When Principles get in the way

May 30, 2010
4 min read

So the last 4 months have given me gray hairs. A house in Atholl came up for grabs through a deceased estate, and I was fortunate to grab it. It was in a shocking state though. The dirt and grime and hosts of lice and small bugs living in the bathroom carpets would latch onto your ankles having not eaten in the last 3 years and feast. Damp in the bottom floor required the chipping out of all the plaster and some layers of waterproofing to be put in place. In a nutshell – a massive reconstruction project.

Note to self : Don’t try it again!

The problems I have encountered along the way have not been the usual suspects. Finding decent suppliers, managing a timeline and payment schedule have been fine to deal with. But there are two common threads that all issues have been related to:

  • The level of acceptable quality is just far too low
  • And difference in acceptable principles is a vast chasm of discord.

My dilemma is whether it is acceptable to be disappointed and upset with a service provider when they do not meet your own principles? Extending this – can one expect at least some principled behaviour in the business relationship?

An example was when the builder committed to arriving at 10am to do the tiling. My supply chain was ensuring the tiles were ready for collection at 9am – which happened. My car was in the panelbeaters so had to disorganise a person’s day to use their car to pick up the tiles. So although difficult, the tiles arrive at 9.30 on site. Later I hear the builder has not even arrived at 1pm. No call to explain, no warning to minimise disruption – just flat out do what they want.

Another shocker was “Gavin” the shower door guy. “Murray I’ll meet you at 3 at your place.” Murray confirms this arrangement at lunch time, and proceeds to request leaving work early to see Gavin. At 3.30 I call Gavin and can clearly hear he’s still at his office. Eventually arriving at 4.30! An hour and a half of work time lost!  But it gets better – Gavin promises the quote the next morning. I call the day thereafter as I’ve received none, and Gavin says, “Ah sorry man.” The day after that, still no quote. It ended like this:

Oh and dont go calling that number for advice on showers!

So some tips I’ve learnt about doing renovations:

  • Specify who buys the plumbing equipment in the quote
  • Order bathroom fittings but pay for them and collect them just before you need them. They take forever to arrive and are a significant capital investment. This helps manage your cash flow.
  • Do two coats of paint on all surfaces and a final coat with close supervision when all tiling, fittings, cupboards and so on are in – even though builders suggest it the other way around. The mess that is made and the visibility of paint touch up jobs spoil it all.
  • Go for ¾ inch piping in the bathroom
  • Put timelines into your builder’s quote, with an acceleration clause and penalties for late delivery.
  • Confirm with your kitchen installer who actually installs the sink, hob, oven and extractor. You might assume they do this, but in most cases don’t.
  • Retain at least 25% of all sub contractors money until final snagging is complete.
  • Don’t pick up tillers or painters from outside Builders warehouse. I never did this but heard a host of stories about how bad they can be, or how much had gone missing after they left.

I’d do the exercise again happily – this time round having paid the school fees.  I now know the limits of my patience.

How’ve you experienced building in the past?

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