Variations – Specialist Flooring Contractors

At a time of decreasing margins it is necessary for specialist flooring contractors to maximise the revenue from their resin flooring projects.

Just about every construction project has variations and it is imperative on specialist flooring contractors to ensure that they get paid their full entitlement.

A contract should have a mechanism for pricing variations, normally it will direct specialist flooring contractors to price the variations at the rates in the Bills of Quantities, where appropriate.

It is the “where appropriate” which is important. The contract is the starting point in deciding if the Bills of Quantities are appropriate for pricing purposes. The JCT contracts state that the contract rates should only be applied, when the work described in the variation when compared with the work described in the contract, is of a similar character, the conditions under which the work is carried out are the same, and there are no significant change in quantities.

This is not a black and white situation, for example a resin floor installed on an open floor space is not the same as a resin floor installed in a staircase area or a confined space.

Undertaking work in an environment with heat, light and controlled conditions cannot be regarded as the same conditions as working in an area with no temperature control or permanent lighting.

Also a significant change in quantities can affect the unit price.

If the variation causes delay, then the delay costs are also recoverable.

However, it is important that specialist flooring contractors are prompt in

  • Identification and notifying the contractor of variations
  • Measurement and valuation of any variations
  • Agreement of contract variations

Variations are often not valued until long after the issue, this has the effect of delays in payment or even worse the avoidance of payment for the work. When the valuation of variations is left until the end of a contract it inevitably results in claims, counterclaims and protracted arguments.

No one likes surprises at the end of the contract so, prompt and accurate information from specialist flooring contractors is essential. This is why good records and close monitoring of a project is not a luxury, but should be an essential part of every specialist flooring contractors’ operations.

Subcontractor Payment – The Battle of the Forms

21 years ago I was writing my dissertation in Bristol as part of my Quantity Surveying degree course. The topic I chose to research was ‘Problems in Subcontractor Payment’ and despite my college Professor’s reluctance to accept it was a problem, I chose to ignore his advice and submitted my analysis of the situation at that time and my proposed solutions.This set me on a path that has seen me ignore the traditional PQS and Contractor’s QS role and I have only ever worked for Specialist Subcontractors.

Back in the early 90s contractual abuse was common place and subcontractor payment was often abused. Main Contractors would enforce Pay when Paid clauses as a matter of course and subcontracts were extremely one sided and onerous. I cut my teeth working on the boom of motorway widening and ‘lane rental’ projects that burst on to the scene around the M25 in the early 90s and drew many a red line through the badly drafted subcontracts of the notorious Civil Engineering Contractors of the time, such as Balfour Beatty, Costain, Tarmac, Amey etc

What I learnt during that period was that the most important meeting on any construction project is not the final account meeting, it is the pre-let and the most important battle is not the price, but the ‘battle of the forms’. If you can get a standard form with fair terms and conditions, then you stand a decent chance of protecting subcontractor payment and completing the project with a small profit and your reputation intact. The alternative will lead to ruin.

The commercial environment is more favourable these days post Latham Report and with the Construction Act in place, but Contractors and their Quantity Surveyors are geared up today as much as ever to take advantage of every opportunity to tip the balance in their favour, which is why they still issue non-standard forms, with  their own re-drafted clauses, particularly in respect to subcontractor payment, adjudication and notifications.

That is why as specialist subcontractors, in this economy with ever dwindling margins it is as important now as it ever has been to make sure you fully understand the contract that you are signing up to when agreeing subcontracts and subcontractor payment terms. Protect your rights, your cash flow and win the battle of the forms.