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Why You Shouldn’t Choose Your Builder based on Square Metre Rates

When choosing a builder, many people are tempted to compare square metre rates. Jeremy Gates explains why choosing your builder based on square metre rates is a big mistake, particularly for renovations and extensions.



When choosing a builder, many people are tempted to compare square metre rates.

This is a BIG mistake, especially if your project is a renovation or extension.

If you are planning a new home, renovation or extension, let me give you 3 reasons why you shouldn’t choose your builder based on square metre rates …

Reason #1:  Everything varies in quality.

Think back to a time you bought something by the metre. Perhaps it was some carpet, material for a dress or curtains, or a length of rope. Let me ask you this question: when comparing different carpets (or materials or ropes… or whatever) did the per metre price vary much? Of course it did. Why?

It’s obvious – different types of carpet (or material or rope… or houses) are very different in quality. One carpet may be made of wool while another is synthetic. One type of material may be handmade while another may come from an automated machine. And one rope may have a breaking strain of 1 ton while another can’t hold 100kg.

An average home contains hundreds of different ‘ingredients’ including carpet, bricks, tiles, taps, sinks, paint, timber, glass etc. And all of these materials come in different qualities. On top of that, the way in which these materials are assembled into a finished house differs in quality and attention to detail.

For example, your joinery could have a 2 pac or laminate finish; your benchtops could be marble, composite stone or laminate; your tiles could be mosaic or standard sizes with prices ranging from $20 to $200+ per m2; skirtings and architraves vary in price from $1.50/lm to $30/lm and the list goes on.

The variances are almost infinite. So comparing one builder’s price of $2,000 per square metre to another’s price of $3,000 per square metre is exactly like trying to compare an orange with a lemon. The differences are many, not just the price.

Reason #2: Every house or renovation design is different.

The cost of a renovation per m2 will depend on the areas of the house that are being renovated.

If you are only renovating certain ‘high cost’ areas of the house, such as a kitchen and bathrooms, then the cost of the renovation per m2 will be higher than a whole house renovation or a new build.

If you build an extension, it will typically have a new kitchen and a new bathroom.  A new kitchen costs $30,000 – $50,000 and a new bathroom costs $20,000 – $30,000, so if your extension is 60m2 you have already spent $50,000 – $80,000 without including any work on the structure.  For a new build, with the average house size in Australia being 233.3m2, these costs are more thinly spread across the total floor area.

Even comparing the square metre rate for new builds can be misleading.  Some houses are square, some houses are ‘L’ shaped, and others have many different angles and shapes. While 3 different houses may all have the same internal dimension (square metres) the quantity of building materials that go into these homes will vary greatly depending on the shape.

For example, a house that has a greater wall area will require more bricks/framing, more insulation, more guttering and more plasterboard.  It will probably have more windows and doors.  And it will need litres more paint.

Reason #3: Beware renovators – every house is different.

Every house has its own history and quirks.  Your home’s construction and condition may not be fully revealed until works commence.  So quoting a square metre rate for your renovation can turn out to be very unreliable, particularly if unforeseen conditions are discovered.

Also, costs will vary depending on your specific requirements – do you want to keep existing features? Do any items need to be retrofitted? Do you need to meet additional requirements for the whole house even though only part of it is being renovated (eg insulation, smoke alarms)?

And access can have a big impact on build costs.  If access is difficult or tight, the works will take longer and be more expensive.

So don’t be fooled into trying to compare build costs via square metre rates. The variables are too great.  And you may find you end up with a lemon when you really wanted an orange.

If you’d like a more considered estimate of build costs for your project, contact us.

Before you select your builder, make sure they are appropriately qualified and experienced professional builders. To help you do this, we have prepared a FREE guide – the 7 Critical Questions to Ask Before You Choose Your BuilderDownload it now to learn:

arrow How to check whether your builder is up to the job

arrow How to avoid getting caught out by builders charging you more than you were expecting

arrow and more handy tips



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Sue Davidson

The highlight of Sue's job at Gaia Construction is handing over beautifully crafted homes to excited clients. In her spare time, Sue is passionate about the environment & the outdoors, enjoying time hiking, sailing, walking her dog Lulu and travelling around Australia with her husband Jeremy & Lulu in their small campervan.
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