The Builders Are In...At Last!
So after all the planning, saving, designing etc. the builders have finally started on your home improvment project. What do you do though, if things don't quite go to plan?
If your job is structural you will be getting regular visits from your local building control department. Although they are not too concerned with the quality of work, they do make sure the builder follows the specifications of the drawings by ensuring the correct materials are used, correct depths are reached for footings, correct lintels are used etc.
This means that all you need to worry about is the standard of workmanship.
So what do you do if you aren't happy about the standard of some of the work?
Most small to medium sized builders simply cannot afford to keep a full time staff of a joiner, bricklayer, plasterer, plumber and an electrician. Because of this they use sub-contractors and they go through the same system you went through when choosing your builder.
Let's say your builder needs to sub-contract some of the brickwork out because it's too much for him to handle. He tries all the bricklayers he knows and trusts first. If they are all busy he asks other builder acquaintances to recommend a bricklayer gang. If they are all busy he needs to set them on "blind" and takes it on trust that they know what they are doing and that they will be clean and neat enough to match his standards.
If you don't think they are matching his standards or you think something just doesn't look right that either the builder or his men have done, talk to your builder. If you are really worried about something and your builders answer does not satisfy you it might be worth ringing your architect for his opinion.
Many architects will do several site visits at a set fee. I would highly recommend this option if the job is substantial and you are paying in stage payments. A visit by him at the completion of each stage to check the work is correct before moving to the next stage would put your mind at rest before handing over your hard earned cash. It could also save a lot of time because if it isn't right but not spotted, having to rip down to make good the bad work is going to set the job back.
This is by far the biggest complaint homeowners have against builders. By nature we builders are an optimistic race. When a potential client says "how long," before answering we assume our sub-contractors are sat at home waiting for us to call them, the local building officer will arrive 5 minutes after we tell him a section is ready for inspecting and that the sun will be shining the whole of November.
Having a finish date in your building contract means your builder will take time to foresee any problems and give you a realistic date rather than an optimistic one. If time is important to you make that perfectly clear from the start. If time is very important to you it's often worth offering a small bonus if the job finishes early but don't do that until a finish date is agreed otherwise he's just going to add on a few weeks.
No matter how well the job goes, at some stage the stress levels are likely to rise. Discuss some ground rules from the start such as if you don't smoke explain you don't want builders doing it in your home. Always talk to the organ grinder, not the monkey. Airing a complaint to one of his workers or sub contractors is just going to cause friction between you and your builder because they will tell him what you have said. Always keep the dialogue open and problems will be nipped in the bud hopefully before the stress levels get too high.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adrian Kinley is the author of the e-book "Builder Secrets Exposed"
He gives a free written building contract to homeowners to help make sure their building project goes to plan. www.building-contract.co.uk
He is also chief editor at www.uk-builder.com