Most self builders will shop around for the best prices, buying building materials from multiple suppliers. This approach is very efficient on small DIY jobs, but can actually be counterproductive when building a new home.

Some builders’ merchants view this as ‘cherry-picking’ and would be less likely to go the extra mile for self builders adopting this approach. What’s more, if you tendered all your main building materials through three builders’ merchants, and analysed the totals, you would be surprised to learn that there isn’t much difference in the overall cost.

In fact, Estimators Ltd have undertaken an investigation with three national merchants (see the results below). Prices for building materials for all three merchants came in within 2% of each other.

Extract of 10 products (location South West) Merchant A Merchant B Merchant C ‘Cherry-picker’
Blocks solid concrete 10.4N 440x215x100mm £1.16 £1.09 £1.11 £1.09
Ordinary Portland cement 25kg bag £3.95 £4.02 £4.15 £3.95
Building sand 800kg bulk bag £34.56 £33.50 £35.40 £33.50
Sawn timber dry graded C16 47x100mm treated £1.57 £1.52 £1.49 £1.49
Sawn timber dry graded C16 75x100mm treated £2.83 £2.85 £2.98 £2.83
Plasterboard standard 2,400×1,200×1.25mm £4.89 £4.78 £4.98 £4.87
Plaster multi finish 25kg bag £5.94 £5.98 £6.05 £5.94
Foil-faced rigid PIR insulation board 2,400×1,200x100mm £35.61 £36.05 £36.05 £35.61
Foil-faced rigid PIR insulation board 2,400×1,200x150mm £56.01 £56.25 £55.70 £55.70
TOTAL £153.78 £153.29 £155.19 £152.14
‘Cherry-pick’ v single merchant −1.07% −0.75% −1.97%

You could easily negotiate a reduction of 2% in the overall price with the builders’ merchant you felt most comfortable with. (Plus, you’ll save considerable time — shopping around, scouring the internet and local merchants for prices, can be a time-consuming job.)

Loyalty to one builders’ merchant comes with additional benefits. Your merchant would be very keen to ensure the supply of buildings materials worked within your program of works. You may require an urgent delivery, and your merchant is more likely to expedite your request if they are your main supplier.

The more you spend with a merchant, in my experience, the better the prices and customer service.

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