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How to deal with difficult builder?


Adsibob
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12 minutes ago, Adsibob said:

You are probably right @joe90, although at the time I thought 3 trial holes against 3 different walls was a pretty reasonable exploration. Oh well. 


ah, so the corbelling changed within the individual walls? Very strange so more understandable I guess!

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From what I see, there is a set of mistakes from various parties, which the build owner now has to sort out.

 

SE/Architect really deserve a kick in the tender regions for not checking the foundations properly - why was not a proper survey done (or have I missed it above)?

 

The builder will, understandably, be very nervous re delays as he has a few contracts lined up which are tied up to the finish of this particular project, that's standard practice. ALso true re him having to pay the crew for delays whilst waiting.

What cannot be justified - the builder ignoring your instructions and proceeding with the underpinning against your express direction. This is not good. 

Ignoring the drawing will happen regularly, but it can be minor (eg ignoring the indicated place for a niche recess when tiling) or MAJOR. In our case, our Bulder-1 (the bad one) ignored the SE drawings/calculations when placing structural steels on block walls, which resulted in cracks all over - cost us £20k+ to rectify once we fired him and hired our Bulider-2 (God bless him, a great guy).

 

I'm not sure how you/Architect have been PM-ing this build so far, but from this point onward you must be present on site daily if you want to get good results. The builder himself is not on site daily, and we don't know how good the communication is between him and his site manager - it adds another layer always. Most likely the builder will be annoyed with your daily presence, but if you want things to progress correctly and avoid costly mistakes - you have to be there daily, check progress against drawings, look into every corner of the site to ensure the right thing is done. 

 

It may help having a very detailed conversation with all involved, to set the record straight. Ideally minute it. And from now on don't rely on anyone and watch it as a hawk. If the builder continues with this F-off attitude, fire him. Six more months to go on in such mode of operation would be too stressful.

 

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I've not read this whole thread but will, coming at this from an architect point of view - no one on a domestic job wants to pay for full destructive surveys to be done at the design stage.

Any structural engineer we work with will want some trial pit/site investigation done for building warrant/regs but there's always assumptions involved, working with existing buildings you will never know every inch until the digging starts and we always tell clients to have a reasonable contingency, it's not just existing foundations, we've had all kinds of discoveries working with old buildings.

The key to any project is the communication, as soon as something isn't as per the assumptions made at design stage it needs flagged and addressed before continuing...

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  • 1 month later...
On 19/03/2021 at 20:22, Adsibob said:

No, you haven't got that right at all. The builder miscalculated the heights of some steels and the height of the finished flaw level by 12cm. This was after I told him an offer that the architect was happy to take a look at his measurements before he ordered the steels. The builder effectively told me to F off and said that it wasn't the architect's job to check his measurements. I thought at the time, "this is good, i have hired a very confident builder who doesn't need supervision. The builder then ordered the steels and laid the biggest one, which was about 10m long, too high in the subfloor, 12cm too high, erected the box frame onto it and then poured concrete over the 10m long beam as well as into the trenches for the footings all far too high by 12cm. Had he taken up the architect's offer to check in with him on the measurements and setting out, this would have been avoided.

I could have fired him then or refused to pay him unless he removed all of it and started again from the beginning, but I knew that the reality was that if I had fired him I would have had to get somebody else to fix it, and that if I would have got him to pay for new beams and all the work of reducing the footings, it would have cut his profit and he would have clawed that back by cutting corners later on down the project. So i did the "right" thing and managed to figure out a way of mitigating the 12cm mistake by 6cm. This is a big concession on my part because it compromises on the amount of insulation above the beam and it also involves a non standard detail to the cavity wall which has taken a while to persuade the BCO is compliant and has stressed me about future damp issues no end. None of this was the structural engineer's fault or the architect fault's. It was the builder's fault for being so over confident and it was my fault for not recognising this when he told me to F off. 

 

this smells odd to me. What sort of 'qualified' SE would provide a drawing and  not specify the exact dimensions and spec of steels to be used? Someone is telling porkies.

 

The fact that you have got a SE that is miles away is your fault not the builders.

 

This is 100% your fault and in turn 100% your architect and then 100% the SE

 

Waaaay to many cooks in the kitchen.

 

I'm with the builder on this. Firing off emails is crap as well, talk to him.

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2 hours ago, Dave Jones said:

 

this smells odd to me. What sort of 'qualified' SE would provide a drawing and  not specify the exact dimensions and spec of steels to be used? Someone is telling porkies.

 

The fact that you have got a SE that is miles away is your fault not the builders.

 

This is 100% your fault and in turn 100% your architect and then 100% the SE

 

Waaaay to many cooks in the kitchen.

 

I'm with the builder on this. Firing off emails is crap as well, talk to him.

Not sure what planet you self build on @Dave Jones, but on this planet it is standard practice for SEs to specify the type of steels and the connection details for domestic projects but NOT the actual dimensions. Actual dimensions need to be taken on site. When I challenged the builder on this, he eventually admitted that he had misread a floorplan.

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56 minutes ago, Adsibob said:

Not sure what planet you self build on @Dave Jones, but on this planet it is standard practice for SEs to specify the type of steels and the connection details for domestic projects but NOT the actual dimensions. Actual dimensions need to be taken on site. When I challenged the builder on this, he eventually admitted that he had misread a floorplan.

 

total tosh.

 

Either its built to the SE drawing or its not.

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An approach could be to turn it all on its head and ask the builder if he wants to carry on? Acknowledge there have been issues and he may not be that happy with how things have gone so far. Give him time to think about it and then reconvene. If he does then have a chat about his and your expectations. As the build progresses there will be lots of decisions to be made and delays (whether down to contractor, architect, SE, suppliers or clients) - so really important to reset the relationship to a collaborative one or end it as soon as you can, IMHO.

 

Just an idea, if you are having these thought, chances are he is too. If so I would want to know how committed he is and if he isn't then so be it.

 

Maybe a controversial idea!

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1 hour ago, Dave Jones said:

 

total tosh.

 

Either its built to the SE drawing or its not.

Any drawings package that an average SE prepares for an average conversion does not specify lengths of beams. That is a market practice and reflects the fact that even with the most detailed measured survey of a property, until it is gutted and its structure is exposed the exact dimensions of the required beams would not be capable of being ascertained. I've done several conversions (with different SEs) and that's just how it is. Assumptions one makes about one house just don't apply to another house. It may well be different with a new build, because with a new build there is nothing much to measure on site at the outset because you just have a plot of land and so everything can be drawn exactly and built exactly to that drawing. But with a conversion, as has already been pointed out on this thread, there are a bunch of unknowns which until the house is gutted cannot be established. E.g. how thick 60 year plaster is, how much space there is under the subfloor before one hits the ground; how deep that is before one exposes the corbels etc.

This is why the architect (who is also effectively  project managing and coordinating things and who hired the SE) offered the builder to check his measurements BEFORE the builder ordered the beams. The builder's exact words were "it is not his job to check my measurements" and told the architect and me to mind our own business. In those circumstances, I fail to see how it is anyone but the builder's fault. But I've learned from that experience, and the architect and I are checking things more thoroughly now.
Anyway, I first posted this over 6 weeks ago. Since then things have improved tremendously and I'm generally quite happy with the builder.

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1 hour ago, DragsterDriver said:

The engineer will tell you what size steels but not the lengths or heights :) 

For all:

 

A thing that is worth while putting on your drawings for conversions / refurb if you are an SE is an approximate steel size. State this is to be confirmed by the contractor on site along with a note that explains the allowable tolerance. For example it's good to see a note such as.. "this steel beam has been designed to accommodate an increase in length of up to +/- 50mm. Should the site measured length increase beyond this then the SE should be consulted prior to fabrication" or words to that effect.

 

I'm a bit surprised that on a refurb / conversion the founds were not fully explored at the very early stage of the design. This is fundamental to any conversion / refirb etc. You must understand what it is sitting on and what you propose will impact on the sub structure.

 

Strolling now through the design process. On a barn conversion, extensive refurb say your Achitect should have discussed with you the benefits of getting and SE in early, the design/cost risk if you don't. If you are resistant to this (unless with very good reason) then they should walk away from you as a Client.. An SE should also walk you through the structures side and explain how and what they need to do to realise the Architectural design and how they are going to collaborate with the Architectural designer while keeping an eye on the structure cost which you often don't see. Again if you are resistant to this then you should be left to your own devices. As a Client why buy a dog and bark yourself?

