What to do if your builder tells you ‘extra work’ is required half way through a job

Not massively impressed with Rip-Off Britain’s advice from Trading Standards this morning on the question of what to do if a particular issue arises with your builder. Absolutely STUPID advice in my opinion, guaranteed to escalate an already problematic situation. Here’s the issue: in the middle of works, you are told by your tradesman or builder that a new problem has arisen / extra work is needed and therefore costs will rise – what do you do?

The advice from Trading Standards on BBC1 this morning? Tell the builder to stop work immediately and get a new builder in.


I consider myself a reputable trader and when I organise building work for clients do so honourably, in good faith and never ever try to rip any one off. If a client of mine made this choice I would be horrified. There are many occasions where extra works are truthful and honestly required once a property is ‘opened up’, I’ll give you a couple of examples.

On a recent client bathroom job we’d removed the uneven floorboards to fit water-proof plywood to allow ceramic tiles to be laid. When the floor was up it became glaringly obvious that whoever had worked on the house previously had botched up these supporting first floor joists to the extent that they weren’t really supporting the floor, kinda important when you have a full bath above! We had to do corrective work to these joists and strengthen them before our original work could continue, plus charge the client accordingly and fairly for materials and labour. What good would throwing us off the job and getting another builder in have done?!

On one of my rental refurbs a few weeks ago, I drew up the plans and layouts, then let the builder get on with work. He called me up to say there was a problem with the floor joists meaning extra work was required, so could I pop over and have a look. Did I tell him to sling his hook, automatically assuming he was trying to rip me off and employ another builder. Er, no. I went to have a look at the clearly rotten floor joists and agreed an extra over price for the necessary work to allow him to carry on with the job. It would have been a crazy decision to throw him off the job, not do the definitely required extra work and get a new builder in to simply finish the originally agreed contract.

There have also been occasions where lazy trades have not bothered to tell me about issues they noticed as they didn’t want their work held up, meaning a huge amount more work a couple of years down the line, e.g.; the electrician who didn’t tell me that some joists he was attaching wires to on a first floor had blatantly obvious dry rot…. a year later the floor nearly feel through. The extras would have been far cheaper to address in the first instance whilst original works were going on, instead of once the property was occupied, decorated and furnished 😦

Here’s my advice:

If in the middle of works your builder tells you more work is necessary and it will cost you more money, ask to have a meeting so he / she can show you what they mean and what the problem is.

If you really do not understand the issue, feel you are being bamboozled or are uncomfortable with the amounts being discussed, ask that a hold be put on works in that particular area and ask for a slower and clearer explanation. The builder might get a bit stressed if the extra works needed are messing with their schedule but it’s in their interest to get this resolved to your satisfaction. Try and understand things from their point of view, these extra works are likely not to be an honest builder’s fault and may be slowing up a planned job which could have a knock-on effect on their workload.

If you still don’t understand maybe suggest a second opinion.Maybe get on-line and do some research, ask a family friend or colleague who might know about such issues. If the works are large enough to warrant getting a second builder / expert on site for clarification, don’t be afraid to do so. Take some photos / a smart phone video of the extra work so you have some evidence of extra works recommended / done.

It should be fairly obvious to see the new issue and ask for a break down of the new work and a costing for it, in writing or emailed. This is so easy to do now as most builders have smart phones so the extra estimate / quote can be almost be immediate. Though do give the builder some time to work out costs and materials!

My advice would be not to simply assume that extra works have been made up in order to rip you off. Once a house has been opened up, small extras are often required and larger unexpected issues are not unusual. That’s why people have contingency funds! To simply throw what could be a great building firm off the job and replace them for no good reason is madness and would be shooting yourself in the foot, and is likely to cost you more in the long run.

Most builders are good honest people, treat them as such and don’t assume the worst, but if your gut instinct tells your otherwise, act on it.


2 thoughts on “What to do if your builder tells you ‘extra work’ is required half way through a job

Add yours

  1. Very interesting read Sian!

    Customers often change their minds too midway through projects when ideas and opportunities come to mind. It’s the nature of the beast, so best to address it in a practical manner.

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