ReX

Perfectionism, finishing quality and builders

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How do you deal with builders and specialists that don't deliver the quality you expect?

 

I have always used recommended builders and contractors, that have worked on projects and houses much larger (and more expensive) than mine, but unfortunately I have never been happy with their work.

 

Most of the times I had to step in during the job  and ask, suggest (or even do myself to show how it should be done) what I was expecting from them.

I am conscious that I am very demanding and perfectionist, but it is disappointing to see how little care and precision is delivered if the customer is not there to chase them.

 

Eventually I reached the conclusion that it is better for me to do stuff on my own (tiling, plastering but also plumbing, electricity, bespoke staircase, bespoke furniture - these are few of the examples) than let someone else do the job, keep an eye on the job and then end up fixing or correcting the errors (if possible).

 

Unfortunately I don't have the time neither the energy to do large jobs on my own, so I am now back again with a builder that is doing stuff more poorly than I could do on my own. 

 

Is there an etiquette to deal with these situations?

I don't want to be rude toward the builder (that is very nice and friendly) but knowing myself I will be bothered to see a finished product not as good as I would like.

 

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Show them samples or give them an exact specification of what you want before they start the job including reference photos. Agree it in writing. At that point they will either decide the job isn't worth it and back out or, agree they can deliver what you want (and possibly increase their charge accordingly).

 

If you haven't agreed what you want in advance, there is no reason to expect they will work to your standards. They will work to a combination of what the market expects and what they are required to do by building regs, British standards, regulatory bodies, e.t.c. Getting a personal recommendation where you can see their previous work is always a good start but definitely not a guarantee - busy tradespeople hire new labourers fairly often and they get busy spells where they overcommit and have to rush through jobs or subcontract them out.

 

People who you can trust to do a job well unattended are very rare in this life...

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1 minute ago, Nick said:

Show them samples or give them an exact specification of what you want before they start the job including reference photos. Agree it in writing. At that point they will either decide the job isn't worth it and back out or, agree they can deliver what you want (and possibly increase their charge accordingly).

 

If you haven't agreed what you want in advance, there is no reason to expect they will work to your standards. They will work to a combination of what the market expects and what they are required to do by building regs, British standards, regulatory bodies, e.t.c.

 

Fair suggestion, but - to give you an example - I wouldn't expect to write on a contract: "the floor tiles should be perfectly leveled, the 3mm gap should be consistent (not only when you feel it) and you shouldn't chip the existing tiles". I would expect this to be by default the normal outcome of extending an existing tiled floor.

 

Or to give another example, during the installation of a steel frame box (to replace a load bering wall) I found by chance that the builders had inverted the lower beam and the upper beam. This happened just because the beams drawings were left on the floor and looking at it for a second it was clear that the lower beam had additional steel to sustain the weight of the side posts.  Thankfully they hadn't yet removed yet the acros and reinstalling it properly was quick.

 

How can you possibly prevent these issues with a contract?

 

1 minute ago, Nick said:

Getting a personal recommendation where you can see their previous work is always a good start but definitely not a guarantee - busy tradespeople hire new labourers fairly often and they get busy spells where they overcommit and have to rush through jobs or subcontract them out.

 

This was the root cause for at least two jobs, in one extreme case every day new people were sent to do the job and they had no idea about what we had discussed earlier.

In another case I hired main contractor / PM (not sure how to call it) to look after the job and the builders but he was on the site 20% of the time, so he wasn't really checking anything (he had 3 jobs in parallel).

 

1 minute ago, Nick said:

 

People who you can trust to do a job well unattended are very rare in this life...

 

It seems then that I am not alone.

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what's the saying about if you want a job doing....

 

People who are good and I have a decent relationship with I generally don't even talk money till the job is done and ask what I owe them. It is rare to find people you can leave to something who match or exceed your expectations.

 

Theres a bloke round here who does bespoke joinery and he's so passionate about it his work is mint. I'm a joiner and I wouldn't even attempt the stuff he does. That being said I'd probably have to ask him what's its gonna cost beforehand some of the stuff is eye watering

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43 minutes ago, ReX said:

 

Fair suggestion, but - to give you an example - I wouldn't expect to write on a contract: "the floor tiles should be perfectly leveled, the 3mm gap should be consistent (not only when you feel it) and you shouldn't chip the existing tiles". I would expect this to be by default the normal outcome of extending an existing tiled floor.

 

Or to give another example, during the installation of a steel frame box (to replace a load bering wall) I found by chance that the builders had inverted the lower beam and the upper beam. This happened just because the beams drawings were left on the floor and looking at it for a second it was clear that the lower beam had additional steel to sustain the weight of the side posts.  Thankfully they hadn't yet removed yet the acros and reinstalling it properly was quick.

 

How can you possibly prevent these issues with a contract?

 

Well "perfectly" level is open to interpretation unless you take it literally in which case it is impossible. Level to +/- 5mm (for example) can at least be measured.

 

Chipping existing tiles I'd expect to be taken care of by you having taken photos of the starting condition. Unless a builder had specifically said "we can't guarantee we won't damage "X" while doing these works", they should take responsibility for rectifying that.

 

When it comes to doing things fundamentally wrong , accidents, mistakes - you're right. Nothing you can do about this other than make sure they are spotted and rectified. That's why there are project managers, defects periods, retention and the like. On multi-million pound building sites there are whole departments and huge amounts of money dedicated to sorting out mistakes and sub-standard workmanship because they fundamentally can't be avoided.

 

The safest way is to do it yourself. The next safest is to watch the person doing it like a hawk. The next safest is to hire someone you trust to watch the person doing it like a hawk. And so on it goes until you have the structure of a large main contractor. Half the people are there to check the work of the other half.

 

 

Edited by Nick

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55 minutes ago, ReX said:

How do you deal with builders and specialists that don't deliver the quality you expect?

 

I have always used recommended builders and contractors, that have worked on projects and houses much larger (and more expensive) than mine, but unfortunately I have never been happy with their work.

 

Most of the times I had to step in during the job  and ask, suggest (or even do myself to show how it should be done) what I was expecting from them.

I am conscious that I am very demanding and perfectionist, but it is disappointing to see how little care and precision is delivered if the customer is not there to chase them.

 

Eventually I reached the conclusion that it is better for me to do stuff on my own (tiling, plastering but also plumbing, electricity, bespoke staircase, bespoke furniture - these are few of the examples) than let someone else do the job, keep an eye on the job and then end up fixing or correcting the errors (if possible).

 

Unfortunately I don't have the time neither the energy to do large jobs on my own, so I am now back again with a builder that is doing stuff more poorly than I could do on my own. 

 

Is there an etiquette to deal with these situations?

I don't want to be rude toward the builder (that is very nice and friendly) but knowing myself I will be bothered to see a finished product not as good as I would like.

 

Quite simple

 

Do what my wife and myself have done

Do most of the work yourself 

Especially the work that is on show 

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The stuff I do for our build is almost always less than perfect.

 

Made a window cill this morning. But the reveals and header need to be made too, before  (....) can be done. And we need to be 'in' by January 1st. It's the same with everything. It can always be done better.

Any home is a million compromises assembled, jointed and glued in one place 

 

Tempus fugit. 

 

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I think Oz07 touched on the point, way too many trades with no pride in their work. I always look at building work on my travels and I am shocked at what people are expected to accept. I've done everything myself for that exact reason, don't want to be in the position of having to pull a trade cos I'm not happy with their standard of work. IMO, sadly we live in a world where it's more about the money than looking at a job and knowing it's spot on (and that's not just about the building trade)

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What you also have to take into account is the trade that are floating about doing private work are not used to having there work scrutinized and are not the best 

Also most self builders are unlikely to provide repeat business

 

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1 hour ago, Nick said:

 

Well "perfectly" level is open to interpretation unless you take it literally in which case it is impossible. Level to +/- 5mm (for example) can at least be measured.

 

You are right - I rushed my reply. Indeed the contract stated that the tiles would hav been installed with the same tolerance, accuracy and gaps of the existing floor (that was perfect, the only tile slightly not leveled is not even 1 mm above the next one).

 

1 hour ago, Nick said:

Chipping existing tiles I'd expect to be taken care of by you having taken photos of the starting condition. Unless a builder had specifically said "we can't guarantee we won't damage "X" while doing these works", they should take responsibility for rectifying that.

 

We are talking about joining the floors of two rooms, they had to remove the tiles that were cut (next to the wall that was removed). In doing so (using the wrong technique) they chipped existing tiles that were not supposed to be removed. This tiling drama was sorted by another tiler that had to remove everything (new tiles and existing chipped tiles) and redo the job.

 

1 hour ago, Nick said:

When it comes to doing things fundamentally wrong , accidents, mistakes - you're right. Nothing you can do about this other than make sure they are spotted and rectified. That's why there are project managers, defects periods, retention and the like. On multi-million pound building sites there are whole departments and huge amounts of money dedicated to sorting out mistakes and sub-standard workmanship because they fundamentally can't be avoided.

 

I am not familiar with all this, so very interesting - thanks for sharing. I have to say that when I saw a friend of mine house being built in Switzerland, the building approach was very different. Everything moved slowly compared to here but each trader was responsible for the build and quality of their own part. The only person with an oversight of the site (coming from time to time) was the architect that did the drawings.

 

1 hour ago, Nick said:

 

The safest way is to do it yourself. The next safest is to watch the person doing it like a hawk. The next safest is to hire someone you trust to watch the person doing it like a hawk. And so on it goes until you have the structure of a large main contractor. Half the people are there to check the work of the other half.

 

Indeed I feel like a hawk and I don't like it (it is annoying for me and the person that is doing the job).

 

50 minutes ago, nod said:

Quite simple

 

Do what my wife and myself have done

Do most of the work yourself 

Especially the work that is on show 

 

I try to do as much as I can, but in some cases you need manpower and time.

 

17 minutes ago, ToughButterCup said:

The stuff I do for our build is almost always less than perfect.

 

Made a window cill this morning. But the reveals and header need to be made too, before  (....) can be done. And we need to be 'in' by January 1st. It's the same with everything. It can always be done better.

Any home is a million compromises assembled, jointed and glued in one place 

 

 

 

Makes sense, but in my case I am talking about stuff that can be done properly with some common sense (no external dependency).

 

1 hour ago, Oz07 said:

Theres a bloke round here who does bespoke joinery and he's so passionate about it his work is mint. I'm a joiner and I wouldn't even attempt the stuff he does. That being said I'd probably have to ask him what's its gonna cost beforehand some of the stuff is eye watering

 

I was thinking about this when I did the staircase, experimenting my own design. It took me so much time (including building a prototype) that it wouldn't be sustainable (or economically viable) to for a client. But the issues I am talking about in this post are way more basic, hence the frustration.

 

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20 minutes ago, Vijay said:

I think Oz07 touched on the point, way too many trades with no pride in their work. I always look at building work on my travels and I am shocked at what people are expected to accept. I've done everything myself for that exact reason, don't want to be in the position of having to pull a trade cos I'm not happy with their standard of work. IMO, sadly we live in a world where it's more about the money than looking at a job and knowing it's spot on (and that's not just about the building trade)

 

Fully agreed. I have seen many expensive houses with incredibly cheap finishes, but apparently many people don't care.

 

8 minutes ago, nod said:

What you also have to take into account is the trade that are floating about doing private work are not used to having there work scrutinized and are not the best 

 

This is true, but I didn't hire cheap labour, but people that work also on multi-milion houses.

 

8 minutes ago, nod said:

Also most self builders are unlikely to provide repeat business

 

 

Good point but it shouldn't be a justification, especially in a sector that lives also of recommendations and reviews. 

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12 minutes ago, Vijay said:

I think Oz07 touched on the point, way too many trades with no pride in their work. I always look at building work on my travels and I am shocked at what people are expected to accept. I've done everything myself for that exact reason, don't want to be in the position of having to pull a trade cos I'm not happy with their standard of work. IMO, sadly we live in a world where it's more about the money than looking at a job and knowing it's spot on (and that's not just about the building trade)

 

True. The other side of that coin though is that people generally go for the lowest price bid and THEN start talking about quality as an afterthought. Certainly like that in the trade.

 

When I do painting, plumbing or whatever,  I do it to my standard but I'm sure it takes me 2-3x longer than a professional. I wouldn't consider it reasonable to expect a total stranger to work to that level unless I've specifically asked them to and they understand that is what they're being hired for. Unless you've discussed with the builder exactly what you want from the get-go, all you can really expect is that they will do a standard, acceptable job.

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Every now and then when we are very busy I take extra plasterers  and tilers on They rarely step from private to commercial and last more than a couple of days 

I go on site and ask the lads how are they getting on 

Usually same answer Slowwwww

and the finishing isn’t the same 

Most don’t realize that there work is tatty 

 

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2 minutes ago, Nick said:

 

True. The other side of that coin though is that people generally go for the lowest price bid and THEN start talking about quality as an afterthought. Certainly like that in the trade.

 

When I do painting, plumbing or whatever,  I do it to my standard but I'm sure it takes me 2-3x longer than a professional. I wouldn't consider it reasonable to expect a total stranger to work to that level unless I've specifically asked them to and they understand that is what they're being hired for. Unless you've discussed with the builder exactly what you want from the get-go, all you can really expect is that they will do a standard, acceptable job.

 

I see your point but not sure I totally agree with that. You're not hiring DIY Dave, you're paying someone who's advertised their skills as able to do the work, therefore it should be a lot better than a weekend DIY job. They should not price a job if it's not to a good, professional standard, it goes back to what I said, no pride in their work if they are happy to do a cheap bodge job. 

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17 minutes ago, ReX said:

 

You are right - I rushed my reply. Indeed the contract stated that the tiles would hav been installed with the same tolerance, accuracy and gaps of the existing floor (that was perfect, the only tile slightly not leveled is not even 1 mm above the next one).

 

 

We are talking about joining the floors of two rooms, they had to remove the tiles that were cut (next to the wall that was removed). In doing so (using the wrong technique) they chipped existing tiles that were not supposed to be removed. This tiling drama was sorted by another tiler that had to remove everything (new tiles and existing chipped tiles) and redo the job.

 

 

It's definitely tricky...

 

When it comes to what's acceptable, that varies from person-to-person but as a minimum you can expect them to work to the relevant British standard and the manufacturer's guidelines. For tiling a floor for example, there will be a BS specifying the tolerances they should be fitted to, and the tile manufacturer will have their own on top of that. If the tiler has met both of those, I would say they're within their rights to consider their job done and expect payment.

 

If not, then unfortunately it's you as the buyer who's stuck with the job of checking it and pulling them up on it and getting it resolved. 

 

I'm with you in the sense that there is pretty much no amount of money you can spend that will guarantee you a result that would please a perfectionist. Everything is manufactured to tolerances and built to tolerances. My company makes aluminium glazing products on a large scale and there are rules about what size scratches in the powder coating are acceptable and how far away you have to stand from the glass to identify a defect. When you buy a chocolate bar, there are rules about how many insect parts can be inside it before it is rejected. Making things with absolutely no defects is just not viable.

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6 minutes ago, nod said:

Most don’t realize that there work is tatty 

 

I think this is one of the main problems.

 

2 minutes ago, Vijay said:

 

I see your point but not sure I totally agree with that. You're not hiring DIY Dave, you're paying someone who's advertised their skills as able to do the work, therefore it should be a lot better than a weekend DIY job. They should not price a job if it's not to a good, professional standard, it goes back to what I said, no pride in their work if they are happy to do a cheap bodge job. 

 

But actually Nick is right, with very few exceptions I have always struggled to find professionals that could do better than my DIY attempts. Surely faster but almost never better.

I reached the conclusion I am just unlucky in researches.

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4 minutes ago, Vijay said:

 

I see your point but not sure I totally agree with that. You're not hiring DIY Dave, you're paying someone who's advertised their skills as able to do the work, therefore it should be a lot better than a weekend DIY job. They should not price a job if it's not to a good, professional standard, it goes back to what I said, no pride in their work if they are happy to do a cheap bodge job. 

 

I see your point, but all that "professional" really means is that someone is getting paid to do it. Doesn't necessarily mean they're any good at it or that they will be better than you doing it yourself, you're just paying for the convenience of someone else taking care of it.

