There are certain aspects of a construction project where there is a relatively high risk of work getting skimped. This usually corresponds to ‘no man’s land’ jobs where there is no designated trade, such as installing guttering. As a result, the work often gets done as an afterthought by the labourers because no one else can be bothered.
The builders have now got round to fitting the guttering and downpipes except, for some unknown reason, to the front elevation. Knowing that Godfrey, our contractor, was keen to get the remaining scaffolding taken down pronto, I emailed him a reminder — “don’t forget to fit the front roof guttering while there’s still access!”
But poor coordination resulted in the scaffolding being taken down anyway, so his team then had to resort to using ladders to fit the guttering — which predictably has since become a snagging item.
Mindful that the final payment would soon be due to the builders, I phoned building control to invite them to carry out their next site inspection and flag up any outstanding issues. I ushered the inspector around our embryonic extension, clambering up cement-splattered ladders in lieu of stairs to inspect the exposed roof structure.
The final building control inspection wasn’t going to be required until completion of all the interior works in a few months’ time, so we now had a clear run to crack on with all the insulating, plastering, services and fittings.
‘Practical completion’ is the key stage which normally triggers final payment to building contractors. So it’s rather odd that there’s no standard definition of what this actually means in practice. Generally it’s taken to mean the point at which a building project is complete except for minor defects that can be put right without undue disturbance to an occupier.
More usefully you might define it as the stage at which all the contracted works have been completed to the agreed standard, which unusually in our case doesn’t include all the forthcoming ‘phase two’ interior works.
Either way, with the builders itching to move on to their next job, withholding a sum of money as a retention is pretty essential. The standard contractual arrangement is to deduct 5% of each stage payment, releasing half the accumulated sum of money at practical completion and retaining the remaining 2.5% for a further six months as a ‘defects liability period’.
But before parting with any hard-earned cash we still had a fairly lengthy list of minor finishing jobs for Godfrey’s teams to get on with:
- wonky guttering
- bowed downpipes
- splashes of mortar
- a few patches of rough rendering
Fitting windows is a potential ‘no man’s land’ job sometimes given to anyone on site with a functioning pair of hands rather than professional joiners, and sure enough there were a couple of poorly fitted windows that had to be added to the list.
There was however one sorely festering unresolved issue — the capsized gatepost that Godfrey’s scaffolders had managed to demolish last month still hadn’t been reinstated despite frequent requests on my part. In order to tie up all these irksome loose ends, a site meeting was hastily convened.
We managed to iron out our differences and agree a final schedule of outstanding snagging jobs. To be fair, the builders had done all the big stuff to a competent standard acceptable both to myself and building control. But towards the end of a project it’s very often the smaller things that threaten to blow up into major disputes.
Beginning ‘Phase Two’
It took a full day to load a mountain of builders’ rubbish into an eight cubic yard skip (hired at a total cost of £264), salvaging any clean offcuts of wood for the stove, the rest destined for a gargantuan garden bonfire.
Although time-wise the ‘phase one’ works have overrun the contractual end date by nearly a fortnight, this is largely down to a couple of ‘extras’ we requested, such as opening up the existing kitchen rear wall and installing an additional drainage inspection chamber.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know the various trades and labourers who’ve worked on our site, and have picked up a few useful tips of the trade in the process.
But the overwhelming feeling is one of measured excitement, looking forward to the challenge of transforming the dusty internal shell of rough wood, bare concrete and exposed blockwork into a bright and inspiring habitable space.