Garage conversion. No official plans. Builders reluctant to quote...

(66 Posts)
LittenTree Sun 15-Jul-12 14:40:55

If this were a bigger job, I imagine you'd call a builder in, you'd rough out what you wanted, he'd tell you stuff you didn't know, such as what size the 'units' are, i.e. it'll cost less, in the long run, to make that wall 3 units long not 2 3/4 units as it'll cost labour to cut a unit down by a quarter, etc etc. That certain sorts of lighting/heating ventilation are far cheaper to be built in, not retro-added. Like a window there wouldn't get past the council, but one here would, that this sort of flooring is way more economical than that, that this will need to be a fire door, that putting the WC there would make the soil pipe far cheaper to dig because we could attach it to that spur (that I wouldn't have even recognised as such!). And so forth.

BUT all the blokes I called have asked 'have you got yer plans drawn up, love?'

Well, no, if only because it might all come in at way more than we are willing to pay so the £500 spent out on plans would be money down the pan- and what we come up with might be rubbish (see above for all the sort of stuff that would occur to me)! A couple have said, well, if you're handy with a pencil, you can do your own plans but how much detail do they need? Wiring diagrams etc? DO any of the walls need to be fire proof? (yes, in fact). I wouldn't have a clue. BUT I don't seem to be able to get a quote, just 'ball park', without plans!

Any suggestions as to how we can proceed?

I am praying our 'odd job' bloke, who's just boarded the loft in preparation for a garage conversion can talk to his mate etc etc and that he'll effectively 'project manage' it all. But a local builder with local planning rules knowledge would be way better, if one would quote!

OP’s posts: |
SwedishEdith Sun 15-Jul-12 15:41:19

If you look on your local council's site under planning you can look at other people's drawings. And, yes, some definitely submit some very rudimentary "plans". Do you need planning permission to convert a garage?

stickyj Sun 15-Jul-12 15:48:30

I'll ask DH, he's an architect.grin

BackforGood Sun 15-Jul-12 15:51:31

I think you haven't found the right builder yet.

PigletJohn Sun 15-Jul-12 16:54:52

Here's a thought

" I might want you to build something for me, or I might ask someone else. I'm not sure quite what it will be like, but I want you to give. me a firm price. After you've done the work of drawing up a plan of what you think I want, I might change my mind several times so you have to do it again, and then I might give the job to someone else, or not have it done at all. Is that OK with you?"

The builders have been through it all before. Get plans drawn up. It doesn't need an architect.

Pendeen Mon 16-Jul-12 00:33:17

What do you want?

Ideas? Creativity? Inspiration?

What do you want to achieve?

Why do you want to do this?

Do you have any ideas or suggestions?

How much can you afford?

Whose ideas are these?

Ah, so you have a copy of 'popular-TV-show-which-offers-so-called- expert-advice' magazine?

Have you thought about moving instead?

And so on...

At the risk of offending PigletJohn - who has many sage and good words of advice on this DIY forum - it's worth a few moments finding a local architect who offers a free 1hr / 1/2hr advice service.

I - at the risk of sounding disingenuous (and self-serving on behalf of fellow Architects) recommend the services of an architect who can offer creativity, imagination, flair and the benefits of a long and arduous education, training, and experience.

On more occasions than I would like to admit I have talked myself out of a commission because I truly believed that the best interest of the client was not to embark on expensive and very disruptive alterations but to move house (or not to do the work at all).

If you know what you want then by all means engage a plan drawer or surveyor or architectural technician / technologist or design-and-builder but for a creative, artistic and intuitive design speak to an Architect

fresh Mon 16-Jul-12 07:49:41

If your budget won't cope with an extra £500 for plans (and you also could do with a proper written spec) then don't start this job. Wait until you've saved the extra £500.

As a rough guideline renovation works can cost £1000 (basic) to £2000 (smart) and more per square metre, if that helps you get a ballpark. However, if you go into a project with less than that, expecting your odd job man and his mate to deliver what you want .... It won't go well, and that's me being polite.

Pay for a plan and a spec. Piglet and Pendeen are right.


LittenTree Mon 16-Jul-12 09:09:43

OK, if what we want comes in at £6000 all up, it'll be happening.

If it comes in at £15,000, it won't.

I'd really prefer not to have to come up with £500 before an experienced builder can give me 'a ball park'. I suspect the job will come in closer to the first figure, however.

See, when it comes down to it, it's quite a simple job.