 

I can make a nicer omelette than the cafe round the corner or a nicer burger than McDonalds but I wouldn't necessarily do it if I worked there myself.

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1 hour ago, ReX said:

....

 talking about stuff that can be done properly with some common sense (no external dependency).

....

 

Then you are privileged indeed. 

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41 minutes ago, Nick said:

 

I see your point, but all that "professional" really means is that someone is getting paid to do it. Doesn't necessarily mean they're any good at it or that they will be better than you doing it yourself, you're just paying for the convenience of someone else taking care of it.

 

I can make a nicer omelette than the cafe round the corner or a nicer burger than McDonalds but I wouldn't necessarily do it if I worked there myself.

 

Professional certainly used to mean they were trained to do the job, had experience and were more than capable - well what's what it means to me anyway :)

 

And what ever we call it, in my opinion, it still comes down to pride in what ever work you do that's lacking.

Edited by Vijay
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The term Professional is often either mis-applied or misunderstood or both.

 

It can mean;

The oldest profession in the world: the job gets done for money. Take pot luck in terms of standards. 

 

The job gets done to a set of recognised standards: whose standards?

 

She's a joiners joiner: she's highly respected among joiners.

 

He's a perfectionist: he works to his own standards. Money need not be a consideration.

 

I have a feeling that @ReX may be talking about the last two.

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1 minute ago, Vijay said:

 

Professional certainly used to mean they were trained to do the job, had experience and were more than capable - well what's what it means to me anyway :)

 

Possibly I'm younger than you so my memory doesn't go back as far but when I first started in my industry, it felt like the majority of tradesmen were getting by with few/no qualifications, some surface-level knowledge and were just about able to do a good enough job to get paid. A small percentage were utter chancers and did terrible work, declared bankruptcy and resurfaced with a new company name every couple of years. An even smaller percentage really knew their stuff and were always in demand although weren't necessarily more expensive than the rest.

 

Haven't really seen those proportions change to be honest. Marketing yourself online has definitely become a big thing. The best chaps don't seem to need it and are kept busy by existing contacts and referrals only. That's why the only way to get a good person seems to be to find someone in the trade who you trust and ask them. Sadly the internet is probably the worst place to look.

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There are plenty of excellent trades out there But most are on sites where the regular work and money is 

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Qualifications fall out of cornflake boxes nowadays, and then these beauties simply dry off the milk and instantly decide that’s the trade they’ll self-nominate themselves “good to go with’, then promptly head to B&Q or Argos for some plastic tools, and present themselves to the public to do that job. 
The fact they’ve zero experience or time served apprenticeship behind them seems to do little to deter them, especially when they’ve shared a pint in a pub with these trades folk, and have seen them counting their spoils, and think “oooo, I’ll have some of that”. 
Some guys have not even lasted a day with me. Plain to see they have zero pride, zero give a f.uck and zero basic knowledge. Plus it pisses the others off to see them asking for the same daily rate when they’re nowhere near as competent.

Customers can be idiots too, chipping away at prices ( and then crying that the job is not champagne quality on lemonade money ) and those are the ones I despise.

Establishing your expectations is paramount, if you’re as particular as the OP appears to be ( rightly so ) but assumption or lack of clear understanding of what is required ( before a single nail gets knocked in ) will leave lots of wiggle room for arguing after the ship has sunk. 

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I was spoilt when I did a complete renovation of a Victorian cottage forty years ago. The local builder and his son were truly excellent. They allowed me to help where I could, showed me how to do jobs and listened to exactly what I wanted and delivered it. When I started this build I naively expected the same. Unfortunately my builder had retired and I took a recommendation from a friend for a carpenter to fit the soffitts. The work was awful and I let him go after the first day, he couldn't understand why. I have found some good workers since but it's very difficult so I ended up doing a lot of the work myself with Wendy to help.

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The thing is Peter Starck that If you and Wendy did it yourself, You get a sense of pride, and even if it is not perfect (not saying the work you did was not ) it can be done to a standard that you are happy with. I think Pocster is a professional. A total professional B. S.er.😂🤣😂

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