Getting firm quotes from builders

(17 Posts)
RidgewayLass Tue 26-May-09 10:35:27

We are getting a kitchen extension and widening bathroom. I asked 4 builders to quote and only 2 responded, 1 of which gave an estimate and said he would give me a quote if we chose him. Was going to go with the only one who quoted but decided against at last minute for very good reasons. That is a whole other story, but very upsetting and making me want to cancel the project, but our house is teeny-tiny and we are reluctant to move.

I've just asked another builder to have a look and an informal discussion. I'm thinking of asking this new one and the one who estimated to give me firm quotes. BUT I know just how much work is involved.

If you are a builder yourself, or have had building work done, what do you think? Is it reasonable to ask for a full firm quote?

nickytwotimes Tue 26-May-09 10:38:32

We had extensive work done and I would STRONGLY RECOMMEND getting a firm quote in writing with penalties/bonuses for completion within a specified time.

mrsmaidamess Tue 26-May-09 10:39:30

Any builder worth his salt will not hold his quote to ransom unless you choose him.

verylapsedrunner Tue 26-May-09 10:42:48

If it's a significant project it may be worth the investment of employing a Quantity Surveyor to price the whole job. Then at least you'll know how accurate the builders estimates are.

RidgewayLass Tue 26-May-09 10:58:43

It's a little project - abut 25k to 30k. I got a book from the library that told me what prices to expect for building jobs, and the estimates that I got match okay. But I work in construction (only its roads not buildings so I don't know any housebuilders) so I know that the estimate is just a piece of paper. It's normal with road projects for the price to double or triple from the estimate, except when Mrs Dragon here bangs the table and frogmarches the contractors through all the detailed costing. But it's my house, and I don't want to bring Mrs Dragon out for some poor devil who will have to practically live with me for two months.

HELPFULHATTIE Tue 26-May-09 11:23:39

Well I would say its advisible to allow 10 - 20% extra

The BEST way to find someone good is by you know anyone who has had similar work done and is happy with the result?

Please dont start the job assuming you are going to be "conned" hubby gets terribly stressed and upset when a client stands over him constantly and assumes every additional cost is because he is ripping them off.

YES we COULD allow for EVERY eventuallity when we quote, this would make our prices unnecessarily expensive and 75% of the time everything goes to plan.

RidgewayLass Tue 26-May-09 13:31:25

Thanks Hattie,

Yes I would agree up to 20% extra is fine. In my experience it is often the client that causes the job to go over by forgetting to specify everything - but you can't think of everything or account for every possible what if and maybe.

But even with a referral, would you ask for a full quote before agreeing to go ahead?

jeanjeannie Tue 26-May-09 14:10:24

Yes, we always do a full spreadsheet quote and look between 10-15% variables. You can suddenly unearth the most perculiar things that no one can predict. Although, on the whole DP (builder) is pretty darn close!

Hattie is absolutly right - you need a referal at best or at least a look at work undertaken. We are always arranging for potential clients to go and have a look at work DP has done. He's on a job now and two prospective clients are going round to see it this week as they want something similar. It's not finished yet but they want an idea of the incovienence involved!

I think you need a builder who actually does that kind of work not one who is used to pricing up jobs for big firms isywim. Personally I wouldn't go for penalties on going over time as DP often finds small blips mean that it isn't possible for a small builder to get completion bang on target everytime; it's different if you're talking about a huge build with a veritable army of tradesman though. I would hope that you have a good enough relationship with your builder that you wouldn't end up with a build going massively over time. The thing to do is ensure that he isn't taking on other jobs simultaneously as many, many builders do this hmm

What we'd expect a client wants before undertaking a job:
1)A firm quote with built in % for unknowns
2)Details of any electricians/plumbers on the job and relevant certificates needed.
3)Details of building regs and at which points any inspections need to happen
4) Schedules of payments - including % required up front.

DP also does detailed 3d cad drawings of the client's spec but not sure if this comes as standard with other builders.


navyeyelasH Tue 26-May-09 18:45:02

We are renovating out house and have found 80% of of handy people via Our plasterer in particular was amazing!

Maybe post a post up on there with specifics and then see what responses you get then invite them over to double cheack everything then get a written price. That's what we have done and so far have had no problems.