Within our 12 year old brick built 2 storey estate house, we have an integral single garage with an up and over door with a connecting door into the house. No windows.

We want to build a solid (fireproof) wall separating the room into about 1/3 storage at the garage door end (that will remain) and 2/3 a new TV/living room. A window will need knocking through the outer wall (Hence planning permission needed). We then want to raise up the solid, concrete garage floor to that of the house's floor (4"?) to a finish that can be underlayed and carpeted. We want the walls lined with plasterboard so they can be skimmed and painted, we want the ceiling treated similarly (there's already plasterboard there but I believe it'll need a bit of sound proofing as DS1's bedroom is above). The internal door will need to be re-hung, swinging the other way, and maybe replaced with an 'internal' door, not the heavy fire door that's currently there. We'll need 3 double power points and 2 uplighters (there is, of course, already electric to the room). A radiator can be taken off a spur to the hall radiator which will be just the other side of the internal wall.The fuse box and Potterton 'boiler' will need boxing.

Not really a project that requires, with all due respect, "creativity, imagination, flair and the benefits of a long and arduous education, training, and experience". I very much doubt someone with those attributes would bother with what is rather a trivial job, really! I suspect pendeen has already fallen off their stool with the tedium of it grin.

Piglet, really, would it not be possible for a builder to give me a ball park based on what I've just written? Can they not, based on this say 'Mm, walls are 'x' square metres, plasterboards costs 'y', it'll take me 2 days to do this or that, electrics'll come in at about £500 for that, door will cost £200, it'll take Reg and I an hour to rehang it, that practically identical job we did up the road cost £'z' ' etc etc.

I am hoping our 'odd job man' (who is a carpenter) can pull it off. We met him when he was subby'ing our new kitchen, for a company that do it all- building, plastering, cabinet making, electrics, flooring etc etc. Over the last couple of years we've had most of the blokes in to do smaller, individual jobs so I have every confidence that he can pull the relevant people together to do this job- IF he gets back to me, but I need to get a couple of quotes for it, don't I?!

And yes, backforgood, I haven't found the right builder- or any builder, for that matter!

OP’s posts: |
NeatFreak Mon 16-Jul-12 09:34:42

we did similar about eight years ago and it cost more than £6000 then. However, we didn't draw up plans as such as it was just a square room with a new window and door into the rest of the house. We didn't need planning permission but did get building regs. Won't you need plans for planning permission anyway?
It sounds like you need to find a good builder- we were recommended a general builder who knew what he was doing and had plenty of contacts (plasterers, electricians etc).

PigletJohn Mon 16-Jul-12 09:34:52

If you haven't got a plan, you can't have a quote.

You are actually asking three builders to sit down at their kitchen tables after a hard day's work, and do the work of drawing up their idea of what your plan would be, and working out a price for it in the knowledge that your final plan will be different, and you will grumble if the final price is different, and the chances are that the contract will go to someone else.

This also means that all the unpaid time and effort they put into your job either means their kids go hungry, or they overcharge the next poor sucker.

They've been through it before and don't want to do it again. They also think that if you were serious you would have plans already.

fresh Mon 16-Jul-12 09:47:10

Aargh. If you're happy for a builder to say something will come in at "about" £500 (which might mean £400 and might mean £700) then why won't you spend money on getting the spec tied down in the first place? It will save you money because everyone will know exactly what they're supposed to be doing, and it will force you to make some decisions now rather than when the builder is on site (which is generally the more expensive way of doing things).

Doing it your way means you put yourself at the mercy of the builder (and his mates). It will, without doubt, cost you at least £500 more than it should, either now or when you have to redo it in a couple of years. Get a spec.

LittenTree Mon 16-Jul-12 09:55:25

But, I when people came to look at the jobs, we didn't have a plan for the kitchen. I didn't have a plan for the extra room built onto my last house. I got 3 builders in, told them what we wanted, they made some good suggestions (see my first comment about a good builder will know how big a pre-bought 'unit' of something is and will know that if you build in multiples of that, it'll be more economical than fractions; they'll know that digging soil pipes etc is a lot more expensive than a tweak to relocate the position of the loo etc.)

They didn't come back to me with the sort of plans that'd get through council but they were able to give me a ball park price. In fact the bloke we eventually chose told me on the spot what he'd think it would cost, ie his 'ball park' quote; an lo, once he had the official plans as we'd decided to go with him, the final cost was within 5% of that ball park quote! Were we just lucky?

