Sign up to our e-NewsletterCall us on 1300 131 270

Trouble Free Building

Ready to book?

About Us

Trouble Free Building

Introduction

Tens of thousands of building projects go wrong every year. Most of the trouble starts from a combination of errors and omissions in the plans, a bad relationship with the contractor, mistakes and mismanagement by the contractor and your failure to make sure the building quality is OK.

Building projects should go right. They can be creative, exciting and a financial windfall. The way to do this is to understand the responsibility of each participant. You are the main reason the job will go smoothly.

1. Plan Check

Consumers and builders often assume their drawings are complete and correct. This may not be the case even when dealing with architects and experienced designers. The drawings may look great, but are they right? Remember the builder will build what is on the plans.

Detecting problems on the plans before any work commences will save you money, time and the nightmare of a dispute with the builder.

A careful PlanCheck will help you:
  • identify mistakes and omissions before obtaining quotes
  • help minimise confusion and expensive variations.

For instance the builder may use an inferior paint unless the quality is specified in the documents.

You can do most of this yourself with the following checklist. With complex projects it may be necessary to get a professional to do the PlanCheck for you.

1.1 Getting Started (before construction begins)

Issue Assess/check Recommendations/review
Condition of
adjoining structures
  • adjacent structures especially on adjoining boundaries
  • 
fences, screens, walls

  • retaining walls especially on or near boundaries
  • 
kerb, gutter, footpath, verge

  • road surfaces

  • service access, grates, cover
  • photographic record may be required
  • 
dilapidation reports may be required
  • 
engineer's opinions required
  • 
annex records/reports to contract

  • copy record to affected parties e.g. neighbours, council, supply authority

  • protection to be provided by contractor

  • highlight items to be protected
Damage to public
utilities
  • sewer access, vent

  • water

  • gas
  • 
stormwater

  • electrical poles, wires
  • contractor to locate all services
  • 
drainage diagram provided

  • identification survey provided

  • client indemnity against any damage
  • 
protection to be provided by contractor?
Site considerations
  • aspect mainly; north/ south/east/west
  • 
orientation of building
  • 
views, outlook, privacy
  • exposure
  • slope and drainage
  • overshadowing/privacy

  • by adjacent property
  • 
by proposed structure

  • surface run off from adjoining properties
  • access to sunlight - shading/protection
  • 
north-south breezes - also see amenity

  • N/NE to N/NW aspect for living areas
  • 
best use of - affectation by others
  • 
durability/design to terrain category

  • relocate shaded areas, openings
  • 
review building envelope
  • 
arrange pre-approval meeting with Council or certifying authority
Adverse influences
  • trees affecting structure/services

  • soil stability, e.g. reactive soils

  • erosion control
  • 
termite colonies/activity

  • access
  • 
excavation in rock

  • bad or filled ground
  • 
ground water/water table

  • contamination - asbestos, lead, fuels, poisons, other pollutants
  • obtain opinion of arborist/tree surgeon

  • clarify council removal policy

  • obtain opinion of geo-technical engineer (see council soil maps)

  • obtain indicative rates for retaining walls/drainage

  • risk assessment trees/stumps/roots/debris

  • PC to locate, destroy & monitor colony
  • 
contractor to include temporary access
  • 
safe manoeuvrability - ingress-egress
  • 
permanent access costs and site security

  • obtain indicative rates for rock excavation, de-watering, pier & beam construction, back-filling, compaction

  • obtain indicative rates for removal of contaminants - EPA approvals
Condition of any
existing structures
Identify, seek further advice about:

  • structure

  • concealed damage - termite
  • 
re-use of materials - roof tiles, windows, gutter, etc.

