Our builder has almost doubled his price mid-job, do I just have to pay up?
Property Clinic: The cost of uPVC fascia has jumped from €1,500 to €2,800
Upgrading of fascia and soffits is usually a straightforward operation. Photograph: iStock
I’m having the wooden fascia boards replaced around my home with fancy new uPVC ones, and was quoted €1,500 by the builder. It was a reasonable quote so I gave him the contract, but midway through the job, he informed me that unforeseen extra work was needed, and the final price would be €2,800. It’s a considerable price jump and I have asked for an itemisation of the costs. Do I have any standing to dispute the final price or do I simply have to pay?
Your dilemma reinforces the importance of having even the simplest of work carefully planned, costed and documented before you start. We are all enthralled by Sunday night TV viewing of projects that run over budget, usually because of unforeseen works. To coin the phrase, there will always be known unknowns and unknown unknowns. What is alarming in your case is that the cost of carrying out the work has grown so dramatically.
What could have been so unforeseen to the experienced eye of the contractor to warrant such a grotesque increase in cost? Did you request additional work during the course of the job? Did you change or improve the specification or scope of works?
Upgrading of fascia and soffits is usually a straightforward operation. Most people will take the opportunity to also upgrade guttering and downpipes and improve ventilation to the attic space. Alarm boxes and external lighting generally need to be removed and reinstated on completion as well as shared cabling in urban areas.
This type of project can involve additional work if the supporting structure behind the existing timber fascia and soffit are also decayed and in need of repair. Improvement of the lower sections of exposed sarking felt, where these penetrate from below the tile or slate roof covering and are draped into the gutters, also generally need repair as they will be solar damaged and perished.
My concern in this case is that the full extent of work should be reasonably easy to establish based on a visual inspection and with some minor opening up, if needed, when planning the job.
This type of investigation would typically be undertaken by a building surveyor or project manager when specifying the works. A schedule of works would then be produced to allow competitive tendering. This process means that costs should represent value for money but also the risk of unforeseen works should be greatly reduced and there is then less room for unpleasant surprises. I suppose, as in all cases, hindsight is 20/20 vision. With the benefit of this hindsight others may see a route to avoiding the situation you find yourself in.
In your case it appears that the works are now underway and you can only rely on the tradesman’s goodwill that he has been honest in his initial appraisal of the work and the extent of additional input subsequently needed. You could question why the additional work was unforeseen based on his experience of similar jobs.
If the works have been completed to a satisfactory standard then they will have to be paid for. The final cost should be reasonable when compared with the initial price and scope of the work. If in difficulty you should, at this late stage, appoint a chartered building surveyor who can advise regarding the cost and standard of the additional work.
Others should learn from your experience. They should appoint a professional when planning any job around the house. They should establish the full extent of works needed before they start. The work should be fully planned and a schedule and scope of works prepared. This removes any room for misinterpretation.
Always include a contingency, however, for the unknown unknowns.
Noel Larkin, is a chartered building surveyor and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie