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Worry-Free Home Additions

by Guest Post on Feb 3, 2010

So you’ve had your architect-designed home addition approved for construction and are now ready to engage a builder to do the work. Putting on first floor home additions is for many people one of the largest single investments they will make, second only to the purchase of the house itself. Using the right builder can make the difference between a smooth worry-free experience, and 12 months or more of pure stress. In this article, Paul Petrusma shows how, by selecting the right builder, you can maximize the success of your home improvement project while avoiding unnecessary headaches.

1. Stay in Control of your Budget You will likely have been given a ballpark estimate of the building cost to use as the basis for your project budget.

While this is generally a good starting point, each home renovation project is unique and you do not want to be stung with additional costs which were not included in the price. In other words, the devil is in the detail. Obtain a Fixed-Price Quotation. The only way to stay in control of your budget is to insist on a detailed, fixed price Quotation from each Builder that you approach to do the work, a Quotation that specifies everything the Builder will take responsibility for. Read the Quotation document carefully. If it isn’t listed, then it’s not likely to be included. Who will pay for internal painting, inspection for hazardous materials (and removal if found), pest inspection, Council damage deposit, Construction Certificate, final inspection fees, etc? Insist that the builder be specific – for example, include window frame colors (non-standard colors are often dearer). Some builders charge a small fee to produce a detailed fixed price Quotation; this is likely to be money well spent given the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your budget cost will not blow out. Prime Cost allowances are typically included in a Quotation for items you will select yourself during construction, such as bathroom hardware. If you select an item more expensive than the allowance, you will be required to pay the balance. If, on the other hand, you select one that is cheaper than the allowance then you should receive a credit for the difference. For a meaningful price comparison between quotations, make sure you include the Prime Cost allowance. Provisional Sums are allowances the Builder has included for works that could not be costed at this time because the scope of the work may not be clear until demolition works are done. It is a “best guess” by the Builder and you will typically be required to pay any amount over the allowance stated (or receive a credit if the actual cost is less than the allowance). If Provisional Sums vary immensely between quotes, ask the Builder why this is the case.

2. Minimise the Problem of Construction Delays & Poor Quality Quality. First-floor home additions are a specialized type of construction, employing different techniques and systems than those used for the new home construction or ground floor extensions.

Don’t leave quality to chance. Here are some ideas: • Check your local Department of Fair Trading for the builder’s rating • Find a builder who has won awards for their home addition projects • Speak to past clients or review client testimonials • Ask the Builder what quality control systems they utilize. For example, do they verify the measurements on the plans you provide in order to minimize potential construction problems? Warranties. While warranties against deficient structural work are provided through NSW legislation, having “minor” defects repaired can be a more arduous process, particularly for problems discovered only after you take occupation of the new room(s). Make sure that your builder provides a minor defects warranty for at least 6 months after completion. Construction Time. The maximum time to build should be written into the building contract. As a guide, expect a $300,000 addition to taking up to 5 months to complete. If the contract duration is longer, you may be in for some unwelcome delays…

3. Address Construction Issues Before They Begin Construction Supervisor. You will likely be allocated a Construction Supervisor who will oversee the trade contractors working on your project.

The Supervisor’s role is to ensure that construction times and quality are achieved and that any concerns you may have during construction are heeded. Obtain a commitment that the Supervisor will attend your site on a daily basis during construction and will keep you fully informed on progress. Emergency Contact Numbers. Make sure that the Builder has a 24/7 contact number in case of emergency during construction, such as storm damage. You should also be given backup contact numbers in case you are unable to reach your Construction Supervisor. Protecting Your Belongings. Your roof area and parts of the ground floor will become a construction site. Most builders will not insure against damage to your home contents so it is advisable to remove fragile items such as chandeliers or antiques to avoid the risk of damage. You should also check with the builder as to the precautions to be taken to maintain property security.

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