  • services - electrical, sewer, water, air handling, lift, fire services
  • 
trees and vegetation
Check or obtain:

  • original drawings/specifications

  • pre-purchase reports
timber pest reports
  • 
pre-construction report

  • engineering details/reports

  • other specialist advice
  • 
clarify protection of trees/vegetation
Consultants you need
  • Surveyor
  • 
Building designer/architect

  • Structural engineer including:
  • Geo-technical advice

  • Hydraulic engineer
  • 
Electrical engineer

  • Mechanical engineer
  • 
Approval
  • site and contour survey
  • 
drawings including shadow diagrams
  • 
specification

  • Council D/A and construction certificate
  • 
heritage impact statement

  • soil classification

  • structural drawings
  • 
for complex drainage systems
  • 
for larger installations
  • 
for complicated air conditioning

  • check conditions of consent
Fees and costs
  • Council D/A

  • Construction certificate
  • 
Consultants costs

  • Sydney Water
  • 
Fee rebates/refunds
  • Select either local Council or accredited private certifier
  • If any doubt clarify onus for costs and fees
  • Payable by who?


1.2 Approvals

When you want building work done you need to obtain Development Approval, Construction Certificate and Compliance Certificates from either your local Council or an accredited certifying authority. Your local Council does not take responsibility for their approvals, whereas an accredited certifier may (under legislation) be liable for their work.

1.3 Dimensions that work

Why not check your room sizes and other important measurements

 Item/area Acceptable
min .dimension


Comment/recommendation
Generally


Check circulation, flow, linkages between spaces

BCA sets out the required ceiling heights

width length height
Hall 1m
2.43m
Living areas 3.6m 4.2m
2.43m

Dining room
2.7m 3m 2.43m

Bedroom 2.7m 3m 2.43m 3.0m preferred minimum
Main bedroom 3.6m 3.3m 2.43m
WC 1.05m 1.6m 2.43m 2m with inward opening door
Bathroom 2.1m 2.4m 2.43m
Ensuite 1.2m 2.1m 2.43m
Kitchen 2.4m
2.4m 2.43m
Laundries 1.6m 1.35m 2.2 1.8m length preferred
Balconies 2.4m 3m

Stairs 0.9m

1m preferred

2m Riser 165 -170mm preferred -190mm max.
Tread width including nosing 275 - 290mm.

Avoid winders, single or double steps.
 Non-slip surfaces/nosing.
Robes & cup's

600mm
800mm in laundry


Shelves



linen

450mm
apart


pantry


450mm
apart

hanging rods

1.65m
from floor

Kitchen



work tops 600mm 600mm
deep
900mm

950mm
Oven/grill height to suit appliance
eating 350mm 450mm 760mm
fridge 700mm 450mm 1.65m Allow for ventilation
microwave 600mm 450mm 400mm Check exact appliance size
Laundry fixtures



wash machine(WM) 700mm 700mm
deep

Can WM be installed without removing tub?
dryer 600mm
600mm Can WM lid open under dryer?
Ceiling height to suit top of dryer - minimum 2.2m
Laundry



bath 750mm 1500mm 450mm to suit wall tile courses.
vanity top 600mm
810mm WCs minimum 400mm from side wall
shower 900mm 900mm

Windows


Centre of rooms, best use of view, margin over for curtains/blinds.
Glass specified - safety, obscure, double
Sills over



WC/tub

1.2m To suit bed, desk, etc.
Water bars to door thresholds - outward opening external doors.
bedroom

0.9m
kitchen

1m
Doors


Check openings do not unduly affect room use.
Locate to allow robe/cupboard.
Clearance under to suit floor covering. Safety glass allowed.
generally 800mm


bathroom 700mm


entry 900mm


Hardware, switch heights
GPOs (power points)
1050mm above floor

Switches and door furniture at same height,
deadlock security to windows and doors.

Locate GPO's above the skirting and to suit equipment.
Lights


Centre of rooms (allow for built-ins)
Tap-ware



75mm clear space all round tap head.
Shower and bath taps easily accessible.
Balustrades

1m Childproof, max 125mm opening, over drops > 600mm.
Check material durability
Single garage 3m 5.5m 2.1m 6m preferred, 6.6m if workbench required.
Double garage 6m 5.5m 2.1m Check height doesn't limit choice of garage door.
Windows may limit wall storage - skylights preferred


Eaves overhangs 450mm

600mm on north side - 900mm preferred if glazing to floor


1.4 Amenity and services

Issue Item/location/type Recommendation/check Notes
Natural light
  • dressing room

  • ensuite

  • WC

  • bathroom

  • hallway
  • 
stairwell
  • 
garage
  • 10% of floor area

  • skylights/sky-tubes advised
  • 
glass blocks

Ventilation
  • internal rooms
  • 
laundry kitchen
  • 
rooms with showers

  • windows as shown
  • 5% of floor area
  • 
north-south flow
  • 
mechanical

  • recirculating

  • delayed switch off

  • connected to light
check size, opening hand, type

Security
  • external doors
  • 
windows
  • 
garage
  • deadlocks

  • alarm system
  • 
privacy latches
Check type of overhead door automatic equipment.
Services
  • rangehood
  • 
dishwasher

  • security
  • 
garage door

  • TV antenna
  • 
exterior lights

  • GPOs switches lights

  • date cable smart wiring
  • 
hose cocks

  • roof and site drainage system
  • 
gas reticulation

  • hot water
  • interior & exterior
  • 
number & location - two-way for halls

  • front - rear - balcony
  • 
DPs, sumps, drains shown
    • Consider rainwater tank storage
    • Retention pit required
  • 
number gas bayonets
  • 
type, size

  • gas - solar - electrical
Check type, capacity and warranties of any mechanical equipment; e.g. who has arrived at AC capacity.


Location close to fixtures


Tray and drain (if interior)

Pipework insulated
Thermal performance
  • sarking to roof

  • ceiling insulation

  • sarking/insulation to walls

  • roof void ventilation

  • air conditioning, room heating
  • 
underfloor heating
  • heavy duty - hail proof

  • R3 roof R2 walls and ceilings

  • wall insulation to be breathable
  • 
affect of roof glazing

  • affect of large glass areas/aspect
  • 
thicker or double glazing to windows

  • turbo/gable
  • 
compliance with codes
  • 
running costs of heating
Confirm NATHURS rating required by council
Sound proofing
  • noise between occupancies
  • 
noise between sleeping-living

  • noise from external sources

  • noise from services
  • insulate interior walls between
  • 
thicker or double glazing to windows
  • 
relocate or isolate service equipment



1.5 External materials and finishes

You will eventually need to chose what you want so why not do it now. We have found that is important to chose durable weather exposed, materials and finishes.

Issue Assess/check Recommendation/review Notes
Demolition
  • ownership of salvaged materials
  • disposal costs including tip fees
  • weather protection
  • security of uncovered structures
  • 
approvals
  • clarify any possible misunderstandings
  • 
have you considered selling the existing building for relocation to another site?

Brickwork
  • bond and joint finish
  • surface finish
  • 
joint colour
  • 
sill type - minimum 15 degree slope
  • 
control joints - 9m max
  • moist masonry to garage, retaining walls, below DPC - salt
  • wall/frame ties
weep holes
  • check exposure class of bricks
  • 
raked - flush - struck - ironed

  • face - bagged - render
  • 
is colour contamination likely; e.g. dark mortar on light brick
  • identify location of control joints

  • conceal if possible behind downpipes

  • will area be used for storage?
  • avoid coatings to damp brickwork 
is cavity brick a good option?

  • stainless steel - plastic
Especially for below damp-course, in-ground contact, coastal location, around swimming pool
Roofing
  • any low pitched areas
  • type of flashing specified
  • sarking/insulation
  • check profile suitable for pitch

  • warn of increased risk
  • 
check for dissimilar metals
  • 
paint coatings should not replace flashing
  • 
check thermal performance of roof

Walls
  • weatherboard
  • 
insulated
  • type/manufacturer specified

  • pre-finish or paint
finish colour specified
  • 
check thermal/acoustic performance
  • 
durability

Windows
  • sash type and hand
  • 
material/finish specified
  • 
distance from coastline
  • weather protection
  • 
check direction of sash movement

  • fly screens included?

  • deadlocks included?

