Expect the unexpected…


Many home owners undertaking building work will (unless properly advised) be under the impression that their Devi – or fixed price quote, is exactly that. Most changes to contracts (with the exception of client choices) occur immediately after opening up/strip out/demolition. This is where the unseen becomes visible. Your quote or Devi will be for everything that was known and visible at the time of inspection, from plans and specifications to inspection. Unless otherwise discussed and included in the contract, anything unseen will have to be added to the contract once identified. For example, if in a complete renovation project, where all old plasterboard and insulation is stripped out to expose decorative stone walls, what is included in your contract for the repair of the newly exposed walls? Have you allowed for repointing, rebuilding or for stone replacement if you come across cement block walls where you planned for decorative? What happens if you find a structural issue, wet or dry rot? It’s quite likely your builder will have suggested a sum for unknown repairs, but is it sufficient? Perhaps you have allowed for pointing the stonework which, you assume, is behind the insulation? However, if what you find is dry rot and deterioration of the wall, say, due to structural degradation, have you allowed sufficient contingency funds? How do you know what this should cost? How do you know the amount quoted is value for money?

This is where your contract pays dividends. You should have requested, and included, day rate costs from your builder for any additional works they might undertake. Will you need a structural engineer? Is your builder qualified (and insured) to provide a structural solution? Do you need a specialist to deal with rot? Are the chemicals being suggested correct or even necessary? Is this element going to hold up the works while you investigate your options? There are so many possible issues which could arise and, given you won’t want to delay the works, you’re likely to accept your builders suggested solution. That suggestion is likely to be based on knowledge, expedience and financial reward. There are so many solutions available, but they have to be appropriate to the issue. You must identify and address the cause, not the symptom. There is no point carrying on with the works only to find the same issue all over again when finished and when it’s too late to apply the simple cost effective solution.

In a recent case, a well was discovered on strip out in a crucial area requiring works and a new nib wall directly above it. Due to time constraints (the builder was in a rush to finish and move on) and knowledge (or the lack of), no one knew what to do and, given financial constraints, what the builder offered seemed like a cheap solution. He suggested filling the well with all the building rubble then building on top. Several things went wrong from there. Firstly his labourers mistook rubble for rubbish and put all waste down the well. Then when built, the structural base for the wall above the well was inadequate and had to be reinforced. Later after all was finished, contaminated water from below started to permeate through the finished floor and into the surrounding walls.

It’s a good idea to take advice when these issues arise before you run into problems which cost 10 times more to put right than if they had been addressed correctly at the outset. Yes, the builder vanished, and no the client couldn’t claim on their insurance.

Next time; order of works