Spring is on the way and you have decided that it is time to get some renovation work carried out in your home. Perhaps it is the decking that you have always talked about, or maybe it is getting an extra room built above the carport or possibly even adding a conservatory. Whichever remodelling job you are thinking of it is important to first understand the different terms used by members of the building trade. This will save you from handing over large deposits for materials and ending up with either a second-rate job or even worse a half-finished extension carried out by a cowboy builder. Use these terms as a checklist before entering into any agreements:
Certification: Check that your builder has all the necessary certificates and experience to carry out the work. This is especially important if the work is to be approved in line with local building regulations. Do not just ask about certification; actually ask to see the certificates.
Contract: This is a legally binding agreement between you and your builder. It is better to ask for a written contract. An oral contract is also binding however it can be harder to prove should problems arise. A contract should include:
- Start and completion dates.
- Exact work to be carried out.
- The quoted price.
- Details of insurance.
- The agreed upon payment plan.
Contractor: The builder you hire to carry out the work is your contractor. They may in turn sub-contract out part or all of the work. If so it is important to check that they will be liable for any substandard work or injuries caused by the third party.
DIY: If you feel it is within your capability then you may wish to carry out the work yourself. Be aware that this may seem like the least expensive option however can often end up costing more in the long run as people over-estimate what they are capable of. Also check with your home insurance company as to any liability should a third party sustain injury during the project.
Document: Keep a record of all work carried out from day one.
Estimation: This is a costing based upon a calculated approximation of what needs to be purchased and how much time a job will take. It may be subject to change unlike a fixed quote however it is a more educated costing than a Guestimation.
Groundrules: Having workmen in your home can be a stressful time. Agree upon some basic groundrules at the outset to avoid future disagreements. These can include daily start times, lunch breaks and issues such as wearing work boots inside the house.
Guestimation: A guess as to the cost of the work. If a builder provides you with only a guestimation it would suggest they lack familiarity with the work done and cost of materials. Be wary – generally you will lose out in the end.
Insurance: Ask to see a copy of the builder’s insurance and also check with your own home insurance company that any proposed changes or additions do not alter your existing policy. When it comes to insurance it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Materials: Decide who is responsible for the purchase of materials and the quality of materials that will be used. It is also important to decide where the materials will be stored and who will be responsible for protecting them whilst the work is being carried out. Before final payment ask for all necessary documentation regarding product guarantees.
Quotation: A direct costing of the work which takes into account exactly what must be purchased and how many hours the work will take. A written quotation is the best protection you can get against extra costs down the track. If any issues arise during the work make sure to ask for a revised quotation from your builder.
Payment: Work out a payment plan at the outset and ensure this is included in any written contract. If you pay in cash it is important to ask for a receipt as evidence of payment. It is also advisable to hold back some of the money until the job is completed to your satisfaction.
Plan: It is vital you make a plan of what work you would like to be done, the timeframe in which you would like it to be carried out and also your budget. Discuss these with your builder to ensure that they know your expectations and also to assess how realistic your expectations are within a given budget. Managing expectations is extremely important.
Public Liability Insurance: Check that your builder has public liability insurance in the event of any accidents involving third parties. This will prevent any actions being taken against you personally or your home insurance.
References: Ask for references before entering into any agreements. Verify these references and ensure that previous clients were satisfied with the workmanship.
Regulations: Check local planning and building regulations. If the proposed work requires any approval then make sure your choice of builder is properly qualified.
Research: Go online, ask for recommendations. The best way to find a suitably qualified and experienced builder is to do research.
Retainer: This is the money you are advised to hold back until you are satisfied that the work has been finished.
Sub-contractor: A third party which enters into a contract with your contractor to do either part or all of the work.
Vision: Make sure you know what your vision is before you agree to the work being carried out. Share this vision with your builder using either pictures or sketches. This will help you both reach a common understanding of your desired end result.
Use this checklist to ensure you are satisfied with the end result of any building work carried out, or if unsatisfied at least you will have the necessary documentation to seek redress. Cowboy builders are out there unfortunately but it is possible to protect yourself from them if you are builder savvy.