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Save Money and Avoid Getting Hit With Building Variations

Variations are the cause of a lot of arguments in building, owners and customers hate them but builders rely on them to maximise their profits. In an ever growing and competitive market, builders and contractors are always cutting their prices to stay in the game. The hope is though that they can pick it up on variations.

To avoid being caught out, follow these quick steps

1. Your Contract

It all starts here guys, what you put into your contract is what will either save you or bring you undone. If it’s not in writing, then don’t assume that it’s included because it’s NOT.

Make sure the prices next to each item are fixed and are based on what you want, not what the builder thinks you want. If it’s not a fixed price ask why?

2. Be Clear About What You Want

Make sure your plans and material specifications state exactly what you want. Provisional Sum (PS) or Provisional Cost (PC) means that the price can go up or down, 9 times out of 10 it will go up.

Make sure you list all inclusions and exclusions in the documents. Each item should have a cost next to it. Don’t let the builder/contractor convince you that “We’ll sort that one out later” as the discussion is usually forgotten and you are charged for it anyway

3. Earthworks

This is the BIG one. Here’s a tip, the builders make a large percentage of their variations in the ground works. Why? Well we can’t see what’s under ground so it’s the easiest way to get you.

Unless your site has a MAJOR unknown factor in it such as a large underground rock (commonly called a “Floater”) or natural watercourse, the ground works should not change. The piers and footings are designed by Engineers and they base their design on the ground conditions which are determined by soil tests, Local Council Information or Geotechnical reports prepared as part of a new subdivision. So there should be no reason for the builder / contractor to all of a sudden go another 0.5m deeper on your piers.

And under NO circumstances let the builder / contractor get you to sign off on variation to the piers depth etc without getting a written and detailed report from the engineer and a detailed cost break down of the extras. You’re not an expert so why should you approve it?

4. Trust Your Gut

If it doesn’t make sense then don’t sign or approve it. You have every right to ask for a complete and detailed cost break up of any variation. Don’t be bullied or pressured to sign, if the builder is rushing you then you need to step back and have a think.

5. Ask Someone

Get a comparison price from an independent contractor. Ring suppliers direct and see what you can purchase it for. If it’s a structural problem then ring the engineer and get an answer from them direct. Don’t be afraid to ask as this could ultimately save you money.

We would like to hear about your experience with variations? How did you handle the situation?

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