Monday, May 08, 2006

No cash upfront — unless the builder is Polish

Prices quoted for an extension in Edinburgh.
• £30,000
• £57,000
• £65,000
• £80,000

Which one would you go for? I was posed this question at the Homebuilding & Renovating show this weekend in Glasgow. David Snell and I had just been dispensing “unmissable” advice on how to run building jobs. One of the pearls to fall from our collective lips was “Never pay upfront.” But the lady from Edinburgh who approached us afterwards with her dilemma explained that the £30,000 quote came with a sting in the tail. She and her husband had been asked to pay a deposit of 50% upfront if she wanted the job done for £30,000.

Instinctively, one smells a rat. Why should a builder want a deposit of any kind, let alone 50%? They buy materials on credit, they pay their subcontractors in arrears, if they can’t float a building job for two or three weeks without a cash injection, there must be something fishy going on here.

But after asking her a few more questions, a more complex picture of what was happening began to emerge. For starters, the guy offering this very low price was Polish and was newly arrived on our shores. He was offering access to Polish labour at Polish rates and, additionally, he was constantly ferrying building materials across from Poland where they are very much cheaper than the UK. What is more, he has already done jobs successfully for one of her friends and also a cousin: he comes highly recommended. He had also impressed with his Can Do attitude. The other builders had sucked their teeth when they saw that the house to be extended was set up a flight of steps, which will necessitate hand-balling all the materials up and over. The Polish builder hadn’t even mentioned it as a problem.

The clinching point was a connection with the Baptist church. Now, I don’t know much about Baptists but I can imagine that, as well as being a religion, it’s also a support network and this Polish builder had become a member of the Baptist congregation that the woman and her husband belong to. It seems his workload is mostly coming from the congregation.

Her husband was inclined to take the Polish Baptist builder at his word, to trust him with £15,000 and let him get on with the job. The wife was obviously a bit more cautious by nature and had taken the time to come and see what David and I had to say about the matter.

In the end, I came around to her husband’s point of view. Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules about how to select a builder. There are guidelines-a-plenty but the final decision comes down to your own judgement and that’s all about who you choose to put your trust in. The many Polish builders currently setting up shop in the UK seem to enjoy an enviable reputation for honesty and hard work, to say nothing of dramatically undercutting the prices of the locals. Whether this will last, only time will tell. Doubtless there will be a few Polish rip-off merchants and quite a few useless Polish builders, just as there are with all ethnic groups in all walks of life. But at the moment, the nation’s homebuilders and extenders seem to be in thrall with Poland and all the fit young builders they are currently exporting to us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Could you share the name of the Polish builder - we are looking for a good builder for some renovation work.


4:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I would just like to point out that the polish should not be trusted so easily! There have been several articles in the newspapers about Polish builders running away with substantial portions of the money they asked for having only completed a small amount of the work, barricading themselves in their clients houses when they haven't been paid for work they haven't done etc. Also on a more personal note I would just like to add that my family employed a Polish building firm based in Gloucestershire who did 25% of the work we contracted them to do and walked away with 75% of the money when we wouldn't give them any more!

I would just like to say that one should exercise extreme caution when dealing with Polish builders who offer cheap quotes for cash installments. Make sure you draft air tight contracts and have researched properly what you want done and how. My last piece of advice is that the Polish might offer cheap quotes but British Builders are generally more reliable, a lot faster and easier to track down and sue when things don't go so well!

7:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polish Polish Polish

Have you heard of the Polish saying, and this is from my father who was also a builder like me, and this is going back long before the flood gates were opened. It comes from ploishing your price, meaning to reduce your price.

P eople
O ffering
L owcost
i ncentives
S pells
H assle

Sometimes when you pay costs you more......

6:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your comment on the polish your price not because I have anything against the polish, like you. Live and let live, but you sound old school taught. I have some building work that needs doing could you e-mail me on so we could discuss my building project please.

6:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

any change of the builders name and telephone number

12:44 pm  
Blogger pmultibuild said...

first of all im in shock of what im reading
my name is Pawel im polish builder
i have been in london for about 12 years now have dun many jobs but i must say i have incountered some problems my self with costumers that would just simply refuse to pay for work thats why we me personaly profer to get payments split in 3 so no one can be harmed
in the proces i have been harmed many times by tricky and greedy indiviuals i shouls say becouse we all are at the end of the day,there is all kids of individuals in this world we can call them all up but it would not resolve anything at all
First of all 10 years ago i remember everybody complaining about the english builders for overcharging if you remember i tell you what: in stead give me a ring i have about 17 year experience and 8 hard working polaks availeble for your services
london and we will travel also for the wright price off corse my number is 07792387441 or you can email me corgi reg plumbers availeble and we have the can do attitude with the perfect finnish thank you all for reading

6:37 pm  
Blogger pmultibuild said...

polish ????????????? not to be trusted!!!!!!!!!!!!
you English are so ignorant the topic
of worlds misery! you British have worked on this for centuries robbed and killed in slaved u lot complaining as usual thats the favoret activity of British papole hypocritical you are to the max it is your gaverment who asked polish troops to come and help
fight againts the talibans so you can go and steel the oil from them and put our country under risk bom attack in exchange you will let us in 500.000.000 £ a year for taxes from polaks only you should be ashamed of your selfs
why dont you idiots wake up and face the trompets and the most is still to come

do you all think that muslims going to leave you alone ???? ha you will soon find out when thay try to take over the countrys you will not be able to stop them anyway so i would be leaving polish peapole in peace if i was you, we never attacked or harm no one witch i can not say about britan

12:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polish builders are cheap because they don't live here. I've seen how they live in this country like farm animals 4 to 1 bedroom. i'm a british builder with a family and a mortgage i can't compete with them unless i start to live like them

5:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi everybody,firstable i would say i really commiserate for british builders it must be absolutely annoying competing with them but i am absolutely sure there are loads of costumers which choose just british builders.In my opinion many jobs would not be undertaken becouse many of people can not afford for higher prices thus there are more work.Just look all round do the british couldn't build before polish builders came?!But definitely there are so many neglectet houses which would never be renovated.Referring to the latest research,day by day polish builders go back to Poland becouse of the growing economic and constantly falling down sterling exchange rate.About quality,hmm..For the last couple of days i have been observing through my window builders wchich were not definitely polish or pithy british they did speak english though.They were paving in front of the doorway in terraced two storeys house,everything looks good from a distance BUT !they were mixing mortar by hand a bit aside from arising pavement on a existing pavement made of red bricks belonging to the public without any protection,at the end of the day they splashed a bit the rest of the mortar with water pushing aside all the scum,as a result of that it is look like big patch from my window view,but belive me it is nothing referring to the worst of it i.e.the mortar which were put aside blocked drainage path,next to it there is bench where the youth seat and children play arround,after rainy day i can imagine what would i see-big pool.
Summarizing everybody is not created for logical thinking.Well,despite of all the myths belong on your common sens chosing the proper builder.By the way i'm polish builder:)so if you lookin g for a builder i'm all yours.Working within M25 clockwise and anticlockwise:)any enquires or comments to my post please send

3:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We had quite a similar situation with other Polish builders in London. We had done our apartment (converted from an old office) for just 25k + materials (that is bit more than half quoted by cheapest builders in our area)
Conversion took just 10 weeks (60 long days - they do work Saturdays and they do work 10h a day if needed)
At the end we had 2 bathrooms + separate WC + separate washing/drying room + storage + mezanine bedroom + large open space living and dining area with kitchen and even a built in wall TV

For those interested -
the guy is called Aleksander.
His mobile - 07854002217 (hope he doesn't mind)

11:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this makes me a bit angry, like was mentioned above, how can us english builders compete with polish who are living 10 to a caravan? i am a builder who lives in rip off britain, playing huge rates on my morgage, fuel, taxes and general living. everything else is getting more expensive but WE are expeced to drop our income to compete with imigrant workers with none of our over heads? it is not often mentioned that these polish workers often avoid tax and also take alot of their money back home with them. so how does our country benefit from that? oh ye, mr and mrs smith save a few quid on their extension, igor goes back to poland happy and your local builder strugles for work. come one people, support your local tradesmen. and dont forget, an english contractor employing english lads will pay them a good rate, a contractor paying polish workers, ( be him polish or english) will not pay those workers fairly and take the lions share for himself.

2:05 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and I just wonder how can I compete with any other having polish reputation and living alone in my rented flat. there are all different kinds of cases and people. assessing by stereotypes is unfair.

1:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was a carpenter, i do not know where this idea of a 'builder' has come from, once upon a time there were these people called tradesmen, they spent years mastering one trade until they were VERY GOOD AT IT, anyone can complete a course, not everyone can become a master of the subject whatever it is, the problem with this country is that people want a mercedes but they only want to pay for a lada.
i am on the dole now, skint and making furniture in my workshop for friends. At least the 12 hour days are history now, so are my baggy eyes, and with the lack of money comes the joy of knowing i am not funding Gordon the Moron Browns flights of insanity.

2:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pawel i hope your building work is better than your spelling i would go out and purchase a few janet and john books if i were you

7:59 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have had to sort out quite a few plumbing and heating jobs done by cheap buy twice.but in their favour they do a good job of washing my van

8:13 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Without polish People england will be nothing! How many language you all can speak? F... British lazy they just on benefits never work. Polish builders are really good

11:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm living in small town in Kent and all I can see that English builders always in the pubs.they are drinking all day and later complaining that polish builders taking jobs! Wake up England! We are to lazy to work, for what ? Government ofer benefits for us! That is true. And look at the polish people they always work no matter what and they live here as well they paying bills and they are eating! So don't give this shit that you have family and all this stuff. They have as well. I love polish people

11:33 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you people mad, Brits in pubs complaining. Try Tottenham in London Full of Drunk Pols hanging around that can't find work and even the ones that do work drink on the job. And the so called good ones do the job and go to the pub after work end up fighting because they mis-understand most of whats going on around them. Every one on here sticks there contact detail after their rant and say they have pride. Buildings in britain have stood for hundreds of years before the pols came, with their work the guarantee last until the cheque is cashed. If I get called out to look at any work find out it was touched by anyone from the Easten block I would not touch it and hope all Brit builders would feel the same. Bob.

4:40 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

guys, I employ polish as well as british people, can't really tell the difference, maybe polish are hard workers, maybe brits bring more qualification and experience, sometimes it's quite opposite, both will cut corners if they can, supervising and good managing is the key, and after work you can find them all in pub. There is no difference. All have families here, mortgages, brits hang out with polish girls and vice versa.

2:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

polish builders seem to be good workers and had them plastering my kitchen this week.this morning they didnt turn up so i had address for them in sunderland in which i live. i was total shocked to walk in to were they lived.4 builders sleeping in empty flat which is total fire damaged all sleeping in a room about 10ft wide by 12 length. no carpets. or curtains. wooden board up at window and building dust all over.they told me they were all upset as there boss whos polish only paid them £10 each for the week.omg honestly im disgusted at how these poor lads live. sleeping on floor with no water or gas heating.

1:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a fustrated property landlord. I struggle to find handyman. My main concern is workmanship and price.

I only wish the government, would set up formal qualification to be a general builders or handyman. Plus, they should have an Id card to check their qualifications to prove their have received a certain standard of work.

I see lots of adverts for builders, but how do you know who to trust?.

A few years ago, a building firm sub-contracted the building work to Polish builders. I saw the Polish builders pack their bags and leave for another job. As for the work. They were building a stud partition, with thin bits of scrap wood. Cowboy job.

As for British builders, I had one quote me 4 days labour. It the job could have been done in 2 days and they were expensive. I did not have much choice, I accepted them.

However, when I turned up the builders were there only part time. I complained that I was not happy to pay for 4 days labour, as they were not there half the time. I received the bill they charged me 4 days full Labour, despite my complaints. I got verbal abuse and nonsense about "we are not Polish builders".
What is that supposed to mean?. Does it mean that if you employ a British builder and they quote 4 days, it means automatically, you have to given them 2 days off?.

5:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've used English and Polish, and as has been said here, there are good and bad in both. BUT English builders ARE lazy, are only interesed in the money and not in doing a good job. Polish builders will happily work hard to finish a job and make sure it's done to a good standard. English builders may know tradesmen, but they don't know anything about getting the job done properly. English people think the world owes them a living and the empire is still there for exploitation. I will ONLY use Polish builders, not English racists.

1:32 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does it really matter whether builders are Polish, Asian or British? At the end of the day what you want is a well run project that is delivered on time to a standard that it acceptable by any decent home owner. Remember, you will have to live in this property or sell it.

I agree that there are bad builders, but there are also good builders. I have come across bad Polish Builders as well as good, similarly with the ‘British’ builders. Their badness or goodness has nothing to do with their nationality. Like a barrel of apples - there are bad and good. It's up to you, the customer to do your homework ie. take up references, see some of their projects.

At the end of the day, it also depends on how much you value the work being done as to how much you are willing to pay.

Building Fixers (0208 144 2408 / 0794493221) will do a great job at great prices. They usually ask you to visit their projects - both in progress or completed.

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12:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a landlord to 4 properties in london.... Have done 2 loft conversions , 3 extensions and loads of internal modifications in the last 8 years.

Im British , born and bred here and love brits but sadly will NEVER EVER employ one again as a builder.

From my experience they are lazy , charge TWICE as much , take MUCH longer to finish a project and constantly look for extra pitfalls to increase the price quoted.

Its sad as I would love to pay my money to Brits but they just dont help themselves....

There is competition in all lines of businesses.... indians have most the corner shops , chinese have the takeaway's and turks have the kebab shops and as it happens the polish are in the building trade....

Why is it only the polish that always get picked on? Every other business in the UK faces competition and they compete with eachother by lowering prices and providing better services....

What do the British builders do? INSIST on their high prices and would rather sit at home than do a job for cheaper and actually get paid....

Sadly the way its going, before we know it polish buiders will take on so many building projects and it will just add to their experience more and more and the day will come that even if both brits and polish charged the same people would STILL go for the polish....

Im not backing up polish builders at all or putting down british builders... But its the 21st century and everyone in every field of work is facing competition and just lowering prices and getting on with it...

The attitude of "why should I lower my prices because of eastern europeans" will simply get us brits NO WHERE but down the pub spending all our days and night while the available work out there is being done by the polish...

I had my first loft conversion done by Brits .... quoted me £28000 , took them 15 weeks and managed my up the price to 34000 before completing. Off course I also spent a good 3 weeks having to constantly argue with them about not doing their job properly...

2ND loft conversion ( exactly the same size, quoted £20000 by a polish team. they promised to complete in 11 weeks. Work was finished in EXACTLY 11 WEEKS and cost me EXACTLY the 20K quoted. They constantly smiled and were polite and did work precisely to building regulation guidelines...

The polish basically saved me 14 grand , 3 weeks hassle and arguements and finished the work 4 weeks sooner!

It really is a shame that I cant give my 20 grand to a british builder as you are all right... you pay more tax, mortgages and higher expenses and us customers totally agree but at the end of the day you need to remember that money doesnt grow on trees.... NO CUSTOMERS going to throw away 14 grand of their hard earnt cash just because you guys are a different race to the polish.

Get back in the game and compete and do the jobs for the same price but with MORE QUALITY and before you know it you will take over the building trade again..... Sitting around sulking and making racist remarks wont help you :)

5:31 am  
Blogger smokk76 said...


I am Polish Builder too, and I have seen many good and bad Polish Builders. I just can't generalise. As a rule of a thumb I would advise not to give deposits or even do not pay over the value of work and materials delivered. This way you will be sure that builder has incentive to finish, or that you have founds to finish works with someone else.

If you give large deposits or pay over the value of work you just push your luck. Even if you have a decent guy, he may have accident, or he may have problems on the other building site and go bankrupt. Then you can only blame yourself for setting the stage for disaster because as I have written above it may happened even if the builder is decent not mentioning fact that in any nation you will find the builders living from too trusting clients, I have seen that story both with polish, and english builders many times.

I would say that the only reasonable deposit would be 1-2% to book date in calendar. But again that could be done in the way that he cannot take it (third party). And some deposit for materials for 1st week.

I typically do not take any deposit upfront, but I take deposit for a week materials £1000-£2000 on the second day when client can see that everything is set up (guys, tools, first materials) Also I do take deposits if the bigger costs are to come, like steels, or bricks, but it is just before it and in next few days client sees materials on site.

My advice would be do not give deposits bigger than weeks worth of materials, and then check recommendations carefully.

IF you would like to consider my service, then please take a look at my website:


9:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mind paying a fair price for fair work. But my English builder is so slow and works about six hours max. I don't mind if it's six hours hard graft but he achieves sweet FA. He uses every excuse under the sun for coming in late and going home early. This us a guy who is capable of good work but has started cowboying jobs to catch up. He only spent 4 hours on site doing a task that should have taken 1 despite being so far behind and is well aware of the deadline. The job has taken 4x as long as he first stated. I allowed him double the time he quoted. I have had to draft in eastern European builders to save the day. And people wonder why Brits are considered lazy, overpaid and under-skilled.

10:08 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:04 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

Just used Polish builders to renovate my large 1960s flat. Can do attitude from the start. Everyday I go in I smile at the extras I could never expect from a fellow native. E.G. wood flooring in corridor was extended inside a large utility cupboard. They incorporated a removable panel in loo rather than just tile over for ease of access to plumbing. The cut through very thick floor tiles to make a border to fit under radiator pipes. It goes on... None of this was specified. I gave them 50% up front. The quote was very good and I'm delighted.

11:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a builder in the Kent I would use Infinity Property Development. Nice guys and hard working. They really go the extra mile and leave a top class finish.

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Thanks bro you made me feel proud, wish more English people share your attitude, yes I am polish, live in Scotlan and spend my money here,

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