Staircases in the UK are getting more expensive (If You’re Not Careful)

There are certain items that we purchase every week of our lives. Some we purchase monthly, annually, every five six years, and others that we may only purchase once in our lifetime. Unless you’re a builder, serial house renovator / self-builder, or have broad knowledge within the construction industry, then a new or remodeled staircase will likely be something you only purchase once or twice in your lifetime. With this being the case, the question to ask is how much does a staircase cost?

As with all products, prices can vary greatly depending upon what you are looking for. You wouldn’t expect to receive a Ferrari for the price of Toyota or vice versa, and would quickly realize if you were being taken for a fool. However, when it comes to a niche item, something you have never purchased before and may not have a connection to someone who has, then your wide open to price exploitation.

Fortunately, the majority of people are decent and honest, but there are still plenty who will take you to the cleaners given the slightest opportunity. As bespoke staircases and stair renovations have become a popular feature within the home, the industry is seeing inexperienced cowboys and rip off merchants cashing in.

As a long established joinery and staircase manufacturer operating throughout the UK, I regularly visit prospective clients to advise on their staircase designs and provide quotations. Thankfully most customers do source multiple quotations unless they’ve had a recommendation from a friend or relative. However, It still amazes me how many unfortunate people end up with sub-standard work, or have been charged grossly over-inflated prices.

If you are having a new staircase then it needs to adhere to specific regulations. If it doesn’t then the staircase may be illegal and you run the risk of being told to replace it. For these reasons it’s important to ensure that the company you choose has the relevant expertise and experience to manufacture the correct staircase, or carry out a professional renovation of your existing flight.

The primary reason that staircase costs have risen over recent years is that the average person wants to make a statement with their stairs, which inevitably means that costs will increase. However, this is also the factor that attracts the cowboys and rip-off merchants. Everybody likes to get a good deal, but as with any other product, if the price seems to good to be true then it probably is! On the other hand, being extremely expensive doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality.

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve sent a quotation to a prospective client and received a response of total shock. When I have enquired further as to why they were so surprised I have repeatedly been told that they had received a quotation that was 2 – 2 ½ times the price I had quoted. Furthermore they all outlined similar traits of the companies who had quoted so high. They are as follows:

1)   Their initial survey / design service lasted a long time with 1-2 hours being very common.

2)   The company wanted all decision making parties in attendance when they visited.

3)   They were pressured to sign up to a contract and payment terms immediately.

4)   Those who hadn’t signed up were repeatedly bombarded with calls asking them had they considered the quotation and whether they were now ready to commit.

5)   They were not invited to a workshop to see the products being manufactured, or offered the opportunity to see projects that were recently completed or currently in progress.

The first four points are extremely common sales tactics across a multitude of industries, but they are not nearly as prevalent within construction, so if you experience them you need to be on your guard and start sourcing alternative quotations immediately.

The 5th point is a real concern within the staircase market. If a staircase company is not able to provide solid evidence of their workmanship then they should be avoided at all costs, especially if the only thing they can offer are showroom items, or high quality images, which are often not even of their own work.

Upon viewing the websites of a number of companies who had tried to exploit our clients I found certain characteristics that seemed to repeat themselves in conjunction with the above-mentioned points.

1)   Strapline testimonials such as “Great workmanship”, “Would highly recommend”, “Absolutely delighted”. A real testimonial will have far more substance and will make reference to the process the client experienced and the people they dealt with whilst the work was being carried out.

2)   Staged or catalogue images are very common and very easy to acquire from the internet. Fortunately they’re also very easy to spot. A reputable company may well have a certain amount of professional images of their own work that have been well lit and edited for marketing purposes, but they will also have a large collection of other images that are undeniably real, and be able to reference the people they carried out the work for. If you don’t see enough evidence always request more.

3)   The website has a very similar layout to a professional established company in the same industry. Companies who don’t really know what they are doing will usually try to copy others that do!

All of that being said the number 1 red flag to look out for in the staircase industry is the lack of a production facility. If you can’t go and see the staircase being manufactured then use someone else. Staircase design and production is a specialist industry that requires skill and knowledge. If your supplier isn’t making the staircase then you’ll end up paying far more than you need to.

Always do your homework and visit the companies you have outlined to enquire with before committing yourself and if in doubt, give us a call!