Want to avoid those extra costs on building your extension and save thousands of pounds?

Home Drawing in black pen

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If you are considering building a new extension to your home the topic of extras, variations, additional costs whatever you want to call it can often be a major sticking point in any builder client relationship. This does not need to be you if you take the time to prepare prior to the appointment of a contractor and this involves doing research.

What are extras?

Extra is the variation of design or agreed task post contract agreement, basically anything you ask the builder to change or add during the build.

Prior to contract agreement it is imperative to understand exactly what the contractors have allowed for in their prospective quotes.

Where to start?

Your architect and or designer would or should have recommended that you include a full project specification; schedule of works or list of elements to price for either with their drawings or for you to compile separately and hand in with their drawings as part of the project tender. Their drawings will normally have most elements which they discussed with you on it. A full and clear project specification given to a reputable builder is as important for them as it is for you in case of any disputes.

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It’s more common than you think for people to start a build without agreeing most of the elements they want doing with their prospective builders.

So why do projects have extras even if the builder has a Full Specification?

It is very difficult on any build project not to incur any variations. There are two types of variations, elements that the client chooses to vary and those which are unforeseen. We are all only human and some things only come to light during the actual construction phase. Having a few project specific surveys prior to the works will help in reducing the chances of unforeseen variations. Often unforeseen variations occur if something was missed by a surveyor, architect, engineer, builder or even the home owner. Those building professionals normally have a caveat in their contracts stating that the builder has to check everything on site to mitigate their liability…obviously. It is difficult and often these professionals do miss things.

So how to avoid unforeseen variations?

Start with a good architect, not an expensive architect but a decent one. Do some research as you do with contractors but instead of just asking those whom have had building work done who they used, ask the prospective contractors who they would recommend. A decent architect should be the most knowledgeable person you deal with on this journey, which is why they charge so much for their time. Ask them if you need to get specific surveys done, they should be able to advise.

The chances of unforeseen variations hopefully reduced what next?

Make your decisions as early as you possibly can. Some builders are happy to swallow some of the additional in their costs as they may have a buffer in their budget. Many won’t inherit these costs though and will rightly charge for any additional works if it has not been allowed for or at least agreed in advance. If you have a designer involved they normally have a design for the builder or contractor to price from. It’s often the design elements that aren’t on the drawings that incur those extras.

Below is a few of the most common elements clients have asked for just to put into perspective how easy it can be to have additional costs.

1. Electrical Works – This is probably the most common one to have extras on. The allowance per room is usually in the estimate or quotation and this would have been based on either a schedule of works and or discussion with the client as to what they want to have in each room.

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Commonly this changes once the room has been formed and the client can visualise the space.

Try and get this nailed before work commences as additional electrical work can escalate quickly, I’ve heard it all before “put another socket here for vacuuming and another LED spot light as that may be a dark area”. It’s worth right from the start to know roughly what the space is to be used for and what you will need in it.

2. Plumbing – not as common as electrical however things like water softeners, outside taps, more elegant designer radiators instead of standard radiators to name a few. All things that can add up quickly.

3. Plastering- this is often overlooked as clients often assume every wall will be plastered as its being affected by the building works. This is a common misconception as walls can be made good after most intrusive works including electrical and plumbing chases. Do not assume anything, check with your builder what they have allowed for and if unsure get them round again and show them the specific area you are unsure off.

4. Carpentry/joinery – the list can be endless here however common elements include shelving, cupboards, boxing in of pipes/cables if not allowed for, changing of existing doors, more expensive doors, changing existing ironmongery, more expensive ironmongery and these are just some of them. All of these elements would have been considered by your builder when it comes to allowance.

Go through every room that will be affected during the build and list out what you think needs to be done and ask if it’s been allowed for. If the discussion is verbal write it down, type it out and send it back to your builder to agree before you carry on.

I often find that once the project is complete the client hopes that the builder will forget some of the extras. Don’t let this be you, good reputable builders (which you should be using) rarely forget about extras as they jot them down as they go. Depending on your relationship with your builder some of it may be passed on as “Goodwill”. More often than not you will be charged so get the costs for any additional as early as you can to avoid conflict at the end of the built. I can’t stress how important this is, it’s not unheard of where builders will go through everything they have done brick by brick to find extras if they find the client is trying to pull a fast one.

A good relationship is imperative as any snagging or post work issues will be resolved quicker, with less cost and stress. If it can be achieved with the same initial builder you may not have to pay for much or any of it depending on what the issue was.

If you need any help with any quotations you have received from your builder or contractor please contact me on THIS page.


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