You’ve heard many stories of friends or family who’s building
project were a total nightmare and you might be a tad skeptical
considering going through the process yourself but with this article
I will try to set your mind at ease. There are proper ways of
planning to ensure the same does not happen to you as with your
The key to a successful building project lies with proper
planning and carefully considering what your requirements and needs
are, a good reputable contractor and most importantly what you can
The building contractor
No matter what your building project, additions, renovations or a
complete new home, the choice of building contractor is without a
doubt the single most important factor in the various choices you
need to make during the project period. You might have appointed the
best architect, have a huge budget for top quality finishes and
materials but this cannot in any way compensate for shaky
workmanship and structural unsoundness.
A good building contractor values his reputation and will put in
extra effort to satisfy his client in every way, but, remember
choosing the right building contractor would in most cases not be
choosing the least expensive one. Even the most skilled builder can
not do a good job for less than its true price.
Below follows a quick reference guide to follow when considering
How long has he been in business?
Extensive and reliable network of material suppliers and
Investigate his track record
Is he financially sound and does he have builders insurance
Is he registered with the local Home builder (NHBRC) society?
Many building contractors will not provide you with a detailed
cost layout and often tricks potential home builders into paying a
lot more in hidden costs. Ask to be provided with a detailed cost
estimate and in the event that this can not be provided consider
getting quotes from other contractors who would be willing to
provide you with a detailed layout. Not knowing what you are quoted
on specifically is the quickest way of getting into a dispute with
your builder. Do not try to avoid VAT by asking for special cash
deals on certain items as this is illegal and you might end up
paying double the amount you intended to save. If you get tenders
from more than one contractor, keep in mind that in most cases the
cheapest one is not necessarily the best so be sure about the
contractor before signing anything.
The building contract
Never start any building work without a written and signed
contract in place between you, the employer and the contractor. A
written quotation and signed acceptance of the agreed price with
protect both parties in the event of a dispute or in arbitration.
The contract should be very comprehensive without any loop holes
and should be drawn up by a professional or an accepted pre-written
Below follows a few important pointers to look for when setting
up the contract:
Clearly specify all work to be done on paper or plans
Clearly state project start and completion dates
Ensure a fixed price for all work to be done
Make provision for recourse against builder defaults
Include an agreement for delays and penalties
Clearly specify special items or appliances to be installed
Make provision for disputes that might arise and that cost is
for both parties in the event of arbitration.
Agree as to how the site will be arranged in terms of storage,
water & electricity supply and ablutions for the workers.
Payment for large jobs are usually divided in increments of
project stages completed or specialist items completed by
sub-contractors where the main contractor will invoice for these
items separately. Do not appoint a builder who asks for payments
upfront or large deposits before any work is carries out. Too many
owner home builders have lost money with financially unsound
Site inspections and variations
If you have not appointed an architect or other professional to
carry out site inspections, the site should be visited regularly (at
east every 2 days, even for a short while) as this make it possible
to address problems as they occur. Do not make any payments to a
contractor for a specific stage is you are not completely satisfied
with the work covered by that payment.
Try to avoid impulsive changes to the plans while construction is in
progress as this gives the contractor huge opportunities to inflate
costs of the project unnecessarily. In the event that you have to
make a change, clearly establish costs before the work is carried
out and confirm the changes in writing.
Written by JB, architect & founder of
dreamhouses. Reproductions of
this article are encouraged but must include a link pointing to