Category Archives: building contract

Stones, Stones and Headaches

We started pulling our garden apart about 6 weeks ago – saving plants and shifting stones from our front yard to the back yard to be stored.    The last 4 weekends hubby has put in a big effort to get all the stones shifted (the plants are my job) and he finally finished last weekend.  Our front yard now looks like this:

And in the backyard, Dermie has some company:

We were pretty please with our efforts until an email arrived from our design consultant on Tuesday.  During our review of the preliminary tender we had advised him that we would be fencing off the back section of the yard for security as we were using it for storage.    This was included in our list of amendments/questions.  In the response sent back by the design consultant was the following:

“Please note that the services will be running to the back of the block behind the Garage so access will be required. Due to these services being dug along the rear of the old Garage Builder cannot guarantee that the Garage footings won’t be affected.”

Why was this not in the preliminary tender document?  The pipe for the services is shown going behind the garage, but there is no mention of requiring access to that area, or of the potential damage to the garage footings, or that the water tank needs to be removed.  In fact the water tank isn’t even shown on the site plan!  Something that didn’t seem important at the time, since there was no mention of us needing to clear that area.

Its better that we found out now rather than during construction, however it highlights one of our frustrations with this builder.  We are building on an established site and have no intention of clearing the entire site.  Our design consultant hasn’t visited the site, the builder hasn’t visited the site, and the engineering company who have visited the site haven’t spoken to us about our requirements.  We asked our design consultant if the builder could come and walk us through the site so we could better understand how much of the site needs to be cleared, but we were told that this won’t happen until after the contract is signed.

Given what has happened now, we think its even more important that we get the builder here, agree with the builder how much of the site will be cleared and what access both parties need to the site and document that in the contract.  We don’t think that is unreasonable.  In fact, it seems bizarre to sign a contract with someone who hasn’t even set foot on our site.


Preliminary Tender

Its been a long time between posts.  We have been busily packing and finally got our preliminary tender documents from our builder 2 weeks ago.

We spent a couple of hours with our design consultant going through the details, making a few changes and going back into the display home to check out a few things (sitting in the bath to check the size – too small) and modifying our electrical plan (location of power points and light fittings).

Overall it was pretty good, a couple of mistakes and queries (to be expected) and a few minor changes from us (also to be expected).

The one disappointing thing was the oven specified.  The original estimate was for a westinghouse 90cm free standing oven or equivalent.  The builder that is quoting for us uses Emilia appliances (the cheaper version of Glem) – which is OK –  but they have specified an Emilia model AL965EI, which appears to be obsolete.  This oven is no longer listed on the manufacturer’s website, so I can’t get specifications for it, and I can’t find it for sale anywhere.  I found some old pages relating to it that state it was released in March 2008.  Obviously we won’t be accepting this “equivalent”.  Hopefully its an error and not a case of there being one sitting in a warehouse somewhere and the builder is looking for someone to fob it off on.

Apart from that, things are moving along again, and hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we have our contracts.  In the meantime there is plenty to keep us busy preparing for the move and demolition.

What I learnt today – Provisional Sum

From Consumer Affairs Victoria: “A reasonable estimate of the cost of certain work if the builder, after making reasonable enquiries, cannot give a definite price when the contract is signed (for example, supply and installation of air conditioning).”  CAV recommend avoiding these in a building contract.From HIA: Provisional Sums “are used where there is a mixture of items and labour (installation). The PS allowance is the estimated cost price for the builder to do the work (item plus labour) for the owner. The price of the PS to the owner is the actual cost price plus the builder’s margin applied to the amount by which the actual cost price exceeds the PS allowance. The owner can choose whatever work they want within the range of work contemplated by the PS description. Therefore, unlike a PC (prime cost) item, where there is a change to the scope of work, there is no need to do a variation.”

Our first attempt at designing a new home (Federation Style)

Last week we got the first draft of a design (based on our design attempt above) with one of the building companies we are exploring options with.  We have paid $200 to get a floor plan design and ball park estimate done. Over the weekend we went back with our changes and questions.  One of the issues that has come up is the kitchen.  We (mainly “I” because I don’t like stone bench tops) want timber bench tops.  This company doesn’t do them, only Caesar Stone, and this was the second occasion in which the sales person tried to talk us out of timber.  Yes we know it requires maintenance, but timber is so much warmer and inviting and can look really spectacular!  Its also going to be a Federation Style home, so timber fits with the style.  So now we have to include the kitchen as a “provisional sum”, although we can use the same kitchen builder as the company uses, and they’ll negotiate the same rate for us.  (Starting to sound dodgy here?).  It got even weirder when the sales consultant who is doing the design wouldn’t give us the name of their kitchen company so we could go and look at what they do and decide whether they have the look/product/style/quality we want.  So now we are researching kitchens and trying to locate kitchen companies who do timber bench tops – which is quite difficult as we keep getting told no-one wants them.
I’m still not sure how this provisional sum would work.  If we go to a kitchen company and find the kitchen we want, get them to quote for supply – is the Provisional Sum an estimate for the builder to install it, or to purchase it on our behalf and install it?  (plus their margin of course!)