8 Building Myths — Exposed

If you’re looking to start a building project, the industry can be a mysterious one — almost like a closed society where builders have some sort of secret knowledge. To the outsider, it can be difficult to navigate and in some cases overwhelming. I want to set straight some of the myths that pervade the industry as a result.



By Luke Tuckwell - Director



1. The builder charges an absurd amount of money


The price of a building project includes the cost to use contractors and the labour required for that project to be completed. In most cases, builders generally charge a fee on top of that cost, usually calculated by a percentage amount, called the margin. This covers company overheads, plus a profit. It’s the same as a can of tuna, which is sold at a higher price than it costs to produce.


To take the analogies further, building is no different to purchasing a new car. There is one cost associated with buying the stock standard model, but the price of the car increases as options and extras are added. If changes are made to a building project e.g. different tiles are used, a wall needs to be changed or more expensive taps are required , then the builder must adequately cover the cost of that change.


There’s no way around it, a quoted price from a builder will always be large, but keep in mind that all the small numbers, all those little things that make up the project, do add up.


Tip: Confirm the margin you will be charged by each builder you’re receiving a quote from, and what the margin will be applied to.



2. Keep the budget from the builder, it will make the price more competitive


Possibly, but this can also work against you. Provide a clear brief and budget to your builder, and they are an honest professional, they can guide you and adapt your project to maximise your value for money.


Tip: Give your builder a clear brief and ask for a ballpark estimate. If this falls within your expectations, outline your budget to start working towards your specific outcomes.



3. The cheapest quote is always the best quote


Like anything you purchase, this is rarely the case.


Firstly, ensure to spend time getting crystal clear on your expectations and what you want the project outcome to be. A builder’s quote can only be as good as the brief they receive and you will not regret investing the time in this important stage of your project. If this process becomes difficult, consider engaging a draftsman or architect to assist in fleshing out your ideas.


Secondly, ensure to have a minimum of three builders quote the project. When you receive them, complete a thorough side-by-side comparison, rather than simply looking at the dollar amounts.

  • Are they quoting on the same thing?
  • What has each builder included?
  • What has been left out?
  • Have they met yours and your family’s expectations?
  • Have true contractor quotes been used?

Completing such a comparison will identify any shortcomings between the quotes. It’s always possible the cheaper builder may have completely left a section out of the quote!


Tip: Choose your preferred builder based upon your assessment and gut feel. Consider asking them to work with you through all of the quotes you have received and ask them to explain why they differ.


4. Builders hide variations from clients until they have won the job


Fortunately, these kind of builders are few and far between. A good builder will attempt to identify as many unforeseen variations as possible before they start work. Occasionally however, unsuspecting changes do pop up — especially when renovating an existing home.


A variation to the original quote often arises from a client changing their mind. As the client travels through the building process, they begin to see the project not just as some drawings on a piece of paper, but as their home. Understandably, they may wish to make some changes as the reality becomes clearer.


Tip: Ask your builder to highlight any potential unforeseen changes that may occur during the build prior to the project commencing.



5. Asbestos is dangerous and expensive to remove


Living in or around undisturbed asbestos rarely causes any issues. But if t does need to be disturbed or removed, it becomes a dangerous material when breathed in. The removal should always be completed by a trained professional and while there is a cost involved, it is not out-of-the-world expensive. When you weigh it up against avoiding long term health issues, the cost becomes minimal.


Tip: Have an asbestos report compiled on the property by a third party prior to starting the project.



6. Builders drag out the duration of works


Every delay is dependent on the specific project but more often than not it’s in the detail. Traditionally, building was often basic work that didn’t take too long. With modern details and architecture, if one piece of the project is delayed, the effect can cascade down the project’s entire timeline.


Parts of the project can also be affected by the lead times of suppliers. Staircases can take 12 weeks to be manufactured. Windows can take four to eight weeks to be delivered to site and the marble bench top (ordered from Italy) can easily be delayed.


But rarely is it actually in the builder’s interests to slow a project down. The longer it takes, the more costs are associated with the build, and the more money the builder loses.


Tip: Agree on a clear timeline with your builder. If small delays occur, confirm them with your builder to ensure your expectations are being met.



7. The bigger the build, the bigger the cost


There’s no denying a bigger house will always cost more than a smaller house. But let’s take into consideration economies of scale and how it alters the cost per square metre. If you double the size of a house, it may not be double the price.


Tip: Discuss your budget and desired objectives with your builder to assess where/how you can get the best outcome for your budget.



8. It’s cheaper to supply the materials and/or trades yourself


The initial cost savings may be appealing, but let’s dig a little deeper by imagining this scenario…


  • Your brand new bathroom floor doesn’t drain the water away and it’s sitting in the middle of the floor, just waiting for someone to slip over.
  • Turns out, the tiler you have engaged yourself has screeded the floor incorrectly. Now you have to get the tiler back, and do your best to tell him that he hasn’t done his work (his trade) correctly.
  • Or let’s say you found a waterproofer that was half the builder’s quoted cost, but later that waterproofing failed, who pays to re-lay the tiles that will need to be pulled up to fix the issue?


Not the easiest and most gratifying of experiences.


In working with a builder, they handle everything for you — the tilers, gyprockers, renderers, painters, air-conditioner technicians, electricians and plumbers. If the air-conditioning has been installed incorrectly, the builder sorts it out. They can also often get trade discounts on supplies but most of all, you can be safe in the knowledge that you have someone on your side and there is no finger pointing involved if anything goes wrong.


During a project build, there is usually an overlap of trades and fixtures and fittings being installed. By allowing the builder to develop a comprehensive building project, you can be confident that there is no overlap in warranty.


Additionally, by choosing to supply materials/trades yourself, you as the client are required to handle the on-costs of installation and any warranty calls if their work is faulty.


Most of all, it takes up more of your most precious asset — your time.


Tip: Strongly consider the actual costs savings versus the potential risks in having a partially compromised warranty on the new works to your home.