House extensions: 8 crazy mistakes to avoid

House extensions: everything you need to avoid

As we have seen on our sojourn through the house extensions process, the road-to-home improvement glory is littered with potholes, each of which could leave your renovation plans with a nasty, potentially journey-ending puncture. Forewarned is forearmed, so here are eight common crazy mistakes to avoid during house extensions, and why they cause homeowners such headaches.

1. Going on holiday

Homeowners will need to find temporary accommodation during works for renovations and extensions where essential amenities (kitchen, bathroom) are out of bounds, and the prospect of escaping the discomfort of a build for a fortnight in the sun can be very enticing. The same goes for families with school-aged youngsters in the summer holidays.

Jet off at your peril, however. Despite having planned out the design in the technical phase, you will not get a true feel for the new space until the walls are built, partitions are constructed, and you are standing in the middle of it.

By being present, you can satisfy yourself that construction is proceeding as imagined and feel content that the design choices made earlier were the correct ones. And if they were not, you can easily adjust them whilst the work unfolds. Doing this would be markedly more difficult over FaceTime from the Algarve.

2. Micromanaging tradesmen

Don’t let the pendulum swing too far the other way by hovering over the tradesmen as they work. One step further are the homeowners who micromanage tradesmen whenever their boss isn’t present. And one step further still are those who ask tradesmen to carry out additional unscheduled activities without going through the boss directly.

This is a devastatingly proficient way to annoy your builder by undermining their authority. And you’ll slow down project to boot by confusing workers with mixed messages.

3. Procrastinating on important decisions

On occasion, you will need to react to acute situations that arise on-site – situations that require a quick response to ensure the project timeline or budget are not impacted.

The scenario could be any number of things, for example bi-folding doors that have been manufactured too short, finding yourself one tile short of a complete bathroom, or deciding how to handle the clumps of decades-old plaster dropping off the ceiling.

Whatever the problem, and as inconvenient as it may be, it’s likely your builder will need a speedy decision from you to put the fire out. You therefore need to be prepared to take time out when needed and act swiftly.

4. Supplying building material

Some homeowners assume that builders add a creamy margin for themselves when purchasing building materials for a project, before passing on the cost to the client. As a result, those homeowners offer to purchase materials themselves.

Where it is true that showroom-type suppliers incentivise the trade to refer clients, they do not do so at the financial detriment of the homeowner. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – clients are rewarded for their custom with genuine discounts off recommended retail prices on account of coming through a builder. Most of the time, the purpose of a builder’s trade account is to allow for better cashflow management with the benefit of (typically) 30-day settlement terms.

By offering to supply the materials yourself, you risk undermining your builder’s confidence.

In addition, sourcing and procuring materials is a skill in itself – even everyday building materials have an esoteric lexicon of their own. If you get the order wrong, you will end up paying for your error in time and money. Finally, getting materials physically on-site often comes down to the personal relationship between the contractor and supplier, and as the Covid pandemic laid painfully bare, those with strong relationships enjoyed a less disrupted supply chain.

5. Supplying tradesmen

It is not uncommon for a builder to be asked to omit a part – or a whole chunk – of work from the build schedule because the homeowner ‘has a mate’ in the trade who can do it instead.
Offering to supply your own tradesmen is a magnificent way to irritate the person responsible for delivering your dream extension. Doing so infers the builder is not up to the task (in which case why did you hire the builder in the first place?), which could quickly dilute the trust between builder and client.

Moreover, having outside tradesmen on-site disrupts the team dynamics, and leave you with the unenviable job of project managing the outsourced piece of work by yourself.
Supplying your own tradesmen – bad idea.

6. Renegotiating prices

Shockingly, some homeowners try to haggle down the price or cut corners on the build schedule in mid-construction, after terms have been agreed and signed. Clearly, the motivation is to cost save, as ill-prepared homeowners come face to face with the financial reality of a building project.

Renegotiating prices is wholly unacceptable. A full and transparent payment schedule, and the list of exclusions to budget for, have been mutually agreed from the outset.

Nothing positive can come from an attempt to renegotiate prices, and many builders would down tools and walk off site at the perceived insult.

7. Being a bad payer

To be a bad payer is the manifestation of original sin in the construction industry. ‘Bad’ here means paying later than the agreed date, or paying less than agreed.

The payment schedule will have been deliberately devised to keep the project sufficiently cash-flowed. Cashflow is the fuel that keeps the engine running, ensuring materials get to site and that the building team turn up to work each day. And without receipt of timely monies, project success is at risk.

It is unreasonable to expect the builder to self-fund the job with their own cash in the repeated absence of timely payments, and they have the contractual power to stop work if they choose to. Of all the crazy mistakes homeowners make during a building project, paying badly is the craziest.

8. Playing the blame game

Despite best-laid plans, sometimes things go wrong, and external events can impact job progress. Examples of mishaps are countless. To name only a few: your builder might be called away to deal with an emergency on another job; heavy rain may pour through the temporary roof; the kitchen tiles may be installed incorrectly; the electrician could put a foot through the ceiling; or your driveway might be left scuffed by a hasty skip change.

Whatever the issue, it is important to keep cool and avoid pointing the finger, even when the case appears open and shut. Give your builder the opportunity to notify you of the issue and to fix it. The chances are they’ll want it resolved right away to keep the project on track, but going into confrontation mode with an outstretched index finger immediately creates a ‘you versus builder’ scenario, which will not help either of you move past the problem efficiently.

Now you know eight of the craziest mistakes homeowners make during a building project, you have no excuses if you make the same.

Next up, let’s dig a little deeper into the last mistake above – playing the blame game – and learn how best to deal with accidents and mishaps.

Have a look at our guide to help you interact effectively with your builder.

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