Problems with Quotations
Q - We have been obtaining quotations recently for plastering work and are struck by the substantial differences in the sums involved. Is this usual in the construction industry because in my work, precision engineering, quotes from different firms are usually very close?
A - Yes, it is quite common, particularly in domestic construction work, for two reasons. First, the brief given to the bidders can vary considerably so they are sometimes quoting for different packages of work. Second, small contracting firms find it difficult to maintain an even flow of work and will quote high figures when they are busy and low ones when they are looking for new work.
Q - We have received a quote from a builder to construct our new house-to-be but it is presented as just one figure with no breakdown. Is this normal and should we insist on a detailed quotation?
A - No, it is not normal and yes, you should ask for a breakdown. He must have had to prepare his bid in some detail so why not let you have a breakdown? It would give you more confidence and, if it was presented in the right way, it would help in valuing the stage payments he will be looking for.
Problems with Tradesmen's work
Q - The plastering contractor also laid the floor screed and we are going to lay the tiles ourselves. But we now find that the screed is uneven and he just ignores our requests to come back and put his work right. Have you any suggestions?
A - If you buy a self-levelling flooring liquid and pour it into the depressions in the screed and it will set hard overnight. Unfortunately, it is quite expensive and could cost you up the £12 per square metre depending upon how uneven the floor is.
Problems with Payments
Q - We are in dispute with our builder who is taking us to the Small Claims Court for money he says that we owe him. The dispute arose when on the last bill he asked for an extra £3,500. We refused to pay him but eventually agreed to do so if he finished the snagging. He didn't do it so we did not pay him.
Is it normal to pay extra to have the snagging completed or should it have been finished to an acceptable standard in the first place? Also, does it make a difference whether the work was done under a fixed price quote or an hourly rate?
A - On larger contracts it is usual for the client to retain 2.5% of the value of the work until three or six months after completion and this sum is then released after the final snagging has been done. You should not have to pay the builder for putting right his own mistakes. It is irrelevant whether the work is based on a fixed sum or hourly rate. You should talk to a local quantity surveyor to help you with this problem.
Q - I am about to start building a house using a builder and working on a JCT contract. The builder suggests that we spread the stage payments over seven to eight months paying equal amounts each month to help with his cash flow. Should I accept this proposal?
A - Do not agree to this method of payment because if he falls behind in his programme, you will be overpaying him. Most building contracts are based on either a monthly measure of the work or by stage payments as previously agreed parcels of work are completed.
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