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How can I save on my building costs? PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 July 2010

One of our readers wrote in to us with the following question:

I read an article which basically said you can save between 20% and 30% of you initial quote if you basically ensure that you are on site regularly (once every two days) and if you buy most of the stuff yourself. Do you think this is true?

What should I do in order to reduce the costs?

Les responded as follows:

One of the things that experience has taught me (40 years in the building business) is that good supervision on a building site will prevent mistakes and pre-empt problems and thereby save you money. Having to rectify mistakes is almost always costly and time consuming. Supervision will also reduce the amount of waste (which you are paying for) on a site by keeping an eye on what is happening and making sure that the builder runs a tidy site. The other point about being on site regularly is that by keeping the flow of materials going so that the contractor is not kept waiting for anything, you will reduce down time and thus reduce labour costs or time extensions as well. I know of a project that has been standing for two weeks now because of a mix-up between the main contractor and the company supplying the concrete slab to the first floor. That bit of poor planning is costing someone a lot of money.

If you intend buying a lot of the materials yourself, you will save on the handling mark-up that the builder usually adds to the cost of materials (usually between 5 and 15%) plus you will be able to negotiate discounts for yourself and also shop around. That is something most builders will not do as they have a fixed set of suppliers who give them good discounts.

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The difficulty here is that this takes time and effort but if you are able to do it, then there are savings to be made. You would also need to have a written agreement with your builder as to which materials you will be supplying and which are his responsibility. This will prevent the blame game if there are delays during construction caused by a lack of materials on site. If you are supplying materials, then you must request either a weekly programme from your builder stating when the materials will be required, remembering that some items like shower doors and light fittings can take a few weeks or even months to be delivered. Many smaller (bakkie) builders work from day to day for items like sand, cement, etc and that sort of timing will not suit you as you are not usually in a position to do that kind of running around.
The only really negative comment that I have is that when entering this type of contract, you sometimes negate any guarantee that the builder would have on the work as a whole because he did not supply some or all of the materials. This is something that you would need to have agreement on before you signed any contract with the builder. (The MBA Labour Only Contract is recommended for this type of work) Items like roof leaks and anything relating to workmanship, like tiling, plastering, electrical work, plumbing, etc., must be covered by the builder. There are many other issues that I could mention as well but that comes with the experience but that is what you would pay a professional for.
I hope that this helps you a little.

Les Abbott
Technical and Marketing


Last Updated ( Thursday, 22 July 2010 )
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