The Australian Dream Series


Selecting a Builder

When building or renovating there are 2 choices; to contract the work yourself as an owner builder or to engage a registered builder.

Registered builders are regulated under the various state bodies -
Victorian Building Authority in Victoria
Queensland Building Services Authority
Building Regulations Board in Western Australia Office of Consumer & Business Affairs S.A. etc.
For example all builders and tradespeople who want to work in the home building industry in NSW on projects worth over $200 in labour content, and all specialist contractors [ such as plumbers, electricians and gasfitters ], must be licensed with the Department of Fair Trading.
Always ascertain that the Builder you select has current registration with the relevant state body. Do not be talked into building as an 'Owner builder' [ unless you wish to take that approach ] and do not rely on letterheads or the like as proof of builder status.

The better method for sourcing a builder for your project is generally by word of mouth referrals. Friends or neighbours who have recently had work done will willingly pass on details [ both good and bad ] and it is a good opportunity to view a builders work and see if the quality is going to be up to your expectations.
Another source is the Housing Industry Association and the Master Builders Association [ the 2 main bodies in australia ] They can refer you to builder members in your local area.
And finally there's the yellow pages or local newspapers.

Which ever method or combination of methods you use, always obtain 3 separate prices.
No exceptions - even if your first cousin is a builder - always get 3 prices.
No builder will be upset about quoting against another builder, as long as he or she is pricing the same items, and you're not wasting their time by just getting check prices.

The information you supply to Builders pricing your home or extension should be comprehensive.
As well as a complete set of plans, to be sure prices are accurate, you should also supply a detailed list of fittings.
For example Wall oven - Chef Select, model KPR25
Tapware - Caroma Caravelle
Kitchen sink - Radiant Flinders
Skirting board - 200mm victorian profile painted
Kitchen cupboards - black marble top with timber doors etc etc.

A builder will assume certain items in his pricing if he's not supplied with a detailed list.
Major items, such as white goods and the like will be listed as a prime cost item [pc item ] from which you can compare varying prices between the builders. Smaller items will not and this can lead to unquantifiable variations in your prices.
For example a builder may regularly use 42mm custom wood skirting at $1.80/met. You want to use a wide Victorian style cedar skirt at $6.40 - difference on an average home - $900.
It may sound basic, but be sure to give each builder the same details.
We often have builders ringing up to clarify structural details and during the conversation we hear - "I didn't know about that."
I recently spoke with a builder and he wasn't aware that a wall oven in a new home was to be gas. The only gas fitting in the home and quite a lot of extra dollars to hook up.

I've jumped around, but to get to the last item - when
We always recommend to clients to finalise their plans and specifications before approaching builders.
This is not always possible where you require guidance, but having approached a builder you may be placing yourself in a position of obligation.
With renovations etc where you may need on site assistance to determine what is possible and what is not, your Building Designer will be able to outline and discuss the alternatives.
Decide the way you want to go, [ it may be a combination of ideas ] have your plans drawn and then put them out to be priced.

In closing, as the advert on TV says "oils aint oils sol". Because a builder is registered doesn't mean that he is suitably qualified to do your particular work.
A builder may be geared up with his trades to do say villa work for example where there may be more emphasis on cost than quality.
A builder may specialise in one form of building and flounder in another.
Always ask to view previous work and talk to previous clients.



Selecting a Building Designer >>