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Case Study: I chose the cheapest contractor quotes and paid for it!

Before becoming a Resi founder, Alex Depledge took on what she thought was going to be a simple side extension for her London home. What followed was a six month nightmare, and it all started when she chose the cheapest quote over the most comprehensive.

5 min read

Before becoming a Resi founder, Alex Depledge took on what she thought was going to be a simple side extension for her London home. What followed was a six month nightmare, and it all started when she chose the cheapest quote over the most comprehensive.

We’re sharing her story to help you avoid the same mistakes…

Picking the (wrong) quote

I guess you could say all my problems started when I received three contractor quotes.

quote three 1 quote three 3

quote two 1 quote two 3

quote one 3 quote one 1

As you can see, two of those quotes look very similar. Long lists, and pain-stakingly itemised costs. All fitted into a complex table, where each and every penny is accounted for. But they’re also pricey - or so I thought. One coming in at £91,723.44 and the other £86,567.50.

Then there’s the third quote. No table. No detailed account of costs. Just a simple list of bullet points stating what they’ll cover...

  • Fit bathtub
  • Connect pipes
  • Demolition included

All sounded fine, especially to me, someone who had never taken on an extension project before. And then there was their price - £61,800. Nearly £30K cheaper than one of the other, more detailed, quotes.

Like most homeowners, I thought such savings seemed like a good enough reason to opt for the builder whose contract was a little lacking. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Costs soon added up

People familiar with bad contractors will be unsurprised to hear that things started to go wrong from day one.

The day they turned up the first thing I noticed was they didn’t bring a toilet, which was concerning, considering they would be ripping out our only bathroom. To this day, I still don’t know how they navigated this oversight, and maybe I don’t want to know.

But, alongside this unpleasant lavatory mystery, was an even more unpleasant surprise. In order to start building my side extension, the builders would need to demolish part of my house, and to do that they would need to insert a steel beam to stop the rest of the building from falling down.

I was taken aside and informed by my contractor that the beam they were using wouldn’t fit through my home, and would therefore need to be cut. This would cost an extra £2000.

Now, my home is a terrace maisonette with no side access. There was no way any 9m steel beam was getting through it. So how did my contractor, with detailed drawings of my layout, not know this and foresee the cost?

Turns out, there were a lot of unforeseen costs. Throughout the course of the project pipes weren’t accounted for. New labour had to be factored in. Delays pushed up prices.

By the end of it, my £61,000 bargain had swelled to nearly £91,000.

Design was ignored

Along with unaccounted for costs, I also ended up with unaccounted changes to my design.

In my architectural drawings, it was clearly stated that my new room would have suspended timber floors. Though more costly to install, these would allow me to have future access to the pipes below, and give the option for underfloor heating.

However, my contractor went ahead and poured concrete instead. Why? Because it was both easier and more cost effective for them. And I would have never noticed the error had my architect not visited to point it out.

This is the problem of dealing with an unreliable contractor. Without an expert pair of eyes to hand, you won’t be able to spot subtle changes to your original designs. Not until it’s too late, at least.

Timings spired out of control

Because so much of my design had gone unaccounted for in the contractor’s plan, and because I was at war with them from day one, timings quickly got out of hand.

In the original projections, the construction would only last 16 weeks. This turned into 30 weeks, almost double the original estimate.

Because our house was going to be unlivable during the process, we opted to rent a new place. Renting short term, especially if you have children, is not cheap - especially in London! - and those costs naturally doubled as a result of the delays.

This added thousands onto our bill, not including the already inflated price of £91,000 above.

We were on our own

Of course, I’ve only touched on the tangible costs of my experience - the money and the time. But that’s to say nothing of the stress this project induced.

Imagine being at war with someone for over seven months. Everyday something new, another headache. This is on top of all the everyday stresses of living in a new home, and dealing with a newborn baby.

Some might ask why we put up with it, surely someone else could step in? Well, fun fact we learned, no contractor will go anywhere near another’s site. That’s because they don’t want to be liable for another’s mess, so once you hire a contractor, you are pretty much stuck with them.

Not having a project manager was my biggest mistake

Looking back, if there was one thing I could do differently, it would be to get a project manager on board.

Even if I had chosen a different contractor, without a project manager by my side, so many of the things that went wrong could have happened again.

Though they’re an added expense, a project manager takes so much risk out of the equation. They can handle:

  • Interviewing contractors
  • Contract assessments
  • Quality assessments
  • Manage payment plans
  • Handle professional relationships
  • Hold contract violations to account

If I had a project manager by my side, I would have not only known to stay clear of such a vague contract, I would have had someone else dealing with all the associated stresses. Someone to push back on unjust costs, sloppy delays, and someone to check to make sure quality work was happening throughout.

So, if you learn one thing from my experience, let it be this: get a project manager! After all, with so much money on the table, you don’t want to take any chances. Even for a cheap quote. Because trust me, you’ll end up paying for it in the end.

Fancy learning more about how Resi can help keep you safe when choosing a contractor? Book a free consultation with our team.

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