News – Materials and Labour

Alison Cork helps you source all the timber, bricks, cement, not to mention the builder

Raw materials will be an important part of the cost of any project, and many builders will add a handling charge of at least 10% for sourcing them for you. If you have the time, it is worth agreeing to buy them yourself. Unless you are DIYing, there isn’t much that can be saved on labour.

Shop where tradesmen shop. Try to get a trade discount, which could be as much as 40%. A business card might be enough to persuade them. Ordering online can save even more. Toolstation ( has stores nationwide, a website with more than 10,000 products and a price-match promise. Heat and Plumb ( has thousands of bathroom and heating products.

For timber, bricks and cement, independent suppliers are often cheaper than the big DIY stores, although some of the larger chains, such as Travis Perkins (, offer considerable choice and regular special deals. Wickes ( sells just about everything, from nails to kitchens – the latter are a revelation in both price and quality. Its trade paint is easily as good as better-known brands and at least 20% cheaper. Leyland Trade ( also has an excellent range of trade paints and a colour-matching service.

Reclamation yards are worth a trawl. Reclaimed timber flooring is more exciting – and cheaper – than new, but avoid showcase city-centre yards. One of my favourites is West 7 Reclamation (west7reclamation., a treasure trove of flooring, fireplaces, radiators and timber beams at excellent prices.

When it comes to fixtures and fittings, some of the larger DIY stores, such as Wickes and B&Q ( have excellent budget ranges of white bathroom suites. Less well known, but also worth a look, are FEET (, for designer bathware, with up to 70% off high-street prices; and Victoria Plumb (

In the modern kitchen and bathroom, tiles are almost a given, and the more exotic the better. Discount outlets such as Granite & Marble ( and Stonevale ( offer great value; and check out the “end of line” warehouse at World’s End Tiles (, in Battersea, southwest London, which has offcuts and ends of lines for up to 70% less in than the main showroom, just yards away. Shows are also worth a look: exhibitors would often rather sell stock, even cheaply, than have to drag it back home. And don’t forget eBay.

Labour will account for a substantial chunk of the cost of any project. When choosing a tradesman, there’s little to beat a personal recommendation from neighbours or friends. Or try an online directory such as (which I founded, and where impartial public feedback powers the search results), or