There’ll always be somebody cheaper – Part I

“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that man’s lawful prey” John Ruskin (apparently).

Take a look at this picture: this is what happens when you commit to a building project on cheap, poorly envisioned plans, with little thought in the key details. The builder here has built the external wall of the new development all the way up to the neighbour’s gutter! (and beyond) without details of how these things are going to fit together. Total disaster. Leaving the trespass and other legal issues aside for a moment, it’s hard to imagine how this could have occurred given that the development was apparently built following a suite of construction plans.

We are sometimes asked why there is a disparity in the fees for building plans offered by surveyors and architects and various others. If you find that some surveyors and architects are quoting higher fees for your extension/refurbishment plans, the main reasons are usually the same:


  • Thorough planning: surveyors and architects are experienced, up-to-date with current regulations and, drawing from years of project management experience, know what goes into a project from inception to completion to make it a success. They will also take a much wider view of the project: from the Party Wall issues, boundary concerns, services, budget considerations and the like – everything that the project encompasses has to be carefully considered. This takes time, consultation and research, and the fees ought to reflect this. If you’re paying £200 for your building plans, think about how much of somebody’s time this would buy and how much thought would go into your build in that time frame.


  • Insurance and redress: surveyors and architects are duty-bound by their professional bodies to carry high levels of professional indemnity and public liability insurance and have complaints handling procedures with recourse to independent third party arbitrators, free of charge. This is for your protection. If your surveyor or architect makes an oversight (which is unlikely, but not impossible) then you have the protection of their insurance policies to fall back on and clearly defined avenues to seek proper redress. Some do not carry the same cover, if any cover at all. If they make a mistake, you’ll be in the unenviable position of making a claim against somebody with no guarantee of the means to settle any judgements made against them.


Committing to a building project is a significant undertaking and, depending upon the circumstances, can be quite a stressful process with a lot of money at stake. If you scrimp on the planning at the front end of the project by employing the cheapest draftsman that you can find then you’ll run the risk of ending up with bodged details like the one in the picture, with little or no recourse to get things sorted.

If you’re shopping around then ensure that you’re assessing what levels of service and expertise are on offer, rather than just price alone. If you search long enough on price alone then you’ll eventually find the worst service provider out there.

Knock it all down and start again !