And with respect, Piglet, yes of course I know I am paying for time my builder spent doing quotes for folks who didn't choose him. Surely that's factored into any price? They may have 'been through it before and don't want to go through it again' but isn't that the job? Of course I don't want to mess anyone around, but similarly I don't want to spend £500 on plans for a project that will be beyond my means to complete!

OP’s posts: |
fresh Mon 16-Jul-12 10:03:14

You've asked for advice and then disagreed with it. You still don't have a builder though, so it's just possible your approach isn't going to work.

I think all we can do is wish you luck hmm

cantspel Mon 16-Jul-12 10:22:36

You will need building regs so unless you have had a plan drawn up to building regs standard then how is a builder going to know how to cost the job?
Materials vary in price so if a builder gives the cheapest quote he can and for example then building regs tell him that he needs to use a more expensive insulation is he expected to suck up the extra cost?

Pendeen Mon 16-Jul-12 10:26:18


Fair enough!

<Puts stool upright and massages sore bottom>

I can sometimes take great pains and delight over the smallest detail or in the tiniest commission but in this case I will flounce off and take my creativity and flair somewhere else.


(And BTW don't forget to add a few hundred pounds for Building Regulations fees).

fresh Mon 16-Jul-12 10:35:28

Final note: your builder who came in at within 5% of his initial 'off the top of his head' quote....did you check his final price against anyone else's, given that you'd already decided to go with him? If not, then I'm not surprised his price came in close to what he'd said; whether it should actually have cost that much of course, you'll never know. It might even have been £500 more than it should have been. In which case...

However, if you did check his final price against others, yes, you were lucky.

PigletJohn Mon 16-Jul-12 11:07:19

If I get a mug punter to agree to a £12m estimate (I work on larger projects) there's not much chance he'll get away with paying less.

but I won't do it, too tiring.

ILikeToMoveItMoveIt Mon 16-Jul-12 11:19:07

I agree with most people here. Get some plans drawn up. For the sake of an upfront cost, they will probably save you money and whole lot of grief in the long run.

If you find someone to quote for you on the basis of no plans then the quote will probably be loaded because of the situation.

Most (experienced) builders would only agree to a day rate where no plans are involved. They would have had their fingers burnt before in this sort of situation.

betterwhenthesunshines Mon 16-Jul-12 11:28:53

You don't need to have an architect to draw up plans - a surveyor should be able to do it for you.

BackforGood Mon 16-Jul-12 11:35:43

I understand what you are saying LittenTree.
there's no point in getting plans drawn up if this project is likely to cost £15000, as it's not going to happen. However, if it's the sort of thing that can cost £5000, then, at that time, you will get the plans drawn up. Makes perfect sense to me, and also to builders I've worked with. You aren't talking about a formal, written, detailed quote, you are talking about "About how much will it cost me to...."
Whereas I see what people are saying about specific detailed quotes being time consuming, an experienced builder should be able to guestimate a ball park figure, emphasising it would very depending on x/y/z, so the OP has an idea if this is something she can afford or not. My builder would certainly do that, and consider it part of running his own business.

PigletJohn Mon 16-Jul-12 11:38:50

The OP was:

"Garage conversion. No official plans. Builders reluctant to quote..."

"BUT I don't seem to be able to get a quote, just 'ball park', without plans!

"Any suggestions as to how we can proceed?"

Yes, and you've had them

betterwhenthesunshines Mon 16-Jul-12 11:41:47

Agree - if you've been give a 'ball park' then that should give you an idea as to whether you can afford to go ahead. But the final cost will probably be at least 'ball park' + 20% .

Fizzylemonade Mon 16-Jul-12 12:08:22

Maybe I am missing something here, but if you believe that the quote will come in at £6000 ish and it comes in at £7000 are you abandoning the plans or would you not just save up a bit longer to have the extra money confused

Why not have plans done, they don't go out of date, give a copy to the builder he quotes you and if you can't afford it right now you wait until you can. It is so simple.

I speak as someone who had a double garage converted.

At the end of the day you will need building regs so you need plans drawn up.

My architect cost £360 for plans for the garage conversion plus a kitchen extension, once planning was approved he then provided a detailed drawing to the builders which listed what flooring insulation they were using, what bricks (we had windows put in the front) etc etc It is not a waste of money.

Contact an architect.

noddyholder Mon 16-Jul-12 12:09:40

What do you want to use the room for?

SoupDragon Mon 16-Jul-12 12:15:54

Get some squared paper and a ruler and draw some plans. It can't be that hard if the room is already there.

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