  • obscure glass to bathroom/ensuite/laundry

Doors
  • timber - exterior
  • thresholds
  • solid core preferred/minimum hinges
  • 
frame rebated from solid piece?
  • 
water bar to thresholds

  • check durability of finish
  • s
top & bottom of door painted
  • 
high rise where weather exposed

  • sub-sill

Steel elements
  • durability of lintels, brackets, ties, handrails, post bases
  • 
surface finishes to exposed structural steel
  • hot dipped galvanised at minimum

  • stainless steel in marine locations and all fixings
  • 
specify paint system if not galvanised

Landscape
  • fencing
  • 
gates

  • pergolas, awnings‚
  • 
retaining wall type/height
  • 
plantings and vegetation
  • material durability
  • 
treated timbers preferred

  • fully galvanised fittings - stainless steel preferred

  • engineer required/durability
  • 
check size, shading, root type

  • avoid planting trees close to buildings, paving, fencing



1.6 Internal materials and finishes

You will eventually need to choose what you want - so why not do it now.

Issue Assess/check Recommendation/review Notes
Floors
  • particleboard floor
  • 
timber floors
  • 
ventilation under

  • rough sand of joints included

  • consider any requirement for future polished floors

  • species and grade identified

  • expansion joints
  • 
clear of walls
  • 
type of finish specified

  • wall vents @ 1 metre

Floor and wall tiles
  • walls - floors - fittings
  • 
expansion/control joints
  • floor wastes & falls in floors

  • hob - waterproofing advantage versus access obstruction
  • check wall heights

  • detail any pattern work
  • 
detail location of all fittings
  • 
specify grout colours

  • anti-fungal grouts

  • show floor drainage on plan
Also see PCs
Bathrooms and ensuites
  • vanity cabinet
  • 
bath

  • shower screen
  • width - water resistant

  • acrylic
  • enamel
sliding
  • swinging
  • frame less
Also see PCs
WC
  • basin included
  • 
mechanical ventilation
  • widen WC to 1050mm
  • 
door opening outwards

Laundry
  • chute provided from 1st floor

  • storage cupboard
  • broom storage

  • ironing station

  • exhaust for clothes dryer

Kitchen
  • wall mounted cupboards
  • 
pantry storage
  • 
under bench storage

  • location of fridge, oven
  • 
exhaust fan
  • 
benchtops
  • 
door swings of DW, oven, fridge to adjacent cupboards
  • fully lined

  • corner use
  • 
microwave shelf

  • pull out drawers

  • vented to exterior

  • 180 degree bull-nose edge
  • integral splash back 100mm high
Also see PCs
Bedrooms
  • wardrobe size

  • satisfactory wall space
  • check GPO location

Entry
  • cloak cupboard
  • hanging space in cupboard

  • protect door from weather

Wardrobes
  • swinging or sliding doors

  • height of shelving/rails
  • robe details in documents
  • 
hanging rails included

  • mirror doors identified

Fixings
  • skirting mould/size specified
  • 
architrave mould/size specified

  • timber species specified
  • reject MDF in wet areas

Stairwell
  • useful cupboard under
lighting
  • 
balustrading
  • lining?



1.7 Trouble spots

These are the areas that commonly cause problems that can be very expensive to fix later.

Issue Assess/check Recommendation/review Notes
Basements
  • adequacy of ventilation and light

  • detail & location of drainage
  • 
type of waterproofing
  • 
termite protection measures
  • 
retention of soil embankments
  • access to or cleaning of drainage

  • check waterproofing warranties
  • 
check termite warranties (3660.1)

  • soil level below floor level

  • use moisture/termite/rot resistant materials
Provide detail drawing
Roofing
  • any low pitched areas

  • complex details
    • 
geometry e.g. octagons, curve. splays

    • concealed gutters e.g. box
    • 
changes in pitch (flashing)
  • 
penetrations e.g. skylights, dormer windows
  • 
weather exposure
  • check profile suitable for pitch

  • identify areas needing special care
  • 
manufacturer warranty

  • no reliance on sealants

  • durable, adequate size, overflows, access for cleaning

  • adequate downpipes
  • 
anti-ponding board under sarking
Warn of increased risk of water penetration
Roof glazing
  • pre-made units
  • 
proprietary systems
  • use systems that are purpose made for roof installation

  • avoid timber framed on site

Slab on ground
  • engineer
  • engineer to inspect and certify design, placement (vibration) and curing including
    • piers

    • drop beams
    • 
all slab

Termites
  • termite protection
    • split levels
    • 
basements
    • 
building on boundaries
    • 
slabs on ground
    • 
construction joints

