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Building? How to avoid paying extra for the contractor’s wastage

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There is no user manual for all aspects of homeownership, from moving, to taking occupation and to maintaining and understanding common and uncommon defects. Albert van Wyk has more than 38 years’ worth of building experience and has put all he has learned into a concise, easy-to-use reference book entitled, The Proud Home Owner. He has granted HomeTimes exclusive access to republish portions of his book to help homeowners make better decisions around buying and selling, as well as maintaining their properties.

What are prime cost amounts and provisional sums?

Because it is not possible to know at the time when the contract is signed what certain items will cost, you do want the contractor to make provision (include) for these items in the contract sum.

Examples are tiles, lights, kitchen units, swimming pool, air conditioner, carpets and stove. Some items will be specified as prime cost amounts (PC amount) and others as PS (provisional sum). It is important that you and the contractor agree on how these amounts will be utilised and that you are “on the same page” to prevent any disputes later.

Do your homework in order to ensure that realistic amounts are allowed.

Prime cost amountslight-fittings-over-couch

This amount is for material or goods to be delivered on site and does not include the cost of fitting or installing it.

The contractor can allow PC amounts for tiles, lights and stove. For example the PC amount of R200/m² is allowed for floor tiles. The contractor must calculate the area of the tiles and include the cost of the labour for laying the tiles, plus the grout and the glue in the contract.

You may choose any tile up to R200/m² which he must buy and install at no extra cost to you. Should you choose a tile at R220/m², then the extra amount is calculated as the area times R20 and it would be a saving with a credit due to you if the tile costs less than R200.

Consider the following situation: The contractor measures the area of the floor tiles and found it to be 100m² plus 10% for waste and cuttings, and orders 110m² tiles to be delivered. You would have to pay for 110m² x R200 = R22,000.

He then comes back to you with the news that he has made a mistake and that there were many broken tiles in the boxes and that he needs another 5m² of tiles. This will result in you having to pay for 5m² more than you have budgeted for.


The same can happen to wall tiles, which are difficult to measure off the plan. Instead of being allowed a PC amount of R200/m² for tiles, use the following formula:

Measure the area for the tiles or ask the contractor to calculate it, add 10% for waste and cuttings, and multiply that by R200.

You will now have a total PC amount for the tiles, which is the only amount that you are prepared to pay. Waste and breakage will thus be for his account.


You can have a PC amount of R5,000 for light fittings and bulbs. The contractor must allow in his costs for the electrician to install the lights and bulbs.

If you select lights to the value of R6,000, then you can pay the supplier R1,000 and the contractor must pay the R5,000 because this amount was included in the contract sum. The same principle will apply to the stove or any other PC amounts.

Provisional sumskitchen-units

Some amounts will be allowed as provisional sums (PS). This is an allowance in the contract for work not defined and for which separate tenders will be called for.

The contractor could allow an amount of R50,000 for kitchen units, R50,000 for the swimming pool and R20,000 for carpets. These are referred to as provisional sums. These amounts will include all fitting and installation costs.

The R50,000 for the kitchen units should include all the material, transport, worktops and installation in order to have a complete kitchen.

The pool should also be complete and running, and if carpets are installed then it should include underfelt and aluminium strips.

You and the contractor must decide on how the extra amounts or savings will be handled. Normally it is settled in the final account.

It would be wise not to exclude certain items from the contract which you want to handle yourself.

For example, you decide to have the kitchen units installed by your own contractor and exclude it from the main building contract; this is referred to as a nominated sub-contractor with whom you will need a separate contract. The main contractor is then not responsible for any defects of the kitchen units, not even scratches or damages, or poor workmanship of the installation.

This means that you cannot include anything in the kitchen on your snag list for the contractor to fix. You must then deal directly with the kitchen company. Alternatively, you could allow the main contractor a mark-up (profit) on the cost of the kitchen, after which he will take responsibility for the kitchen units.

Do not ask your contractor to supply material such as the paint. It could cost you more than what you thought you were saving. Paint can disappear, be applied too thickly and they could use more than what was allowed for.

Keep a “paper trail” of all discussions with him or his supervisor.

You can download a specification schedule from www.gautenginspect.co.za


Next time: How to select a vacant stand


For more, and to order your copy of The Proud Home Owner, click here, or visit Gauteng Home Inspections if you’re building, buying or doing maintenance

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david.steynberg@gmail.com

David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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