Setting your expectations and then re-setting them

So we’ve had the drawings, erm, well, drawn. And paid the extortionate fees to the Council. Next up was getting builders round to quote for the work.

It’s a bit of a strange one, as in the last 5 years we’ve only had 2 people working on the house. One was a plasterer (and every single wall and ceiling was re-skimmed after the lot fell off in a dramatic stylie). And the other was a gas man who has all the official-ness you need to install boilers. But everything else, from plumbing to tiling has been done by Mr J.

We’ve had many a conversation about Mr J doing the extension himself. I trust him completely, and know he’d do an amazing job. But, one man two days a week vs a company with many men 5 days a week isn’t a difficult equation to me. So, reluctantly we’ve had several people in to quote. It also seemed like a bit of a treat that other people were going to do all the hard work. We’d sit back and watch the extension take shape without getting cold, wet or dirty.

And then the first quote came in. £10,000 more than we’d budgeted.

And Mr J fell off his chair.

Unfortunately the next two quotes also came in way over budget. And the cheapest quote was more than a few quid more than we’d planned.

So, while panicking that we’d made a huge mistake and had no money to do either of our new rooms, we reassessed. Using Mr J’s years of experience and our kitchen table as mission control we broke each of the elements down and looked at prices of materials vs labour. It was fairly obvious that materials weren’t the issue, but labour was. So, we decided to contract in different people for different stages and buy the materials ourselves. We’re using our contacts and calling in some favours. Ultimately it is going to be more long-winded, and a lot more organisation for us. But cheaper. A lot cheaper. And that’s good enough for me.

We reckon that if we project manage the job ourselves we’ll be able to get the build done as well as the internal work, for the same price as we were quoted for just the shell.

So did we have unrealistic expectations? Maybe. But I think we’re both practical, and we knew it wasn’t going to be a cheap project. We were shocked though by the prices that came in. We’ve looked at labour costs, material costs and added on project management fees and we can’t get the numbers to add up. It just felt like we’d be paying someone a huge amount of money for a little bit of organisation.

From here on in, I want to be known as The Gaffer. Get me hard hat, a chipped mug of tea and a clipboard – I’m going to project manage a proper building project.


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