Things I have learnt from having builders in the house(44 Posts)
1. The way we choose builders is insane: in any other area of my life I only commission things I actually know about - so when I interview people I actually know what they are talking about and CB get a sense of whether they can do the job. With builders you basically go on a) whether they seem nice and b) whether other people who don't know what the fuck they're talking about think they have done a good job
2. Buying building work is nothing like buying anything else. When I go to the supermarket I say "I'll have a chicken please" and they give me a chicken and tell me the price and I leave the shop with a chicken. When buying building work there is a complicated game of nerves where you try to 'buy a chicken' and they attempt to sell you a sack of shit and pretend it's a chicken and you have to refuse to pay until they produce said chicken, or something roughly resembling a chicken because you're so fucking tired you don't even care any more
3. Your building inspector needs to be goooood. A building inspector needs to be as good as Poirot and Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes all rolled into one. He needs to be able to piece together a small bit of mortar, an uncannily cold breeze blowing from the south west and a shifty look from your builder at 100 paces and figure out you don't actually have a vertical DPC in your window opening even though it's been plaster boarded already. If you have a good building inspector you will cling to him like Kate Winslet does to that wooden door at the end of titanic.
4. You need to learn all kinds of shit you never ever thought you'd learn like how to build a fucking cavity wall correctly, what the correct spacing for wall ties is, what a damp proof course looks like and all the places you need to put one (up your builder's bum will be tempting) and what a cold bridge and black jacking is.
5. You will learn that your builder may be a human being with as much dignity and tight to be treated with respect as you but he is also trying to swindle you all the fucking time. So don't make him tea, don't ask how his weekend was, don't enter into conversations that last longer than 2 sentences on either side. Don't argue - if you start arguing they have won. Just refer them to your building inspector's latest email/letter.
6. You will be more tired than you have ever been. You will wake up at 1 am worrying about the next terrible thing your builder will do but you shouldn't. No one has died, it will all end eventually and nothing is worth this much angst.
Anything else to add?
Oh dear, well we had some to replace our windows and some structural work and they went from "no problem we do this every day" to "these windows are only for new builds" and "that'll take 3 days instead of 2 so you'll need to pay more"
They left us with 5mm cracks in the structure because they didn't prop up correctly, bodged everything up and then left us a couple of thousand lighter.
We're glad they did that on a small part of the house so we could learn the hard way before we start the big extension...
Ha ha! I did actually laugh yesterday when both builders + the electrician were standing round a new sash window scratching their heads. They have no fucking clue how to install one even though that was on the original quote!!
Don't get me started. I think we are going to stay in a building site until we sell the house to the next unfortunate soul. Today's final straw was the labourer used one of my expensive cloth nappies as a paint rag. Why oh why do they come in and ruin everything else you own as well as the house??
Hell yes. I had 2 things I said at the beginning and 1 was 'protect the floor' - I am now laughing bitterly as I survey the ruins of my lovely parquet floor...
What I learnt from our building work was:
Always, always assume you'll spend the contingency fund.
Check the builder's sums
Keep a running track of invoices against quotation.
Check your plans very very thoroughly.
Don't take any nonsense from the plumber.
From bitter experience I have learnt.....
The job will cost more
The job will take longer
There will be more mess than you anticipated
It always costs more. Use an architect. Use good builders.
I have learnt:
You'll still find bodge jobs two years on.
Nothing will ever be the builders fault - it will always be 'the apprentice' 'the contractor' 'the builders merchants'
Badly skimmed ceilings have a habit of shedding, sometimes in the middle of the night.
I am better at edging and cleaning sealant than the man with 30 years experience.
Well we had lovely builders who got the job done in the 16 weeks they had said and charged the price they quoted! We had a great architect too. I realise we have been very lucky though
and expect a price hike if the builders say 'original to the (period) house'
They will use your brand new toilet for dumping all their excess paint, plaster and grouting materials. And probably block it.
Crikey. 2 weeks from end of 2 storey extension and lots of re-jigging of existing house.
I have learnt :
1. That if you do your research to start with - only go from personal recommendations, actually speak to people who have used your builder before, and actually go to see the work they have done, you will avoid most if not all of the problems the OP put in her first post.
2. My builder was / is not planning to scam me, nor are the people who work for him. They are decent family guys who would be out of a job if they weren't professional and do a good job.
3. If you have a good builder, they can anticipate any issues (things that you haven't thought about / realised) and will give you options so that you can make an informed decision well before it gets to the point of costing more money / delaying the project.
Love my builders
My builder came highly recommended. I saw and loved the work he did elsewhere. Still tried to scam me...
I think the issue is maybe that you as a client concentrate on the type of Windows, lighting scheme, position of washing machine, finish, where you want the plugs etc. When what you really need to be asking is whether they are aware of the specific building regulations pertaining to the fitting of Windows, what gap they think they need in a cavity wall with 70mm celotex insulation, how precisely they are going to link the new wiring to the circuit board. Oh and what is the correct proportion for cement mortar (it's 1:3 cement to sand in case you were wondering).
I think thats what you pay for when you instruct a professional builder. If they don't know the correct proportion for cement mortar then I think you're going to struggle. Did that sort of incompetence not come through in his estimate / your dealings with him before you started?
You know I think they do know the correct way to mix cement mortar but they knew I didn't know at the beginning, which was the problem. Now they know I do know and my cement mortar mix has been duly adjusted. It's all a game. A really shit game.
In the quote it was all about the guarantees, the quality of the work blah blah blah. Oh and the high recommendations from other poor souls who also don't know the correct proportions for cement mortar. We are really conservative and risk averse, got loads of quotes etc etc. I weep when I think of the naive person I used to be.
I got new handmade sash windows in and went with the guy I liked the most who was literally half the cost of the other quotes. He called the week before he was due to start to say his workshop had burned down (and my premade Windows with it). He had no insurance and I'd given him a much bigger deposit than I should have.
Long story short, he sent back my deposit immediately. I gave him 3 months to get his business back up and running rather than find another vendor. And he put in 10 beautiful, handmade hardwood sashes that have been perfect for 2 years so far. One whistled slightly when the wind was crazy months after they went in and he popped out and sorted it immediately.
Some builders/workmen are worth their weight.
And that is why I had a project manager who ensured everything went to plan and didn't sign anything off unless it was perfect. Yes it was an extra expense but we wouldn't have had a clue that if we were being shafted. She was worth her weight in gold.
Whatthefox you are right. If we ever do building work again (and we will never be doing building work again) we have said we will pay a project manager. That is non-negotiable!
Giggling at this - if only the cowboys would wear Stetsons ! Would make life much easier !
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