3 min read

10 Questions to ask your builder

Whether you are an experienced owner/builder, or if this is your first-ever home, there’s no harm in asking lots of questions.

1. Their insurance
Ask your builder for their licence registration number and make sure they organise insurance for the build, which will protect you if something goes wrong during or after construction – either with the company or individuals. Many builders offer insurance through reputable industry bodies such as the HIA, which specialises in the construction industry. It’s also worth chatting to your home building insurance provider when you are renovating as some policies are voided during renovation or building works.

2. Site considerations
It’s important to have your builder do a site inspection before any work is started and the contract is signed off. Challenges such as sloping land, access issues and council setbacks can make a big difference to the complexity and cost of a build. Make sure your proposed design suits your block and its orientation – chat to your architect or designer if you have any concerns.

3. Council regulations and approvals
Local councils throughout Australia vary in the sorts of approvals they need and the types of buildings that are likely to cause concern. It’s a good idea to drive around your neighbourhood and take note of any new builds to see what has been allowed by council – things such as setbacks (front and sides), cladding used, heritage considerations and even roof colour can influence the speed and success of your approval. Make sure you budget for the DA (Development Application) costs too. Most councils charge a fee dependent on the value of the building work, so a new build is likely to be more expensive.

4. References
Before you make your final decision, it’s a good idea to talk to previous clients who have used your builder and ask about their experiences, especially important if they haven’t been personally recommended. You can also do an online licence check using their builder’s licence number. Make sure that the licence details provided match your builder’s name, trade and address.

5. Fixed price or cost-plus contract?
Most building projects, especially new builds, will use a fixed price contract. A cost-plus contract is often used for renovations, when it may not be possible to provide a fixed quote until you commence building because there might be additional works required. Fixed price contracts are just what they say – a set price for the total build – which helps you to budget and obtain any necessary finance. However, make sure you read the small print in a fixed-price contract. Some builders will exclude certain items such as demolition works, driveways, site works and fixtures and fittings, which makes their tender price seem attractive on first glance, but not reflective of the true cost of the build.

6. Allowances and provisions
With most building contracts and tenders, builders use provisional costings at basic prices, such as kitchen appliances, tapware, tiles and flooring so you can choose your own fixtures and fittings. The cost allowed is often at the lower end and you might get a bit of a shock when the real costs are added. For instance, if the builder allows $25/sq m for bathroom tiles and your choice ends up costing $80/sq m, you will be billed for the difference. This is just one of the reasons you should include some contingency costs when budgeting for your building work – and read your contract carefully.

7. Your must-haves and wishlist
We all have items that are really important to us, as well design elements that would be lovely, but not essential. It’s a good idea to list your requirements and decide what are deal breakers and what you can leave out. Do you really need a butler’s pantry? Or European kitchen appliances? Items such as insulation might seem less important when you are looking at your budget spreadsheet, but they will save you thousands of dollars in long-term heating and cooling costs. Upgrades such as Gyprock’s Supachek plasterboard is also a minor cost compared to potential repairs to the walls, especially if you have active children. Similarly, Hebel Powerfloor is a sound investment for a home, eliminating any squeaks or bounce from loosening floors. Some items can also be added later if you wish, including extensive landscaping, window furnishings, batteries for solar energy (you can organise to have your solar panels battery-ready and install batteries at a later date).

8. Budget breakdown and value-based engineering
Once you have received tender prices from builders, you might want to take the time to read all the line items to ascertain whether you can save money (see must-haves and wishlist). It’s also worth talking to your builder about where you can save, as they might be able to advise you on substitutions, which could save on the amount you need to order without compromising on quality. Some builders add a margin when they are sourcing materials, so if you buy them direct yourself you can save money. They can also help you avoid making an expensive mistake, like cutting back essentials such as waterproofing, which would cause a huge number of problems further down the track.

9. One point of contact
Talk to your preferred builder about how they communicate. It’s much easier to chat with just one person, often the site manager, about the build, if they need input from you. Ask whether you should meet in person or on the phone/virtually. Regular site meetings are vital, especially for novice homeowners as it helps them to get context as building works can be hard to envisage on the phone and it helps to see what your choices are like in real life.

10. Lead time on materials
Some materials will have longer lead times, especially if they are coming from overseas. This often affects discretionary items such as tiles, tapware, furniture and bespoke joinery. It’s important to know that most of CSR’s raw materials are sourced in Australia and manufactured locally, including Gyprock, PGH Bricks, Hebel, AFS and Monier Roofing. This helps to minimise delays and cost overruns.

 

Interested in learning more?
Download a guide or lookbook from one of CSR’s brands, including Monier, Bradford, PGH and Gyprock for more background information on their products.

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