Will your builder rip you off?

July 8, 2021
by Sege Rosella

It was a grim winter’s day in early December when the bedroom ceiling caved in, narrowly missing the youngest child’s bed. Large chunks of wet plaster, paint, and roof insulation (nasty stuff) were strewn around the room. The brand new carpet was wrecked. Two bears were sent to teddy heaven.

Luckily it landed a few feet wide of the bed. Luckily nobody was home. It’s easy to imagine how it could have been much worse.

James stood in the doorway in utter disbelief looking at the damage. How could this have happened? The extension was only completed six months prior. 

As it happened, James’s disbelief didn’t last all that long because - as much as he hated to admit it to himself - he did have some misgivings about the builder at the time the work was happening. But there was nothing he could quite put his finger on. With a family to look after, a full-time job on the go, and essentially living on a building site, you can hardly blame him for not giving it his full attention. So he did his best to push it to the back of his mind and convince himself that everything was just fine and dandy. 

We all do that at times. It’s like when you pretend to yourself that you can’t hear that small intermittent rattle your car makes and then find yourself on the hard shoulder of some wretched motorway in the rain, wearing a high-viz jacket, waiting for the recovery service to arrive.

Not all cowboy builders end up in the newspapers

So the builder wasn’t quite what they seemed. Actually, that’s putting it lightly. James had been ripped off by his builder - plain and simple.

It turned out that it wasn’t just some shoddy roofing that the builder managed to sneak in - the boiler and windows that they fitted were also a lower spec than they were supposed to be.

You know those stories you see in the papers and on the news about cowboy builders who complete half the job and ride off into the sunset with all your cash? That’s not how most people get ripped off by their builder. It’s very rare for that to happen, which is why it makes the paper. The more common way for it to happen is like poor James. It flies under the radar. And the sad thing is, there’s not all that much you can do about it even after you find out you’ve been the victim because it’s months down the line and they have your signature on the handover documents.

How to prevent getting ripped off

The really sad part of this story is that James could have prevented this from happening to him. But he didn’t know before he started the difference between a builder and a project manager. The difference is subtle. Done correctly, in both scenarios you should end up with the same result: your building work completed to the utmost standard and to the agreed specification.

When you contract a builder to do your work they effectively fund the whole cost of the build, then you ‘pay them back’ in instalments. It’s their name that goes on the purchasing accounts for materials and supplies, and the invoices are sent to them. You never get to see the invoices. So they can buy cheaper versions of all materials, fixtures, and fittings, use substandard labour, and still charge you the same amount that was agreed at the start of the build. Then they pocket the difference.

But when you work with a project manager the purchasing accounts are in your name and are sent to you. You get to see every single invoice. You then cross-reference these with the build specification et voilà - complete transparency. The project manager then invoices you separately for their fees.

It would be very hard for a project manager to rip you off with a setup like this. They’d have to be in cahoots with the supplier, and the chances of this happening are slim to none, especially when dealing with large national building merchants like Travis Perkins etc.

Now you have this knowledge you can take action

How do I know all of this? My company, Mortar & Co, specialises in construction project management, and we’re based in the Midlands. I’ve been in the construction industry for over 42 years and in that time I’ve encountered and solved almost every problem that you could possibly imagine when it comes to building work.

You’ve likely submitted a planning application (or are about to) and I don’t want you to fall victim to unscrupulous practices like James did. With the right team in your corner you won’t.

Now I’ll be upfront with you: I’d love to provide you with an estimate for your upcoming build - with absolutely no obligations. I realise that you might have a hundred questions for me before you’re ready for this, so I want you to know that you’re free to ask away. You can contact me using the details below or on our contact page.

I’ve completed hundreds of projects just like yours. I’ve done work for the BBC (don’t worry - I’m affordable), and I’ve had my work featured on Channel 4’s Big House Little House (a house renovation in Kettering). You don’t get to work for that length of time, in one area of the country, if you rip everyone off and do substandard work.

Hopefully this information has been of use to you, and you’re considering requesting an estimate from us. If so, I look forward to hearing from you. | 01536 525229

*James is a fictional character, but his story is an amalgamation of scenarios the author has experienced and encountered in real life