The subtle art of getting contractors to fix defects on renovation projects.

While at a friend’s place for a BBQ recently the conversation took a slightly dark turn when one friend asked us what our greatest fears and phobias were. As you could imagine we have one friend who would prefer to be in the coffin at a funeral than giving the eulogy, another who won't get in a bath or spa tub for fear of hearing the Jaws theme music and being pulled under by a great white, and the other friend who simply said; adverts at the beginning of youtube videos. A great cross section of and comment on the modern psyche, but it got me thinking of what people’s biggest fears are when embarking on renovating their properties so I took a straw poll not long after of all the people I know who have recently undertaken this Herculean task and one answer really stood out to me: Getting the builder back to complete defects. 

A defect, simply put, is anything that hasn’t been built or installed properly, or something that is damaged, at the end of a project. Common examples from our experience are: Scratched glass in windows, skirting boards not installed, bad paint work (not enough coats to cover a previous colour, obvious brush strokes), light switches not connected or connected to the wrong fitting, and waterproofing that doesn’t work. While some defects are simple, quick, and easy to fix, some can be major headaches and cost the contractor a significant amount to rectify. 

At the end of every project I work on I will conduct a defect inspection, and document what I find before passing this onto the head contractor to rectify before handing the site back over. In your case this may be tougher as you may not know what to look for, or it may be difficult to approach your contractor and tell them they’ve messed up, and then even harder to get them to follow through with fixing the defects. So you really need something in place at the beginning of your partnership with them. 

The best practise is to make sure your contract includes a clause on defects, allows for an independent inspection of the project before hand over, that the final payable amount is not released until all defects are fixed and signed off on (a bank guarantee is a good way to do this), that time is added to the project timeline for defects rectification, and that regular inspections are carried out during the build process to catch anything before it becomes a defect. Finally, make sure you check and double check your contractor’s licenses and take copies of their insurance documents in case the worst happens. 

No professional contractor will have any issues with the above, and most will insist on doing it anyway. It is also a good idea if you have someone with knowledge of the construction industry with you when carrying out the defects inspection as they will know what to look for, you can ask a friend or even employ a building inspector or project manager. 

The most important step to having defects rectified is having a bargaining chip, and that means a legal way to withhold payment, and a defined set period of time for the rectification to be carried out in. 

If you are still a little unsure about defects, defect inspections, or how to have these conversations with your contractor feel free to get in touch with Smits + Leigo Design Group and we can assist you.

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