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Are you ready to build?

by Adam Hobill

Check that you’ve dealt with these important details before work begins

It’s been a long journey, but you are finally ready to get started with your building project. The drawings are complete, you’ve selected a builder and now you’re ready to call in the heavy machinery, or at least your builder is. Before you jump in the deep end though, here are a few items that you should make sure are dealt with to ensure you don’t start off on the wrong foot. These tips will help you enjoy a smooth and hopefully stress-free build.

Understand the contract

Most builders have a preference for using one of the Master Builders Association (MBA) or Housing Industry Association (HIA) building contracts. These are both fairly simple contracts that do a reasonable job of dealing with the issues most likely to arise. However, they have also been written by industry bodies that rely on builders’ memberships to survive. This means they may be more inclined to slightly favour the builder rather than the client.

The ideal situation would be that once the contract was signed, it didn’t need to be looked at again. Instead of picking apart and rewriting elements of the contract, I would prefer to ensure the documentation and quoting process has been as detailed and transparent as possible. 

The quality of the documentation is again very important, especially when you consider the contract relies on the drawings and other documentation to set the scope of works. Detailed and high-quality documentation can save you from needing to rely on a contract, yet a contract can’t save you from poor drawings and documentation.

Ensure your drawings are complete

Your drawings are the road map for all of the tradies and suppliers that will be working on your project, so it’s important that they are detailed enough to ensure that nobody gets lost along the way. Your drawings should clearly convey how the project will be executed, including any special little details that are important to you. 

One of the big risks in incomplete drawings is the increased likelihood that this will lead to extra costs during construction. This is because certain items that are left out of the drawings are then not allowed for at the quoting stage. For example, if you want higher than standard doors to be included, make sure that is noted on the floor plan. Or if you would like the whole house to be repainted at the end of your renovation, ensure that is clearly stated on the drawings too. 

Try to avoid the situation of builders verbally agreeing to items of detail; it’s much better to have it documented instead.

PRO TIP: The floor plan is the drawing that is most relied upon and most looked at by suppliers and tradies. This is therefore the best place to include notation that is important to completing the project.

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Deal with the conditions of approval

Your approved documents will include a set of ‘stamped’ drawings from either the council or a private certifier. There is also likely to be another important document, which sets out the conditions of approval. Too often, these conditions are overlooked in the excitement of receiving stamped drawings. The conditions of approval may set out requirements for things like utility connections, tree protection, site and nature strip management and government fees. 

You may need to get further approval for where the new gas main is to be located. Or you may need to get approval from the electricity provider, to relocate where the electricity connects to the renovated house from the overhead power lines. Some of these things may take weeks to get approval for, so make sure you have allowed time accordingly as you consider your start date.

Are you living through a renovation?

If you are planning on staying in your house while extending or renovating, you need to make sure that you and the builder are clear with each other’s expectations all the way through the build. For example, will the builder and his various tradies be using your toilet, or will they be hiring a site toilet? You will also need to confirm who is responsible for moving furniture around and storing it during construction, as your builder is neither a removalist nor a storage provider.

It’s important for you to understand the stages of the build, and the areas of the house that will be inaccessible at any point of the process. If you are renovating the kitchen, it’s likely you will need to move out of the house for a period of time. In this case, you should ask for as much notice as possible as to when that area of work is going to start, so that you can coordinate alternative accommodation (or a well-deserved break) for that time.

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