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Builders, budgets and brand new kitchens

It's time to take a stand because I'm seeing too many people's kitchen dreams crushed by incompetent and unscrupulous people who should be ashamed of themselves.

I've been involved in numerous residential building projects now and I've seen first hand the best and the worst in home renovation. I've met some brilliant builders who totally know their onions when it comes to home transformation. However, I've also met some low life opportunists who I wouldn't trust with my son's lego set, let alone my house.

Unregulated madness

building work and new kitchen

Here's the thing, despite what appears to be a highly regulated industry that forces you to jump through numerous hoops before laying your first brick, there are actually gaping loopholes that allow just about any Tom, Dick or Harry to set up a company and call themselves a builder. This means that you could be putting the integrity of your house in the hands of cowboys who are hell bent on taking your money with no concern for your biggest investment.

The knock on effects of this are massive because, as you watch the disaster unfold, you can see your budget swallowed up as you try and fill the holes in your money pit. Then, by the time you're ready to install your dream kitchen, your wallet is empty and you're forced into a series of compromises that leave you feeling more disappointed than a Star Wars fan who's just seen "The Phantom Menace" for the first time.

The most common problem

There are many reasons why this happens but there is one that seems to crop up time after time:

Unscrupulous builders under quote to win the work from you, then blame 'unforeseen issues' on the reason your budget pot leaks like a sieve.

Budgets do matter

plastering for a new kitchen

People are very budget conscious when it comes to house renovation. That's the reason so many home improvement companies and kitchen retailers entice you with "Sales" and "Special Offers". Small scale domestic builders don't have the opportunity to offer "Sale" prices. They go from job to job and each scenario is unique to the one before. When they quote for your work, they have one opportunity to demonstrate their value. They'll work on the assumption that you'll equate value with a low bottom line price. It therefore stands to reason that they give you a great price on the quote and worry about the details later.

Then it starts. Your pipes aren't right for the new boiler and you'll need new ones. There's a bit of rising damp they hadn't accounted for that will need treating. The wiring needs to be replaced and the consumer unit (fuse box) is considered unsafe. Something doesn't fit and they need to make 'adjustments'. The weather was bad, the labourer has man flu. The list of budget sapping excuses grows and by the time the last lick of plaster finally dries, you have no money left for paint, let alone kitchen cabinets. I see this happening all the time and it simply has to stop.

Fact: Building work is expensive

preparing a room for new kitchen

I get it. When you add up the cost of a home renovation and you factor in removing a wall, replacing a boiler, adding electrical sockets, plastering, decorating and kitchen fitting, things look pretty scary. But that fear will turn to pure anger if the end result is anything less than the dream home you planned for.

Now, let's get real. Building work is expensive and things do invariably go wrong. Unforeseen circumstances can occur and when they do, you will have to spend more money to get past the hurdle. Therefore, you need contingency funds in place and ready for the unexpected. But that's the point, with a contingency in place you'll be ready and the extra spend won't come as a shock. As a guide, 5% to 10% would be a safe contingency bet.

Seek expert advice

painting before installing new kitchen

Here's my advice, think carefully before you go with the cheapest quote. And if you are in any doubt, employ the services of a quantity surveyor to manage your budget and expectations for you. It's the only way to ensure you have the control you need over a project that can feel overwhelming from start to finish.

A quantity surveyor will establish a schedule of works and REALISTICALLY cost everything in advance, including a contingency budget, so there'll be no surprises at the end. A good quantity surveyor is quite simply worth his weight in gold. During my renovation project in Llantwit Major in 2014, my QS, Chris Thomas of  CDT Consult, literally saved the project from almost certain disaster. It pays to bring in experts if ever you feel slightly out of your depth and the reassurance you'll feel is priceless.

With a well managed and well organised building project, your new kitchen budget will remain unaffected. You'll still be in a position to have the quality kitchen that you planned for, not a cheap contract kitchen that will need replacing in five years. You'll still be able to afford the worktops you've spent years saving for. The appliances with all the extra functions you'll find so useful down the line are still on the shopping list and the whole experience is exciting rather than disappointing.

Realistic expectations

kitchen installation

Be realistic when it comes to your building project. If something looks too good to be true, it usually is. If you have builder present you with a quote that's thousands of pounds cheaper than your other quotes, you need him to give you a very clear and precise breakdown explaining how he's arrived at his numbers. If you have any doubts about your own ability to evaluate a quotation, bring in a quantity surveyor. It could be the best couple of hundred pounds you spend on the whole project.

Don't forget, I've been there and I'm around building sites and builders all the time. I know the good ones and the not so good and I know how to get the best results from any home renovation project. So, if you want to have a chat about your plans, drop me a line. I'd be more than happy to advise you on the best way to plan your building work, manage your budget and deliver the brand new kitchen you dreamed of in the beginning.

the new kitchen we wanted

Categories: Hints and Tips