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How to cut costs but not quality

October 20, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Category: Remodeling Contractor



•Find cheaper like-for-like materials
Choose the materials, fixtures and finishes you like, and then hunt around for almost identical materials for less — sometimes at a fraction of the price. The internet is brilliant for this, but it is also worth putting your ear to the ground to find out where the local builders and developers buy their materials. Most big towns have trade tile and stone centres where you can buy great brand name tiles for a fraction of the list price, or stone for half the price of the big brand name stone suppliers. Often the materials are almost identical, if not the very same stone from the same quarry, just with a different name. The same applies to brand name paints: get a sample pot, choose you colour, and then have it matched by the trade paint suppliers.
•Use end-of-line materials and goods
If you want brand name white goods like fridges, freezers, hobs, ovens, range cookers and extractors at incredibly cheap prices, look for the end-of-line distribution centres. Most major towns and cities have outlets that sell off discontinued lines for a fraction of the price of the almost identical new model. In most instances there’s no point in paying more for the new model, as it too will be superseded within a few months. It’s also worth looking online.
•Use reclaimed materials
Salvaged building materials are often more expensive than new, but some items can be cheaper — so you can achieve instant character and save money at the same time. Reclaimed handmade plain clay roof tiles, for example, can be found from yards at 40-50p each, which is considerably less than the cost of new handmade tiles. Reclaimed blue slates can also be less expensive than new, at around 70p each for 10” x 20” — although you need to be careful of quality as some inferior slates have a limited lifespan (Welsh slate is regarded as amongst the finest quality). Other bargains, such as timber panelling and doors, are harder to make use of — they tend to have to be designed into the building if they are to be the right size. To find your local salvage yard visit salvo.co.uk.
•Go for off-the-shelf materials
Choose the best designed off-the-shelf materials and you can save £1,000s compared to bespoke products and still achieve a beautifully detailed and proportioned end result. The trick is to find the right cost-effective products and to design their standard sizes into your building. For instance, there are some off the- shelf sash windows – such as Sliding Sash All Bar from Jeld-Wen (jeld-wen.co.uk) – with excellent classical Georgian proportions at a very reasonable cost (860 x 1,350mm have a list price of around £800, while other suppliers are likely to cost well in excess of £1,000 each), but others in the same range look completely imbalanced because of their size and the division of the glazing bars.
•Take up special offers when they are available
Keep an eye out for special offers online and in the DIY sheds and take advantage of them when they are available. You may have to find somewhere to store the materials until you need them, or even a whole kitchen or set of sanitaryware, but you can save £100s by being opportunistic. When suppliers are promoting, they sometimes offer a loss leader-product, like ceramic tiles or woodflooring, sold at cost or less, so take advantage and buy in quantity. Online retailers that find themselves with too much stock, who have themselves taken advantage of a bulk wholesale purchase, can sometimes offload materials like stone flooring or shower enclosures for very little. Watch out for quality, however, by getting hold of a sample before purchase. There are some very cheap limestones and travertines around that are very brittle or which are heavily pitted, requiring a lot of filling, andthey can be a false economy.
•Design like a developer
Shaving a few pence of each housing unit makes sense for the big housebuilders and so they invest in finding the most cost effective design solutions. You need to be careful not to compromise on quality and character in a one-off house, but there are some simple ways to tweak your design that can save £1,000s. Reducing the pitch of your roof can significantly reduce labour and material costs — as a rule of thumb, every 5° increase in roof pitch adds 4% to the roofing cost £/m2. You can also save £1,650-2,500 by omitting a chimney flue and open fireplace. Reducing ceiling heights also reduces costs: around 1.6% per square metre for every 100mm.
•Reduce trench width
At foundation stage the big costs are removing spoil – known as ‘muck-away’ – and bringing in concrete to form the foundations. If you can keep your trenches down to the minimum width and depth acceptable to the building inspector, and dig neat, straight trenches (this takes quite a lot of skill) you will reduce both the cost of transport and tipping, and of concrete. With fuel costs still at record highs, transport is a major cost for tipping and bringing in concrete, sand and aggregates such as gravel and scalpings. It can pay to ring around and find the nearest quarries, tips and concrete plant.
•Get your quantities right
Check quantities for materials carefully to avoid over- or under-ordering. Allowing for a small amount of wastage is likely to end up costing less than running short and having to pay the delivery charges for just a small quantity of materials. Always ask suppliers (try more than one) and find out what wastage level is normal for each product and take their advice.


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