 

Sort this out and it gives the contactor a clear view of what they need to do, how they will make a fair and justified profit, what help and support they will get from the design team when problems occur and what the concequences will be if they don't hold up their end of the bargin. Have a fair contract and you are well on your way.

 

On a refurb / conversion this can fundamentally impact on the design process / cost. Not just in terms of the structural design but on how you deal with the design / interface of the insultation envelope and the associated labour / material cost. Often understanding the existing founds, level changes, the existing wall construction, moisture control leads you to the simple stupid option which is effective and most cost effective.

 

From time to time you can, if you get your SE in early and are prepared to open stuff up (intrusive investigation) then you can get your steel work and fabrication drawings pretty much spot on. You need to spend the money up front with the SE, opening up / exposing founds, but it reduces your risk later on. Also, the more information you gather early can allow for a more collaborative approach which tends to be more enjoyable for all involved in the project.

 

Lastly, if folk are enjoying the job they may be a little less heavy handed wth the invoice pencil and spend more time getting the job done.

 

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42 minutes ago, DragsterDriver said:

Nope. They’ll tell you say “152x152x26 UB” or whatever and it’s position. Not the length or install height. 

 

 

Agreed.  Typically shown as dashed line on plan, with member key speccing section size plus detail drawings of padstones, foundations and connections.  Length and height not specified but can be worked out from architect drawings.

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18 hours ago, Adsibob said:

Any drawings package that an average SE prepares for an average conversion does not specify lengths of beams. That is a market practice and reflects the fact that even with the most detailed measured survey of a property, until it is gutted and its structure is exposed the exact dimensions of the required beams would not be capable of being ascertained. I've done several conversions (with different SEs) and that's just how it is. Assumptions one makes about one house just don't apply to another house. It may well be different with a new build, because with a new build there is nothing much to measure on site at the outset because you just have a plot of land and so everything can be drawn exactly and built exactly to that drawing. But with a conversion, as has already been pointed out on this thread, there are a bunch of unknowns which until the house is gutted cannot be established. E.g. how thick 60 year plaster is, how much space there is under the subfloor before one hits the ground; how deep that is before one exposes the corbels etc.

This is why the architect (who is also effectively  project managing and coordinating things and who hired the SE) offered the builder to check his measurements BEFORE the builder ordered the beams. The builder's exact words were "it is not his job to check my measurements" and told the architect and me to mind our own business. In those circumstances, I fail to see how it is anyone but the builder's fault. But I've learned from that experience, and the architect and I are checking things more thoroughly now.
Anyway, I first posted this over 6 weeks ago. Since then things have improved tremendously and I'm generally quite happy with the builder.

It is great news that things have improved with your builder - how did you get it back on track with him?

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37 minutes ago, Andy brown said:

It is great news that things have improved with your builder - how did you get it back on track with him?

I made it clear that I was very upset about the mistake, without actually pointing the finger at him. Rather than point the finger and say "you're an idiot, you f***ed up", I tried a more diplomatic tack and said that I wanted to avoid any more mistakes and asked him to work more closely with my architect so that there are no further "miscommunications" and i emphasised that he shouldn't make any assumptions, that if he's in doubt he should call the architect direct and ask. I also showed the builder I was ready to compromise on certain things if he was too.

I also insisted that my architect meet with me and the builder at least twice a week, unless both thought it really wasn't necessary. Most weeks we've done two meetings a week and it has helped create a better working relationship. 

There is still a hell of a lot to do, and the builder has fallen behind a bit, but hopefully things will start to pick up now that the structural works are almost finished. Touch wood!

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15 hours ago, Adsibob said:

... at least twice a week, unless both thought it really wasn't necessary. Most weeks we've done two meetings a week and it has helped create a better working relationship. 

 

If you feel at any point that the meeting is necessary, even if those two don't think it is, - insist on a meeting. Someone else's gut feel is not your gut feel. It is  you who have to live with the end product.

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