work for your friends? Can you check out more recent clients if it was some time ago? If he is a company, can you check his financial records at Companies House (might give you an idea if he is in trouble or not - you don't want him going belly up half way through the build).

DisparityCausesInstability Mon 27-Dec-10 19:06:18

Are any of them quoting for provisional costs - ie they are just estimating some of the costs and will bill you for more as and when?

We found that some of the estimated costs were on the low side - for example the cheapest quote had assumed £20 per door and that included handles - the quote we choose had included £150 per door - we won't need all that but it was very very clear that we would never find a door, hinged and handle we were happy with for £20. Provisional costs for electrical work on the cheapest quote was £3k - we had worked out it would be closer to £6k which one builder had quoted and we felt he knew the job. Would agree that £20k is not too much of difference you need to find out more about what lies behind the numbers.

Choose 2 or 3 builders - your favourite and compile a list of questions about what is included excluded etc and have another chat with them and from there you should be able to make a decision. There is nothing wrong with going for the cheapest - as long as you are sure they have costed everything properly.

I would not bargain any of them down - bad idea and bad start to a working relationship. Bargain with the bathroom and kitchen sales people - look for bargains in the sales but never pay a builder less than they think they are worth - it'll all end in tears!

bitzermaloney Mon 27-Dec-10 19:56:12

Thanks, all very helpful. Lowest was 53k, highest 75k (this is in Greater London/Kent). I am waiting for the detailed quotes, just had headline figures so far. Will definitely not be paying up front!

TDada Mon 27-Dec-10 21:06:22

Just remember that who ever does it, it almost always end up costing more than original quote for all sorts of reasons

DisparityCausesInstability Mon 27-Dec-10 21:15:36

At that level £20k is a big difference and ddefinitely one worth investigating. Sounds very cheap for Greater London - lucky you!

lalalonglegs Tue 28-Dec-10 10:47:40

I agree with Disparity- that sounds unbelievable for London. Too good to be true?

bitzermaloney Tue 28-Dec-10 14:58:56

Architect had said approx 65k after he did the basic plans for us, based on the square metres we're adding. We are adding one room downstairs and one upstairs (kitchen and double bedroom).

Fizzylemonade Wed 29-Dec-10 21:33:29

We had builders convert a double garage for us in September. We went off personal recommendation and we had seen his work on several properties (friends) knew he turned up at the crack of dawn and cleaned up the site daily.

We paid him in increments each Friday after he had done the work.

Cheaper builders will either cut corners or find problems that require more money.

I am a sahm so was here for lots of it, chatted to all the workmen while they worked as it fascinates me. Saw the insulation going into the walls before they plasterboarded it (that is one way they cut corners) also what they used for flooring etc.

It can move at a fast pace so it was good for me to see the progress as opposed to dh who saw it jumping on (where anything could be concealed)

eviscerateyourmemory Wed 29-Dec-10 21:39:14


Could you explain the bit about the insulation/plasterboard please? How is that a way of cutting corners? (I know nothing about building confused)

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