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Handy Tips for Clients

Different builders refer to their prices by different names. This can be confusing for clients, as each name carries its own connotations and has its own particular meaning. "Estimate" is a commonplace term, but it's a word that suggests a certain degree of guesswork, which can be worrying for customers. However, it is impossible for a builder to predict exactly what a job will entail, as certain material requirements and complications are unforeseeable. It is good practice to clearly highlight, where possible, all areas of potential additional expenditure, allowing for clients to set aside a reasonable contingency.


This is by far the most common name given by builders to their pricing. Advice given to builders by trading standards indicates that calling a price an "estimate" is best for both client and builder. As the word suggests, the builder is not offering an exact or fixed cost but an estimation of the final cost. A good builder will honour their estimate whenever possible.

Why does the final cost sometimes exceed the estimate? Consider this example: a builder provides a written estimate of £1,000 to rebuild a wall. During the work, it rains several times, and the builder looses time that would have otherwise been spent laying bricks setting up a rainproof sheet over the works. As a result, it takes him longer to build the wall than he anticipated. Once the work is finished, he submits an invoice to the client for £1,100. Is this fair? No, CRB does not believe it is. In this kind of scenario, CRB would never ask for additional costs.

Take another scenario: the builder begins by digging the foundation for the wall and exposes a large tree root. The council's building inspector visits and decides the new wall will need an extra-deep footing to stop the tree root moving the new foundation. The builder tells their client the problems and explains the additional work will cost around £200. Is this fair? Yes, CRB believes it is fair to add this additional cost onto the final invoice. In this type of scenario, it was impossible for the builder to foresee or predict the complication. He is therefore entitled to ask for the additional cost. The builder in this scenario has also followed good practice by getting authorisation from the client before proceeding.


The term "quotation" is less common than "estimate" in the building industry. In some cases, "quote" is used accidentally by builders who don't share their customer's interpretation of the term. Generally, a quotation should imply a fixed price. This is risky for both builder and client; unscrupulous builders, having accidentally under-quoted, have been known to simply walk off site never to return, knowing that is cheaper for them to cease works than to finish. If a price seems too good to be true, it may be because it is has written within it this dubious risk. A part-finished project is disastrous for the client, as it is often difficult to find another builder willing to finish somebody else's work, especially if there is an indication that the work is not up to scratch. A very low quote or estimate may also signal that the builder is cutting costs by, for instance, using insufficient safety equipment or sub-standard materials. So, always be wary and ask lots of questions before accepting a price.

A quotation also allows a less-than-honest builder to conceal savings from their client. He may find that a job is easier than expected or requires fewer materials and, as a result, saves money. The builder should reduce their price accordingly. An unscrupulous builder may not deduct the full amount or may not tell the customer about the saving, covertly increasing his profit margin, while the client gets less than agreed to for their money.

Schedules of Work

The schedule of work is CRB's preferred pricing method. We invest a great deal of time and energy in producing these schedules, so that our clients get the most easy-to-interpret information possible. Schedules of work are the industry's accepted standard for architects and surveyors. When CRB works directly with a client who hasn't nominated an architect or surveyor, we produce our own detailed schedule.

The benefit of schedules of work to clients is clarity. Every item of work is listed independently, and clients are able to select the exact items they most want and then remove any they deem non-essential or too expensive. The thoroughness of a CRB schedule of work allows each client to tailor the project to suit theirexacting requirements. They are able to check exactly how much will be saved if the works are reduced in any way, as the costs are clearly itemised. A schedule of work has all the benefits of an estimate, but with greater detail and clarity.

PC Sums

What is a PC sum? The PC stands for "prime cost". PC sums are used by architects and builders to show an estimated cost for an item that has yet to be selected by the client. For example, if you wanted a new extension priced by a builder, you would not know immediately exactly which type of tile is required for the bathroom or which taps for the bath. When an item has not yet been selected, CRB applies a PC sum, an estimated price, which is labelled clearly as such in the schedule. Once the actual cost is confirmed, the figure on the schedule is adjusted up or down accordingly. CRB aims to match the PC sums to the client's anticipated requirements; for instance, we may allow £15 per metre for wall tiles in a normal bathroom, but may allow £80 per metre on a different project for which we know the client is keen on a luxury finish.


CRB is a family-owned and managed company with a staff of 16 full-time employees, supported by a network of specialist sub-contractors.


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OfficeCRB Contractors Ltd, 9 Duchess Drive, Seaford, BN25 2XL


Thank you once again for an excellent service, from initial consultaion to the work's completion. We are extremely pleased with the work carried out.

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