Installing the Soakaway
Pretty much all of the work by the Builders has now been completed - the Client will be carrying out all of the decorating for themselves. Obviously this is a popular way of reducing overall costs for a major building project if you have the skills and time to do some of the work yourself.
Chatting with Dale, the boss at G L Smith and Sons, the overall consensus is that the job went very smoothly. There are inevitably a few hiccups on any job but these guys have a knack of resolving these very promptly. You may remember a while back how some of the steel went ‘walkabouts’ and how in a very short space of time they had replacements on site so that work didn’t get held up for too long.
He also commented on what a pleasure it had been working for this particular Client. Having a good relationship with clear communication between Builder and Client can make a huge difference to a job like this which is why it’s so important to get recommendations before choosing someone to carry out the work. In addition, it’s essential that you have confidence in the people carrying out the work – after all, your house is probably the biggest asset you have. Looking at G L Smith and Sons it’s easy to see why they have so much work and so many repeat Clients. Apart from doing a first class job of the work itself, they also put a lot of effort into building trust and confidence. One of the aspects I particularly noticed with this project was the initial quotation. Not only was the price fair but there was a substantial amount of detail provided as well. If you get a quote for an extension which is just a single side of A4 with a price on it, it’s very difficult to know exactly what has and hasn’t been included. The quote these guys provide is very detailed. They set out all the elements of the job with costings alongside. The quote also explains how variations and extras are to be accounted for, what provisional sums have been included, and how valuations and payments are to be dealt with. With such a detailed quotation for the work you get an immediate sense of confidence that these guys know what they are doing.
We discussed how payment for the work is dealt with. This is one of those areas that can very easily cause problems so it was very interesting to hear how this company handles the finances. You often hear how it’s commonplace for customers to be expected to pay so much at the start of the job, followed by a few stage payments and a final balance at the end of the job. The stage payment system, however, can be rather arbitrary and may not bear much relation to the value of the actual work done. The way these guys work sounds far better. Essentially what happens is that valuations are carried out at agreed regular intervals to assess the value of work to date and, because their pricing is done on a formal system, this is relatively straightforward to do. Say, for example, all the groundworks are complete when the first valuation is done. The contractor can simply go to the original pricing calculations and see exactly what value is attributed to this. An invoice is raised for this amount and is paid by the Client.
A similar thing happens with any variations or extras during the project. Normally this can be handled in one of two ways. Either the Client can be given a fixed price for the extra work, or it can be done on a daywork basis. The daywork route simply means that the Client pays for the labour at a set daily rate plus any materials and disbursements. Provided accurate records are kept of all labour and materials relating to the extra work, then paying on a daywork basis is often preferable. On this job, detailed breakdowns of variations were kept meaning that these could simply be included with the interim payments.
As with all jobs, Dale will explain, and note in his quote for the project, that there may be unforeseen work. If they were to price for every possible scenario just in case, you can easily see how the price would become ridiculous. A good example of extra work on this job was the underpinning to the rear wall. Nobody could foresee that there would be almost nothing in the way of footings to the rear wall of the house and, it was only when the new foundation trenches were dug next to it that the issue became apparent. Whilst the original wall may have stood happily for the last hundred years, structural alterations have to be taken into account. A good deal of load from the new steels was bearing on the ends of these walls. In consultation with the District Surveyor, it was agreed that the section needed underpinning and it was agreed that the work should be carried out on a daywork basis. A complete record was kept detailing the man hours on this aspect as well as the materials, plant & machinery, and disposals. The Client was therefore able to see exactly what the extra work had cost.
With the main works completed, the next stage of the process is for the Client and Contractor to go round the project and draw up a snagging list. This is basically a list of any items that still need attention before the job gets signed off. Dale tells me that he is considering drawing up a simple document for future Clients to make this easier for them. It sounds like a great idea. Many people are not used to having building work done and some sort of guidance on how to go about snagging would, I’m sure, be most welcome. It also makes the Contractors job easier if the Client has pre completed a standard check list before the meeting.
On this job, it has been decided that the solid wood flooring to be laid over the screed in the family room should be left for a few weeks to allow plenty of time for the floor to dry out fully. The value of this aspect of the work will therefore be excluded from the final payment and billed later when it gets done.
Once all the snagging work has been completed, and everyone is happy with the job, the Client will be presented with a sign-off sheet. This is a great way of recording a formal completion of the job so that there can be no dispute later on.
A final word of advice from our Builders is for Clients to familiarise themselves as much as they can with the Architect’s plans so that they know how the job will look when it’s finished. It can be difficult to understand construction drawings so don’t be afraid to ask. After all, it can be expensive to change things during the job if find that something wasn’t quite as you expected. On a large project it may even be worth asking for a 3D computer model.
If you live in the Hertfordshire area and are looking for a professional building contractor, you can get in touch with G L Smith and Sons via their website: http://www.glsmithandsons.co.uk/
Installing the Soakaway