For the first Australian house we built welived and worked close by and could visit every evening.
During our last build the site was 40km away so I only visited once or twice a week.
Many builders will tell you that you are not allowed to visit the site for OH&S reasons, unless the Site Supervisor accompanies you. There are two reasons for this:
If you have an accident they have evidence that you have been told not to be on the site.
They would prefer to get on with the building with the minimum interference from you.
I didn’t let this stop me from visiting although I have got a construction industry site (red) card and I understood I was there at my own risk.
I think that in the early stages its more important to keep a close eye on things if you have made a lot of changes from a standard design, or you are having a house built to your own design.
If you are using a standard design the Site Supervisor and the Tradies will generally know what they are doing. When there have been lots of changes to the design they may lose the plan/or forget and revert to the standard design.
Later when it comes to fit out you need to keep more of a watch on things. A couple of examples from our last house:
The wrong laundry trough was initially fitted and had to be ripped out.
The wrong kitchen tiles were delivered but we spotted them before they were fixed.
As an absolute minimum you should do an inspection when each stage payment is claimed.
If you spot what may be a problem it can be best to be tactful and ask questions in such a way that the Builder has a chance to explain what is going on. If you are not convinced then its time to do some research.
Best thing to do is also get to know your Builder.
Take your time. You have spent a lot of money and it’s your chance to get things fixed.
Look at things from a different angle. It’s easy to miss things below eye level, when you are standing. In each room sit on the floor (or a camp stool) and have a good look around at that level. Sit on the toilets and shut the door.
Take your shoes off and walk round in stocking feet then you can feel any problems with the floor.
Turn on the Taps. Fill the basins, sinks, and bath to the overflow level and then check for leaks.
Run the showers and check they drain.
Flush the toilets, check they are securely fixed to floor and don’t leak
Check locks Make sure privacy locks on toilets and bathrooms work
Checkswitches and power points Test power points. Make sure that where you have several lightswitches on one panel the layout of switches is logical
Check you have the electric points you selected. Make sure all the lights and power points have been fitted
Sensor check If you have any sensor lights make sure the delay and sensitivity is correctly set. We had one in a wardrobe in our current house that went off if you stayed still for 5 seconds.
Check for rough edges Such as on the edges of paintwork from paint drying in lumps/drips particularly window sills. Those rough edges can catch your curtain fabrics and pull threads.
Record everything Making sure ALL of your concerns are noted down on paper, legibly and not skipped over. There may be some things where your SS will just say “Oh, that always gets done before handover”. Make sure it is written in the PCI list anyway. Unless it’s in the list, it may not get done at all.
Why not buy the PCI Guide for much more advice and extensive checklists….still only $4
If you are building your new house with a big builder once the contract is signed the most important person in the build is going to be the Site Supervisor(SS).
The site supervisor is responsible for programming the works, ordering materials, selecting who will carry out the various tasks (from the tradies contracted to the builder), and supervising the works as well as liaising with you.
To get the best results for your house building a good relationship with the site supervisor is important.
I am not saying that you have to be best friends, but you should aim for an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Here are a few thoughts:
When you are first contacted by the site supervisor why not suggest buying them a coffee to start the relationship off in a good way.
Let them know what things are important to you.
Arrange site meetings during the working day. – Typically the building trades works from 6.30am until 4.00pm. It’s your house so if you can’t make the effort to meet during their work hours don’t expect the supervisor to use their family time to meet you.
If you are given a mobile number that doesn’t mean you can ring in the evenings and at weekends.
If you spot a problem be firm but don’t go off the handle. “I noticed that ‘X’ was different to the required specification” is going to get a better response than “YOU SCREWED UP!”
The typical site supervisor will be involved in building several houses at once so sometimes they can’t get straight back to you.
If during construction you are told that something you wanted can’t be done ask to be shown the regulation that doesn’t permit it. On our last house I wanted the gas meter and electrical meter together. One night I checked the site and the plumber had installed the pipework to another location. When I was told that they couldn’t be together I asked the question about the regulations and the meter location was moved without further discussion.
Sometimes it can be worth waiting a bit longer for the better tradesman to become available, rather than rushing the build.
Always go through the site supervisor, don’t try to order the tradies around if you visit the site.
How have you got the best out of your site supervisor?