Working with a builder can be a headache and you can bet at some stage you will disagree or feel uncomfortable with your builder about the time its taking, the quality, and most commonly price. However, you can avoid such issues and misunderstandings by doing your research and setting specific ground rules before you embark on a project. Here are ways to ensure a healthy and smooth working relationship with your builder.
Get to Know Your Builder
Make sure you know your builder’s skills, experience, and attitude by checking out their past projects and talking to past clients. This will give you a clearer idea of how to communicate and build a relationship efficiently and constructively with your builder.
Lay the Groundwork
Before the builder lays the literal groundwork for your project, make sure you lay the legal and strategic groundwork for your renovation. Discuss in detail what you want and listen to ideas and feedback from the builder. Communication is your greatest tool when doing a project so make sure you clearly express what you want in terms of design, price, and time frame - and then document it for the builder to confirm. Document this detail and then it becomes harder for either party to claim a misunderstanding when its clearly in writing.
Make sure you explicitly state in a written contract the budget, the target date of completion, and your contingency plans in case something goes wrong or not according to plan. This assures both you and the builder that you have agreed on the specific terms of the project including possible adjustments in fees and design. You can use the standardised document from the Master Builders Association for your contract. A departure from this might mean you need a lawyer to explain if any of your typical rights are being squeezed or removed. A few hundred dollars invested here will almost certainly save you thousands if something goes wrong during the build.
Aside from a contract, your builder should take out a government regulated builders insurance. If your project costs $20,000 or more, this is required by law. So ask for a copy.
Expect the Unexpected
In most renovation or design projects, there will always be unforeseen bumps on the road. It could either be a sudden increase in the price of materials or previously unknown issues like large rock formations under where your new bathroom is to be installed. When this happens, keep your cool and try your best to be rational in making an on-the-spot decision. Remember that these situations are also out of the builder’s control, so there is no point in placing blame on them. But don't let them use an unforeseen issue as an excuse for a much wider set of issues or for delays and cost blow-outs caused by unrelated matters - keep on top of the project and its progress and this should be no problem.
Be Assertive, Politely
You’re paying for the project so you have every right to make requests and ask for updates. Feel free to bring up things you are unhappy with and always assert that you must know everything that is going on in the project. However, keep in mind that you should do this politely and always ask yourself if you are being reasonable before talking to your builder.
Always keep in mind that although you are paying the builder it doesn’t give you the right to act as a dictator. Being nice and tactful while still being assertive will keep your relationship with your builder strong, productive, and fight-free.
Oh - and shout coffees and morning tea for the workers on site, and you will gain some rapport have a much greater chance of communicating more openly. If they are doing a great job, some beers at the end of a long week also go down very nicely.