Back at the sart of our house extension project, the builder included
provisional sums in his price for plumbing and electrics. Plumbing was
about £3k which he assured us was generous.
Now, as we near the end of the project, he informs us that his plumber
will need twice this amount. What's the best way to handle this? We
are shocked and furious that this wasn't mentioned earlier. (The
plumber did visit to discuss our plans months ago, but never mentioned
this. same for the builder.)
Any advice very welcome.
If all the plans were discussed well in advance, then you're told that the
costs have doubled over this period, I'd be very suspicious and ask for a
break down on the prices for all the materials and time / labour costs that
are going to be involved.
You haven't added anything to the build in that time, have you ?
I had the same (albeit the original estimate was £500 and he charged £1000).
I don't know what happened during your build but it is very easy to lose
site of the fact that the provisional estimates are for the bare minimum and
you should never forget this - every little thing that's extra will be
In my case the estimate (as my builder pointed out) was for extending the
heating system to one radiator upstairs and one downstairs (the extension
being one up and one down) with manual valves. By the time I had finished it
was two radiators downstairs, two upstairs and a towel rail (fitting only)
plus Drayton TRV's on all the new radiators. When he put it like that, the
increase seemed quite reasonable. All the other building costs were exactly
as he said, including the electric which was bang on the provisional
If you have had a lot more than what would be the bare minimum, you are
happy with everything else the builder has done and what he charged for it,
it may be a genuine case of the plumber getting his just rewards for what he
has done. If he is bumping up the prices all round and you have only got the
bare minimum, you should, at least, ask for a breakdown of the costs. My
builder offered one but, after we had talked, it seemed reasonable to pay.
(anti-spam is as easy as 1-2-3 - not)
A provisional sum should be spent at the discretion on the client. I know
irt is too late but what you should have done once you had awarded the
contract or even before if you want is to specify exactly what you want and
ask for a price before agreeing. The Prov Sums are there top assist in the
tender process and really should be specified by you at the outset. You may
not know what bathroom fittings you want at tender stage so you should state
to all tenderers allow £X as a PSum for the plumbing and heating. When you
find your contractor you then have time to specify what you want
As it was a provisional sum all you can now ask is for a breakdown of the
invoice and see if it is fair.
Did you let the contract on any formal contract conditions or was it done
via a builder's quote and nothing else? If it was the former then there are
normally provisions for dealing with the authorisation and payment of
provisional sums. As Mike says, provisional sums should be specified and
driven by the client and cover items of work that are unknown at
commencement of the work, and clarified and priced accordingly as the work
progresses. Did your original specification include a breakdown, even
approximate, of what plumbing work was required? You should get a breakdown
of the costs and see if that relates to what was actually provided.
Did you make interim payments to the builder as the work progressed - if so
did you receive interim invoices from the builder - did they mention
anything about payments against the provisional sums? (so you could see how
the provisional sums were being "eaten up")
Even if eventually the costs turn out to be fair compared to the work done,
it was pretty poor for the builder to leave that "surprise" right to the
end. It sounds as if his plumber has landed him with the bill and he's just
passed it onto you!
Following an initial builder's quotation (which listed provisional
sums separately), we prepared a detailed room-by-room spec which we
sat down and discussed and agreed with the builder. We then
cross-referred to this spec in a JCT Minor Works Contract which we and
the builder signed.
Builder assured us his provisional sums were generous for the work in
the original plans he quoted against.
Although the JCT contract records staged payments, the provisional
sums were rolled up into the total figure he'd quoted. Are there
provisions for such sums in the JCT contract?
We've asked numerous times to be told whether the provisional sums
would be adequate. Builder always said last thing he wanted was to
'surprise' us. Nevertheless, that's exactly what appears to be
Yes, detailed room-by-room. Basically we were after rads in all new
rooms plus a Megaflow tank in airing cupboard. (We even supplied our
own taps and shower fitments which I guess should reduce the final
Have now requested this.
No mention of prov sums in these invoices.
Exactly. Is there any way we can refuse payment in light of this
I'm no legal expert but if your original spec set out clearly what you
wanted in terms of plumbing and you've got what you asked for (and this is
supported by the plumbers final breakdown) then I would start by asking the
builder to justify the increases over and above his "generous" provisional
The problem is of course is that the builder could always maintain that the
plumbing costs were always provisional right up to the time the final
invoice was prepared for the work. The fact that his "generous" provisional
sums were miles out requires some degree of explanation. The appearance
seems to be that the plumber, knowing that no fixed cost has been agreed for
the work, is at liberty to charge what he likes and just present the bill at
the end. This is certainly unprofessional and unethical of the builder and
the plumber to do this - but has he broken any contractual term? I don't
know. I'm not that familiar with the JCT MW Agreement, but I assume there
must be some mechanism to deal with disputes? Anybody know?
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