Extensions and Conversions – Managing the Project Yourself
If you are supervising the job yourself, your main priority while work is under way is to ensure that the job is carried out according to the specification and the contract. Do not get too involved in the day-to-day running of the project: you will only get in the way and annoy the workmen, who generally hate being watched while they ply their trade. Intervene immediately only if you see something that is in obvious breach of the contract, and raise the subject tactfully rather than losing your temper.
Otherwise, simply check the progress made each evening, and, if you find anything amiss, either telephone the contractor there and then, or leave written instructions for him to read the next morning. On long-running projects it is a good idea to suggest a regular meeting — say once a week — at which progress can be discussed and any problems ironed out. If you are not at home during the day, make sure that you leave details of where you can be contacted if necessary.
As skipper of the vessel, it is a good idea to keep a log. A simple project diary, recording the key events of each day, can prove invaluable later on when disputes arise. Note when materials arrived, when theOfficer visited, and when the electrician admitted that he was responsible for dropping his pliers in the bath and chipping the enamel. A note of which personnel are on site and the prevailing weather conditions will also prove a useful aide-memoire for later on.
Mark here, too, any changes to decisions about specification which are agreed. The siting (and number) of plug sockets and light switches is fairly flexible and can be agreed and changed without too much trouble if they are mentioned in time, but having to use different tiles from the ones agreed, for instance, may make a big difference to your enjoyment of the finished work. Similarly, logistical difficulties with your preferred plumbing configuration sometimes threaten to reshape your bathroom or kitchen in ways you hadn’t intended. In general if something has been agreed to be feasible in advance then it probably is, but if contractors can see a shortcut to an easier way they may press for the easier option. If they can argue that your idea can only be implemented if they charge extra for unforeseen circumstances, then you may want to compromise.
Changes will need to be agreed verbally with the builder as events unfold, and ideally noted in the log, as well as on your Agreed Changes Sheet. The log need not be up to Samuel Pepys’ standard:
Weds 7 March, AM: Weather fine, materials arrived, no one on site all day.
Thur 8 March, AM: Weather sunny, work on drainage channels begun. Plumber not on site.
PM: Rain, excavation work inside.
Fri 9 March, AM: Weather good, skip arrived. Floorboards up in the lounge for electrics. Excavation inside continued. Extra light fitting in bathroom agreed.
PM: Plumber popped in but left for the plumber’s merchants and did not return.
The advantage of keeping a record is that if at the end of the month the builder is behind, but wants his full monthly instalment and is arguing that the delays were unavoidable due to rain, or the plumber wants to charge you for half a day’s work for ‘that other Friday’, you have something to go on.
Ongoing monitoring of quality can be difficult when you have no experience of what you are dealing with, and the builder is your only adviser. Regular contact with the Building Control Officer will provide guidance on structural matters, but it is up to you to check that the final job meets all your specifications.
Keep track of changes
It’s easy to lose all perspective in the middle of a building programme. Days and even weeks seem to merge into one another and little seems to have been achieved — apart from more, seemingly irreversible, damage to your house. And if you have withessed some of the setbacks which have caused delays, it is easy to sympathise with the builder and allow deadlines to slide. But it is important to remain firm, negotiate any alterations to the deadline formally, and then make a note of the new arrangements in writing — in your log and preferably on the wall.