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The Builder/Client power shift

A builder’s crack, once abhorrent, is now tolerated for the greater aesthetic good of our homes. The days of refusing to let your builder use your loo or offering them a cup of tea, are gone. Clients now find themselves desperate to placate their builders, to prevent them from walking off a job, for a more lucrative one.

To understand why construction costs are so high and why this power shift has happened. We first have to look at what caused the change.

The Pandemic change 

The Pandemic did two fundamental things to the building industry. Initially, it temporarily stalled existing building work causing a backlog and whilst some raced for space outside the City. Others, sick of their own four walls, looked to extend, improve or build the dream. This insatiable appetite for ‘change’ resulted in demand recovering more quickly than supply. 

So why is supply so hard to come by

During Lockdown the knock on effect of leaving the EU wasn’t fully realised till restrictions were lifted. More than 200,000 EU Nationalists left the UK last year, leaving various sectors struggling to meet demand. The building industry being one of them.

The presumption that UK job seekers would fill EU citizens’ jobs with wild abandon, didn’t happen. So in sectors such as Haulage, a sector estimated to be understaffed by 99-100,000 drivers; losing 14,000 EU national HGV drivers, didn’t help. To lure recruits, temporary visas have been offered by the UK Gov and wages have increased but this has done little to rectify the situation. 

This, along with the pingdemic – grinding businesses to a COVID halt, has caused yet further delays.

Prices rocketing

ONS building and material stats

During the pandemic oil suppliers couldn’t give their oil away. Now having curbed production they are playing catch up. Meaning what they do have, has gone up. Then they have the haulage issue of getting it to you. With wages rising to keep or entice employees and fuel price hikes, the building sector has seen materials rise for all work by 23%. Imported plywood is now 78.8% more expensive than the same time last year, however screws are down -11.2.

I mean what use is a screw, if you don’t have something to screw it too!


This all means construction costs are higher than what many previously budgeted for. As prices increases are passed on to the end user.

Many builders on fixed contracts ordered and stored ahead of time, exacerbating the problem but saving themselves and the client any further price increases. For those about to embark on a project, now may not be the best of times to renovate. If you can live with the walls you have for a little longer you may just find the process less stressful in a year. 

If already midway through work or a build, all is not completely lost. Customer service is still important to many builders and your review will determine their future business.