So you have decided the scope of works, found the builder at the right cost and are going to protect yourself by placing him under contract. In theory, this is all going in the right direction, but there are banana skins that you need to consider.
If you have specified everything completely, and are asking builder for a turn-key operation where he supplies everything, then to be fair the process should be reasonably straight forward. It’s just a case of using the correct contract, and having a Contract Administrator in place. (unless using one of the small contracts for very minor works of say £25k ish)
However, if you are considering supplying certain items such as bathroom sanitryware, windows, wall tiles, or floor coverings for example, then you need to be careful, or else the contract has more holes in it than a trawler-man’s fishing net.
Lets say that you have agreed on 36 weeks for the works, with a penalty clause (liquidated damages) for running over time. You had better make sure that every “client supply” item hits the site bang on time; not too soon (I’ll get to that in a minute) or too late, as it will no doubt effect the builder’s programme and therefore place the job into client inflicted delays, with all manner of excuses and consequences.
And what about when the said sanitryware pitches up on site. Who is responsible for both accepting the product and keeping it safe? Builder?; maybe, but if he is not technically supplying it then he might not worry too much if your lovely bath get damaged before, during, or after it is fitted?.
More importantly, at handover when you find that the bath is scratched, how can you hold builder responsible if he did not supply it as part of the contract works.
Whilst it sounds like a good idea for you to supply certain key items to save a few quid, the reality is that by the time you have written a myriad of caveats into the contract to protect against the above, the builder will apply costs at least the equivalent of any savings, so you might just as well include the items within his scope, but perhaps as nominated suppliers where you still specify/choose at an agreed cost, but he orders and supplies within his scope, therefore taking on liability for them.
One serious aspect of a contract that few people realise, regarding the agreed period for the works and agreed programme, needs to be borne in mind.
Imagine that you have agreed say 36 weeks for the works to be completed based on the programme as submitted and agreed. Then after 8 weeks, he is slipping behind programme, and by 15 weeks you know very well that he has more chance of becoming the next F1 world champion than completing your works on time.
In theory, and according to most standard contracts, you agree to the job taking (in this case) 36 weeks, and effectively turn the site over to the builder for this amount of time.
So even though you feel during this period that he is not performing as advertised, there is little you can do about it until he has actually NOT completed at the end of the agreed period, which is when technically the builder is in breach of the contract.
Of course this does not help you during the works when you know without doubt that you are heading for tears at bedtime, but can do little about it.
Now whilst there are clauses in standard contracts that address “Failure to proceed regularly and diligently”; to implement such a clause is both messy and requires very particular procedures along the way.
The secret is to not arrive at this position in the first place, by getting the correct advice: before, and during the build from an experienced Project Manager. (ahem)