    • clearance / access
  • clarify method and ongoing maintenance costs, warranties and compliance with 3660.1
  • 
low risk methods - slab edge exposure, steel or treated timber frame

  • minimum 400mm below floor frame

  • detail the inaccessible entry points

Waterproofing
  • balconies above habitable rooms
  • 
basements including ground levels above internal floor levels

  • wall cavity drainage above habitable rooms
  • 
membrane roofs

  • roof top terraces

  • planters

  • bathrooms, ensuites, laundries
  • step down from interior

  • membrane specified - 2 layer sheet membrane preferred
  • 
expansion joints detailed in large areas of tiles including perimeters
  • 
drainage outlets specified

  • emergency overflows specified minimum 38mm

  • upturn for hob-less shower

  • provide detailed drawing

Contract
  • DFT preferred
  • 
Include list of all documents including engineering drawings, schedule of finishes

  • Agree completion date
  • Request retention
  • 
Agree liquidated damages (weekly payment for any time overrun)

  • Agree schedule of progress payments
  • Review all insurance - obtain certificates of currency for:
    • home building warranty

    • worker's compensation
    • 
public liability.
  • 
Understand the process required to vary costs, materials, design or time for completion.

  • Describe the stage that must be reached for each progress payment



1.8 Price check

It is your responsibility if you knowingly accept a price for that work that is too low for the quality and complexity set out in the documents.

It is always best to reality test the price by asking:
  • is the price significantly lower than the other price or prices?
  • is the price per m2 close to the usual cost for this standard of work?
  • does the price include expensive items such as complex shapes or roofs?
  • are there likely additional extra costs such as limited access, extensive excavation?

Likely cost per square metre


Architect designed One off buildings Project and package
Basic quality $1,500 $1,100 $700
Above average $2,000 $1,400 $900
Premium quality $2,500+ $1,800 $1,400

The contractor's quotation will include estimates of the costs of items that require your personal selection. Once you have selected your fixtures, appliances and accessories, you can either supply these yourself or the contractor can purchase them and reconcile any cost differences. If you know what you want, you will know exactly what the cost will be for each item. Preferably, request the contractor to supply and fix all items or clarify who will otherwise be responsible for delivery, insurance and faults in any item you provide.

Item $ advised Item $ advised
kitchen cupboards $ built in robes - B1/B2/B3 $
sink $ linen $
dishwasher $ cloak $
hotplates $ doors $
oven/wall oven $ door hardware $
range hood $ light fittings $
microwave $ carpet floor covering $
exhaust fans
  • WC/kit/bath/ensuite
$ vinyl floor covering $
wall tiles
  • laundry
  • kitchen
  • bath
  • ensuite
  • WC
$ laundry tub & cabinet $
floor tiles
  • laundry
  • kitchen
$ dryer $
bath
  • ensuite/WC
$ washing machine $
thresholds & sills $ hot water service $
vanity basin
  • bathroom/ensuite/WC
$ air conditioning $
vanity cabinet
  • bathroom/ensuite/WC
$ heating & cooling $
basin
  • WC
$ under floor heating $
bath
  • ensuite
$ security/intercom $
spa including motor
  • bathroom/ensuite
$ garage door equipment $
toilet suite
  • bathroom/ensuite/WC
$ auto entry gates $
shower screen (S&F)
  • bath
  • ensuite/WC
$ entry door $
wall cabinet
  • bath
  • ensuite/WC
$ entry door hardware $
towel rails
  • heated towel rails
$ security doors - front/ back $
bath
  • ensuite/WC
$ skylights $
soap holder $ TV aerial & circuitry $
bath
  • ensuite/WC
$ fencing and gates $
mirror
  • bathroom/ensuite/WC
$ clothes line $
tap-ware
  • laundry
  • kitchen
  • bathroom
  • ensuite/WC
$ paving $


1.9 Provisional allowances

The contractor usually includes estimates for parts of the work that can't be costed because of incomplete information or unknown factors. Common provisional allowances include service connections, excavation, foundations, removing or importing fill.

