13 Hidden Costs often missing from Builder's Quotes

credit to Adam Hobill

Building and renovating is a new process for most of us, and it can be very daunting if you’re not well prepared. In particular, choosing a builder is one area that can overwhelm a lot of people. This is completely understandable, given the horror stories we often hear and the significant financial investment that’s at stake.

Unfortunately, there are builders out there who take advantage of their experience and exploit their clients’ lack of knowledge. But rather than taking an ‘us versus them’ approach, it’s far better to improve your knowledge of the processes involved, so you can develop an open, informative and transparent relationship with your builder. One of the first steps toward achieving this is navigating the quoting process.

Here are some costs that might have slipped your quote’s net.
 1. Approval and certification fees
Depending on where you live, the fees for approval and certification of your project will vary dramatically, as will the types of fees that need to be paid.

Approval fees are generally paid to the council or to a private building certifier. These may be either wrapped up in a total fee bundle and payable in one payment before approval is issued, or may be handled separately. It’s important to ask if and how approval fees have been included in your quote.

2. Site preparation costs
The cost of preparing a site for the building process – taking into consideration the excavation, demolition and clearing of the site – is one of the most common areas where poor communication and lazy quoting practices result in budget blowouts.
Site costs are likely to vary dramatically from one project to the next, depending on the location of the site, the slope of the land, the type of soil and the design of the property.
Be aware that the cost of excavation in rock will generally not be included in the quote, given the unpredictability and expenses involved.
Asbestos removal is another important consideration if you’re renovating. Awareness around the need for safety when dealing with asbestos is increasing, as are the requirements for it to be assessed and handled by licensed contractors.
3. Temporary site requirements
Be sure to check with the builders that they have included all temporary site costs in their quote, like temporary fencing, a site toilet if required, and erosion control measures as required by your local council.
4. Structural costs
Structural costs can be a bit of a guessing game, depending on how thorough the documentation is at the time of quoting. Engineering design can affect the footings, floor slab, structural timber and structural steel.
5. Hidden electrical costs
If you’re renovating an older home you need to be aware of the possibility that the existing electrical wiring in the home may not be up to current standards. If that’s the case, in many situations it’s legally required that the electrical work be upgraded, which is of course an additional cost.
6. Insulation
Your drawings should clearly nominate the insulation requirements for the property, and the designer has probably spent some time considering the best insulation for your particular project. If they have specified insulation over and above what’s required to meet minimum standards, you should ensure that the builder is following suit, with the allowance they’ve made in the quote.
For example, the plans may nominate R5 ceiling insulation even though the minimum requirement for your climate zone is only R3.5. But some larger-volume builders will be so conditioned to only including the standard R3.5 insulation that they may only make an allowance for that in the quote. It is important to remember that the plans form an important piece of your contractual documentation, so if the drawings nominate R5 insulation then that’s what should be quoted for.

It’s also likely that the insulation specified on the drawings is required to meet energy efficiency and thermal comfort requirements, so accepting a downgrade in insulation may also cause difficulties in final approvals, if the house no longer meets requirements.

7. Door hardware
Unless explicitly noted, door hardware including handles, latches and locks may be left out of your quote.
As well as door hardware, it should also include things like taps, sinks and basins, tiling allowances, lighting provisions, appliances, joinery and more. By adding a Fixture and Fittings Schedule to the plans for builders to quote from, you’re significantly increasing the likelihood that you’ll receive detailed, accurate and transparent quotes that are also easy to compare.
8. Flyscreens
While some window suppliers will supply flyscreens as standard with all opening windows, others won’t. You’ll need to check who has quoted the windows for your project with the builders, and whether or not flyscreens have been included.

Windows framed in uPVC sometimes present issues when considering flyscreens, as some of them have been designed for environments in Europe where flies and mozzies are less common.
The opening styles of uPVC windows can also make it difficult to incorporate flyscreens. So if you’re considering using uPVC windows you should take the time to visit showrooms where you can see how the flyscreens will work.

9. Bathroom mirrors
What do you see when you look into the mirror? It’s generally not going to be the mirror itself. Maybe that’s why they sometimes get left out of building quotes.

Like most things mirrors can be relatively cheap, but they can also get pretty expensive depending on size and other features, like anti-fog glass.

You may also like the idea of incorporating a little extra storage behind the mirror in a concealed shaving cabinet. All of these things need to be checked with the builder to ensure you’re getting what you expect.
10. Towel rails, robe hooks and toilet-roll holders
Much like mirrors, we tend to take bathroom accessories for granted. There are endless options available when it comes to selecting bathroom accessories, and a surprisingly wide range of costs to suit.

It’s a good idea to get out to a bathroom showroom, so that you can get a proper look at what’s on offer, and a feel for the type of accessories you might want to include. This will ensure that adequate provisions can be made within the quote.

11. Fencing
Boundary fencing is less likely to be an issue for renovation projects, but for new homes –especially those being built on new land – fencing is more likely to be a cost consideration.

While some builders will identify the need to include fencing in their quote, others will leave it out to help make their quote appear a little sharper. Once again it comes down to comparing apples with apples, so that you can be confident in your understanding of what’s being included in the quote.

12. Availability and completion period
Every quote you receive should indicate when the builder’s available to start the project, as well as nominating the time frame in which it’s likely to be completed. Be aware that while larger building companies have greater capacity to take on new work and potentially complete the project a little quicker, smaller builders will probably have less capacity to take on new work. You may need to wait a little longer for the project to get started if you’re using a smaller company.

For extension and renovation projects in particular, there are certainly advantages in using a more hands-on builder who will be more involved in the project, from the quoting stage and throughout the construction period. Renovation projects are notorious for throwing up little surprises along the way, but with companies that are more closely connected to the project, these surprises tend to be identified earlier and avoided.
13. Exclusions
One of the best ways to understand what’s included in a quote is to ask the builder what is excluded from the quote. Like reverse engineering, sometimes you need to start from the end and work your way back.

By highlighting items that are excluded, you’ll be able to ensure that you’re comparing like with like when looking at other builders’ quotes. This will also highlight any items that you may need to have included in each quote.