It’s not a joke – there are doors, and then there are DOORS. But which type of door do you want on your project? You may be imagining the solid oak jobs that you saw in Country Living with burnished steel handles and three chrome hinges, but what exactly does it say in your Finishes Schedule? If a quick look reveals something like ‘supply and fit 2no. doors with fittings in the lounge of Unit 1’ then there’s every chance you’ll be in for a nasty surprise. Because your contractor, who has quoted a price based on your schedule, will not be thinking about burnished anything. Instead, their question will be, ‘How can I spend the least amount of money possible and still achieve the required specification?’. In the example above, the answer is obvious. They’ll install two doors that resemble reinforced cardboard, with cheapo door handles straight out of a 1970s educational institution and only two hinges, neither of which have been within a mile of a chrome platers. Then, when you turn up to inspect the fruit of their labours, the uncomfortable truth will dawn. There are doors. And then there are doors.
Of course, your contractor will offer you a shoulder to cry on. Ever one for practical solutions, they’ll offer to rip out all of the newly installed reinforced cardboard doors and replace them with those swanky designer jobs that you saw in Country Living. In exchange, of course, for an additional fee to do the ripping out, disposal, and reinstallation, plus the additional cost of your new doors, handles, and hinges. You thought their quote was too good to be true, and now, at least, you have the satisfaction of knowing you were right.
This exposes another expensive truth: specifying upfront is usually much cheaper than changing things later or retrofitting. One of our students recently forgot to specify some doorstops that would prevent doors from swinging open and hitting walls, etc. It wasn’t a king’s ransom to solve in the scheme of things, but the cost of including it in the original specification would have been negligible. I recently spoke to a contractor who told me of a client who had decided to move the basin they’d installed in an ensuite from one side of the room to the other and had been taken aback by the additional cost. The fact that this had also involved re-routing the plumbing and waste from one side of the room to the other hadn’t occurred to them because they couldn’t see it. Yet it would have cost them almost nothing if they’d specified it that way at the outset. When it comes to detailing your projects, a little thought beforehand really can go a long way.
But the benefits of having a detailed Finishes Schedule don’t end there. If the subject of doors wasn’t riveting enough for you, spare a thought for your tiling. Let’s flick to the bathroom page of Unit 1 in your Finishes Schedule. We all know that you’ll want tiling in your ensuites. But what level of detail does your Finishes Schedule go into? Let’s consider the questions that your contractor will need to know the answers to when they’re pricing and fitting your bathrooms. Do you want marble, ceramic, or porcelain tiles? Are they smooth or bumpy? What colour are they? What size are they – small mosaic ones or much larger jobs? Are they square or rectangular? If rectangular, are they to be laid portrait or landscape? What colour grout is to be used? Where on each wall does the tiling come up to? Do you want to tile to the floor behind the basins?
Hopefully, you can see another saving coming your way, and this one is in time. Not only would specifying this information in the Finishes Schedule ensure that you don’t end up with the cheapest tiles in the world finished with day-glo grouting, but it will also mean you don’t get a barrage of questions from your contractor, which will take up a lot of your time. Poor specification is one of the biggest frustrations for everyone because it means they’ll need to ask you for clarification. Or they’ll crack on with what they think is cheapest/best and assume you’ll be happy with it. Either way, it’s a significant risk for you as the developer and one that you shouldn’t take. The answer is to take the time to nail the requirement in the Finishes Schedule at the outset, and then your contractor can get on with things without constantly having to refer to you with questions. Better still, make a point of specifying the actual make and model of what you require. That way, there can be no ambiguity at all. It may take some extra time at the outset, but can pay big dividends.