Engage the right help

The right advice: Building a home can be a complicated time, so it's important to engage the best builder to help keep everything on track. Photos: Shutterstock.
The right advice: Building a home can be a complicated time, so it's important to engage the best builder to help keep everything on track. Photos: Shutterstock.

Engaging Your Builder

Renovating or building a home will involve a myriad of functions and decisions. The building functions generally involve trades who are specialists in their respective fields. The decisions with any project follow a schedule for tradies to engage and order of materials, and these decisions are really about project management. Project management is about keeping control of the build and having contingencies in place for delays, changes and added expense.

When engaging a builder to complete a project you engage the builder on two levels. First and most importantly you are engaging them as a project manager, and secondly, you are engaging them for their selected trade base and purchasing power. The builders trade base is critical to the end result of any build project. Good trades deliver good finishes whilst poor trades deliver inferior finishes. It is also well recognised that trying to engage a good trade can be difficult, particularly during building booms, as these good trades will already be working for builders who give them ongoing work as opposed to piece work offered by individuals.

Builder versus Owner Builder

Over recent years the amount of owner builder projects has declined. This decline has occurred through various factors including lenders reluctant to fund such projects, increased licensing and cost requirements for owner builders, substantial increases in building code and council requirements. A project under an owner builder may not be covered by workmanship or construction warranties other than any standard product warranties. In essence, an 'owner builder' takes all of the risk.

Builders, however, are licensed and controlled for the works undertaken. The builder takes the risk including warranty of workmanship, appliances and construction, with the construction warranty being for a six year period. Good builders are well organised and will normally complete the build within a contracted term.

Project Part-Completed by Owner

It's not uncommon for individuals who have family or friends who are tradies. It's always tempting to enlist such family or friends to complete works at 'mates rates'. However, the big issue with engaging family and friends is how do you deal with issues of quality of workmanship or timeliness, which can cost friendships.

In general terms, a warranty on the construction build, is the responsibility of the builder. The builder will generally a) negotiate that additional client controlled works be initiated after the build project is complete (handover), or b) Handing over the uncompleted project to the home owner, who then accepts legal responsibilities, warranties and public liability.

Tips for Engaging Builders

When considering engaging a builder or going owner-builder ask yourself these questions:

  • Will my lender allow me to owner build?
  • Can I project manage efficiently?
  • Where will I get the trades?
  • Do I have time to owner-build?
  • Can I put together a fully priced budget?
  • Can I get the job done on time and budget?
  • Am I comfortable in not being covered for construction warranties?

If you answer 'no' to any of these, put the owner builder option out of your choices. Engage a builder and enjoy the experience in the knowledge that the builder, not you, is taking the risk.

  • Contributors

Gary Norton - 12 years building industry, home designer and adviser.

Chris Doucas - Previous owner builder, 20 years project and contract management.

For more information, email BuildingMatters4U@gmail.com.