Item Allowance Notes
Sewer drainage and connection

Water service

Gas

Electrical connection

Excavation

Piering

Importing fill

Exporting fill including tip fees

Access

Rock excavation

Retaining walls

Other



2. Selection of Contractor

Like any good relationship, a successful building partnership starts with a careful choice of partner. There are many ways to find the right builder:
  • word of mouth

    • friends and relatives whose judgement you trust

    • professionals, such as architects, engineers, tradesman and suppliers
  • previous contractors you have liked working with
  • building associations
  • names from local jobs that you like the look of.

Once you've got some contractor names, why not check them out carefully:
ring their last 3 clients and ask:
  • was the contractor good to deal with
    • did the project finish on time and budget
    • were you satisfied with the quality
    • how did the contractor handle the inevitable problems
    • was the contractor a good communicator
  • talk to the contractor about your job:
    • Is the contractor interested?
    • Does the contractor ask lots of questions?
    • Do you like the contractor?
    • Has the contractor done lots of similar jobs?
    • How can the contractor demonstrate to you they are right for your job?
  • get down to detail:
    • is the contractor licenced?
    • can the contractor provide insurance?
      • home building warranty insurance
      • public liability
      • worker's compensation
      • all risk

3. Progress Inspections

You need to know the builder is complying with all the regulations and that the quality of his work is acceptable.

Even the best builders make mistakes. Their subcontractors may take short cuts. Supervision on most jobs is minimal and rarely looks in all the
hard to get to places such as the roof interior, under the floors and those flashing up on the roof.

Councils DO NOT take responsibility for the quality of the work and are often not called at the important times.

You need reliable independent advice at the key stages:

Inspection Who should inspect
Footings The engineer who designed the footings or slab
Frame (just before plasterboard linings are fixed, after all services and waterproofing is complete) Building consultant
Final (when everything is finished) Building consultant


4. Certification

You can ask the contractor to give you certain certificates when the job is finished. The contractor will get these from his subcontractors, suppliers or the engineer.

The certificates help verify the quality of the work to you and future buyers. If anything goes wrong with the work that was certified you will know who is responsible. This certification is like a pedigree or bona fide that everything is OK.

The typical certificates you might get on a residential building are:
  • Termite protection including plan of the areas protected
  • Plumbing final certificate
  • Certificate of compliance for gas installation
  • Waterproofing certificates for the showers, bathrooms, laundry and balconies/planters above habitable rooms
  • Glazing certificate
  • Engineering certification of:
    • piers, footings, concrete slabs, any non standard beams, retaining walls and pools
    • complex drainage systems
    • roof trusses and frames from the truss manufacturer
  • Surveyor's certificate proving location of building in accordance with approved plans and maximum height of building (if required by Council)
  • Proof of final inspection*
  • Certificate of occupancy*.

* These certificates may be obtained from Council or an accredited private certifier.

There may be warranties of equipment and appliances such as:
  • wall ovens and hot plates
  • hot water heater
  • spa equipment
  • automatic garage door
  • pool equipment heating or air conditioning equipment
  • security and intercom systems built in vacuum equipment
  • proprietary products such as vergolas, roof glazing systems, awnings

And if something goes wrong

Its inevitable that you and the contractor will have misunderstandings. The contractor will also make mistakes or have unexpected delays. This doesn't mean there is a serious or the job is going bad. It means that you need to be ready to work with the contractor to jointly solve any of the problems that crop up during the job.

The best way to do this is to:
  • choose someone (before the jobs starts) that both you and the builder trust to talk about the project with;
  • don't overact when something appears to be wrong;
  • clarify the issues quickly (with help if necessary) - this means checking if something is really necessary, ie what do the drawings require, are your expectations realistic, is the work OK (there are TESTS for defects)? If you are wrong, don't persist;
  • if there is something wrong, focus on getting it right without anger, blame, or delay. Financial issues should be clarified quickly so that there is no misunderstanding between you and contractor regarding who is paying for what;
  • prepare and agree a Scope of Work that sets out what you need for the more complex problems - simple things such as paint touch up or a leaking copper pipe can be easily fixed without any paperwork
  • inspect the finished work to make sure the contractor fixes the problem properly.

Residential & Commercial Property Inspections Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Central Coast, Blue Mountains

Copyright © 2014 tyrrells.com

Web development by Jordan Green Designs