MaryHuff Tue 26-May-09 22:46:07

What stage are you at in your plans? we found that builders would not give a quote until we had the full building regs submission drawings, as up until that stage there were too many variables. They did not want to commit to a price if the building regs submissions committed them to more expensive types of construction materials, for example.
What we also found helped was to fully spec as much detail as we could - down to the type of light switches, doors etc, so that they knew exactly what we wanted.

kc3 Thu 28-May-09 12:28:59

My husband is a builder and he would itemise when quoting and he would stick to the quote unless client made alterations. The unknowns are at his risk as he is the expert if he felt uncertain of something at the time of quoting he would look into this and give a confirmed price for it. If for example he started the job and then realised he needed structural engineer advice then he would have to absorb the fee but if costs were incurred due to client changes then they would have to absord the costs.

On a job that size it would be difficult to tie anybody down to non-completion payments within a certain time . We would advice a time schedule and it would be a job of trust. A payment schedule should also be agreed and never pay anything up front even if requested for materials.

jeanjeannie Thu 28-May-09 16:48:53

Wow - kc3, does your husband not ask for anything up front?! My DP is on a job where the materials alone are £25,000 - we'd be sunk!

He never used to for smaller jobs but once a client said he'd gone bankrupt (private job) after he'd forked out £5,000 on materials and done a third of the work hmm I think it is very unusual not to ask for anything - after all it's a two-way street, the builder has to be sure the client will honor payment.

kc3 Thu 28-May-09 20:11:35

We have always worked on a trust basis and have never had money upfront. I think staged payments put you in a position that you would never lose a huge sum. We have only been burnt once (fingers crossed) and another where he ran out of money towards the end of the job but my husban finished it anyway and the man paid about 4 months later!!

We do often say it seems to be the only industry where you have to do the work before you get paid.

pavlovthecat Thu 28-May-09 20:17:43

We are having a loft conversion done and we only considered those who gave us a fixed price. Otherwise you are opening yourself up to have £1000s added to the cost. Those who said, between x and Y, we binned immediately.

You want a full breakdown of what they will actually do, right down to smallest items, and what you will have to sort out seperately, and for this work you want a fixed price that will not change unless you change your requirements.

For example, our price was including everything apart from building regs fees and drawings - however we did a deal with both the builder and the architect who are working together and got a total price deal. We checked out the smaller details, what if you need more steels than planned?

If they are experienced, they should be able to come and talk to you about what you want, exactly, then go away, calculate it and give you a price. If they can't do it, they don't really know what they are doing IMO.

pavlovthecat Thu 28-May-09 20:23:58

Oh and I am paying upfront an amount. then a second payment at a certain stage, then the final payment once we have the building reg certs. I sort of presumed this to be standard. The materials to do this work is pricey, I could not expect my builder to fund this out of his own pocket in this current market when work is slow. He has to pay the scaffolders, has to pay for the steels to be cut, has to give his boys a wage. If he was a big company I would expect there to be a margin to allow for this expense, but he is a small building team.

jeanjeannie Thu 28-May-09 20:58:53

I agree with Pavlo - you want them to know what they're talking about and calculate properly otherwise you have to wonder if they know what they're doing. Doesn't bode well for letting them lose on your property!

Kc3, that is very unusual but great if it works for you. DPs jobs tend to be really pricey on the materials, yet he is a single builder/carpenter, so it's often specialist timber stuff and we don't have the margins that a company may have be able to handle that. Good on your DH for finishing the job and 'boo hiss' to the bloke taking four months to pay!

kc3 Thu 28-May-09 21:23:22

We're not a huge company about 8 employees and then sub contractors. We use the 30 day accounts at the merchant for materials and sometimes cash flow can be tight. We tend to have a large job and a few smaller ones at any one time.

If he hadn't finished that job he would have been talked about as a bad builder and with the majority of his work coming from recommendations you have to maintain your reputation. In the mans defense he was completely upfront when he ran out of money (even though it hadn't reached agreed quote) and he did pay up eventually.

I think whatever works best for you is the right way to do things and agree with Pavlov - experienced builders should know what they are doing, whether things can or can't be done and accurately price.

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