Snagging is a word that can cause some confusion on self build projects. This isn’t aided by the fact that the term lacks a formal contract definition and is not even a part of the JCT (Joint Contracts Tribunal) suite of building contracts.

However, it is generally accepted that snagging concerns the aspects of the work that are complete but have minor faults, defects or errors in the fit and finish that require remedial action prior to the project being complete.

When Should you Snag?

Snagging is often thought of as the final stage of a project following practical completion being formalised under the contract. However, I have found that three levels of snagging produce the most manageable set of results. The first stage is the builder carrying out his own snagging to ensure the fit and finish is to the level required by the contract and specification.

They can then ‘present the works’, which lets you know that the project is finished. I would then recommend that you and your builder take an informal walk round where the works can be snagged together. Not only does this flag up issues up in a timely manner, but it also enables both you and the builder to understand what the issue is and how it might have happened.

This will create an informal list of finishing items which the builder can attend to prior to you then carrying out a full and written snagging process. This is usually at the end of the works, but can often be completed in sections, provided you appreciate that once you take possession of the works it’s hard to establish what is a snag and what was caused by you living in the house.

How does Snagging Work?

Final snagging is identified by inspecting the works, writing down any snags (or deviations from the specification) and issuing this list to the builder. There are several apps available which use a device’s camera to assist — you take a picture of the snag, type in a description and location, and it automatically adds it to a list that can be shared with your builder.

What happens after this depends on the tasks. It is often the case that a builder will send in a member of the team to deal with snagging, who carries decoration, minor repair and cleaning materials to cover most eventualities, and leaves the project perfect.

Common Minor Snags

  • Doors and windows which are not painted on all edges
  • Swollen or poorly fitted door(s) and poor latching
  • Heating system is not flushed through
  • Heating commissioned to work to correct temperature and performance
  • Decorative work — bleed through of colours and/or overlapping colours between wall and ceiling, etc
  • Decoration damage to walls in high travel areas
  • Making good around sockets and switches
  • Nail head ‘pops’ in plastered drylining
  • Kitchen cabinets full of spare fixings and fitting items and rubbish
  • Scratches and aesthetic issues with polished finishes/floors, kitchen cabinets and glass
  • Light bulbs are not working
  • Shrinkage between skirtings/architraves and walls
  • Water staining down external walls incurred prior to gutter installation
  • Missing keys to window latches
  • All sets of door keys are not present
  • Patchy grouting to tiles
  • Loose taps at fixing point with counter or worktop

How do you Ensure the Work is Undertaken?

While not intended to cover snagging per se, the retention monies held back from payments are a good incentive for a builder to keep you onside and happy. As such, a robust and fair contract will ensure that your builder is keen to get the works completed to the right standard.

Be reasonable with your snagging however — it’s a means of making good minor aspects which are not finished perfectly or are not quite aligned with the specification, and not a tool for getting work done because you have changed your mind!

What Happens if the Builder Doesn’t Return?

If the builder does not return, then you may well choose to use the retention monies held back to carry out ‘making good of defects’ under the contract. Make sure you issue the correct notices under the contract so the builder cannot pursue you for these monies in the future. If you have not held a retention, then your ‘pre-snagging’ and supervision of the works during the project will have had to be exemplary…

You can of course commence legal proceedings against the builder — or go down the less onerous route of mediation. But if you have managed the work and been careful to minimise or remedy issues as they occur, the overall loss to claim against should be small.

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