The story of our build disaster

Soooooooooooo, we had a right shitter during our build. As I said in my last post, we found it hard to get detailed quotes. We asked a huge number of builders to come and see the place and got quotes from around eight but getting detail was really tricky. The ranges of quotes were from £40k to £160k and the detail ranged from a one liner to a 3-page document. One builder actually said to us “This could cost you £180k but I can save you money, I can’t give you a figure but just offer weekly payments and trust on both sides” and he was a reputable builder that worked in the area, so you can see what were dealing with.

Move day. We probably wouldn’t have looked as happy if we knew how hard the build would be!

So anyway, after eight quotes there weren’t that many which we could afford and in hindsight, we should probably have looked a bit more but we thought we had some good options and we wanted to get started. We had a couple of companies that we liked and from one we had a really really detailed quote; they also had fancy vans and ipads which in hindsight was ridiculous to take into consideration but I guess if someone has all the gear (as well as no idea) then you can be slightly blinded by that. So, we went with them.

They were two guys from Surrey who we’d checked out on companies’ house (they’re now insolvent but the company was called Extend out and the guys were called Graham Wicks and Steve Erlebach – don’t use them as they may set up under another name), we’d looked into their background and we’d got a detailed quote and a contract so we figured that they were contractually bound and we were good to go.

But, what we hadn’t done was:

  • Specifically agreed who was actually doing the work (to be fair, we thought we had agreed that one of the two of them would be on site daily but that didn’t materialise)
  • Agreed ways of working in terms of project management and day to day running of the job
  • Spoken to previous clients to see how their jobs had been managed

Luckily, we had agreed on staggered payments, tied to the work that had (or hadn’t) been done.

So day one comes and they rock up and introduce some guy (Jarek) and his team who we’d never seen and made out that they were part of the overall company. Being inexperienced, we didn’t challenge this – I definitely would now! We found out later that Jarek and his team were subcontractors and they hadn’t even seen the job before or agreed that timeframe or the price was correct (you’ll see why this is important in a minute). Extend out had also forgotten to get a skip permit………….so day one and in fact week one was a full on fail as that took a week to arrive so we were delayed already.

Long story short, we’d agreed on a 12-week build (which Mr S and I had though was optimistic) and by around week 9 (in June 2018), we’d had numerous issues and we weren’t even a third of the way through the job. There had been no project management and materials had stopped being delivered. We suspected that there was an issue with money and they’d under-priced the job and wanted to get out of it, so we had frank conversation with Jarek and it materialised that Graham and Steve had just stopped paying the builders and that they had also been using our money to pay for a job around the corner.

We got an email from Graham and Steve saying that they had to part ways with Jarek and had no one to do our work. At this point, we had no back of the house at all, no kitchen, no downstairs loo or dining room and no real security and it was pretty horrific. We had our contract, which meant that the builders had to legally complete the job for the money agreed, but they weren’t telling us how they were going to do that and in reality, with no back of the house even though we could take them to small claims, that wouldn’t solve the immediate issue. In the contract, it said that we weren’t able to pull out and so we didn’t know what to do. We contacted the federation of master builders (FMB) but for the FMB to help, you can’t do any further work on the house while they try to mediate.

This was the outside of the house when we lost the builders

In the end, we found out (through Instagram!) that the same had happened to a couple round the corner and that Graham and Steve were basically useless and had taken on too many jobs at too low of a price and so wanted to ditched some; they came back to us in the end and said that they could try and find someone to restart the work in October, so we’d have had to wait 3 months with half a house and no roof. So after a lot of stress, we confirmed over email to Graham and Steve (after some advice with from our friend who is a lawyer) that we’d terminate the contact as 12 weeks with no downstairs was not a reasonable time period. That meant that we had to find another builder, luckily, we were able to go direct with Jarek direct which cost us around £10k more because he did us an absolute solid.

We had planned to take Graham & Steve and Extend out to the small claims but guess what?! They’ve gone into liquidation…………so we had a build that was c.£10k more than expected and took 8 months not 3 however, it could have been much worse.

If something similar happens to you and you don’t know a lawyer: 

  • Go to the citizens advice or to the FMB to get advice
  • Check your contract – the builder is legally bound to carry out the work
  • If you want to get out of your contract and the terms seem difficult then you only have to allow a reasonable time for the builders to find a replacement
  • If you need to find a new builder, then definitely get a fair few quotes as its super tricky to pick up a job mid-way through and you’re at a bit of a disadvantage as you’re exposed so it might be worth trying to get a quantity surveyor to cost the amount of work done and that which is left

What I would say is that though it was painful for us, its not super common so do your research and you should be ok! And as ever – shout if you have any questions!

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Hey team, thanks for stopping by. I'm Kate, a thirty something chief of staff from Warrington. I live in London with my husband, Chris and our baby boy Raf. We moved into our Victorian terrace in Peckham in June 2017 and have since been muddling through the trials and tribulations of a double extension whilst going through the drama of infertility and IVF. I set up this site as we learnt a ton of lessons along both the build and the IVF journeys so I thought I'd share what I know in case it helps others!

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