Estimating support and services can help builders

Estimating support and services can help builders

Marcus Jefford, managing director of Build Aviator, explains how using intelligent estimating support and services can help builders to make lighter work of extensions.

According to Barbour ABI, residential planning applications submitted in March this year equated to around £4.6bn – this takes the value of work for the first quarter of 2022 to the highest value before the pandemic.

While a huge positive for our industry, helping many builders establish a strong diary of jobs for months – even years ahead – the demand for their time is greater too. This means it’s more important than ever to improve productivity while also maintaining profit, yet with extensions there are unique challenges that can sometimes impact time and return.

By working with estimating providers with real on-site experience of both extensions and new build projects, there are ways these challenges can be overcome.

Starting with a plan

Often homeowners contact a builder when they’ve got an idea of what they want to do, rather than when they have physical plans in place. Previously, a builder might then direct them to an architect they know or advise them to get back in touch when drawings are done, but this can bring issues.

As well as breaking the link between the builder and the customer meaning they might then go to another builder for the work or go with the architect’s preferred supplier, it can also mean plans are drawn up without a realistic budget in mind.

Closing this loop, leading estimating services are now offering plan drawing services as part of an end-to-end package for builders and their customers. This means plans for an extension can be drawn up with the builder involved and critically, costed using genuine pricing and the builder’s real rates from the outset.

Not only does this cut down on back and forth between architect and builder – and potentially local authority planning – as a project progresses, it is better for the customer too who will get a more accurate estimate for their extension upfront.

A clearer scope

This early engagement with the customer also helps the builder get a clearer brief on their role and scope within the project. When working on an extension, it’s just as easy to have too much information from the customer as not enough and to make assumptions and then under price or overprice a job.

Is the customer expecting a completed shell or a turnkey finish? Investing time here will stop builders spending hours estimating for work that’s not needed. Conversely, without the full picture, oversights can start to creep in: did you ask about existing drains or manholes? Or if only delivering part of the extension, who’s accounting for scaffolding?

Asking these questions upfront will help produce a clearer, more accurate estimate but also means if the builder wins the work, both they and the client know what’s in and what’s out of scope. That said, with many builders already short on time and estimates often done out of hours, things often get missed.

By working with a dedicated, experienced estimator, they’ll take plans and work through each element to create an estimate that’s based on specifics.

They will look for the details such as the right thickness of plaster and how many boxes of fixings are needed. They will also base costs on current materials pricing and produce a full, professional report, with a full materials list, schedule of work and a quote using defined labour rates and profit margins.

This helps remove the pressure for builders, with someone else providing a clear head and a fresh pair of eyes when demand for extensions is eating up their time.

Expecting unexpected

Another benefit of producing a thorough, accurate quote versus a simple text message or email is that when the unexpected happens – as often does with extensions – the builder is in a better position to have an open conversation with the customer. Changes and ‘can you justs’ are part of a job, but if they aren’t part of the original estimate, they can be overlooked or mean a customer is landed with an unexpected invoice.

By using intelligent estimating software at the start of an extension project however, the builder and customer will have a clearer picture of what the estimate is based on. Better still, leading estimator-led services allow for changes to a job to be made quickly to show the builder and client the cost difference of having to go down another six inches on the foundations or swapping material spec. This makes justifying a price change much easier and helps a client make an informed choice about whether they want to go over budget.

For more information on Build Aviator visit

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