Undertaking a bathroom renovation can be an exhilarating and exciting experience. The end result with good quality fixtures and fittings, professional workmanship and everything delivered on time and on budget. If it was only so! The question is then posed – what could go wrong, or what went wrong when it is already too late? Why spend an exuberant amount of money and have a bitter taste in your mouth. A bathroom renovation which was the highlight of the year which was supposed to see the next 10 years and beyond, all of a sudden shattered.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. We have valuable advice below which will ensure that you don’t fall into unnecessary and unfortunately even potentially malicious and scandalous traps which could make renovating a disaster. Below are 7 tips which, if not applied can become fatal mistakes:
- Is your renovator a Registered Building Practitioner? It is imperative that you contract a licensed builder to undertake and co-ordinate the works. By being registered, he will need to ensure that all necessary certificates and warranties are provided. A very common mistake that people make is that they employ DIY individuals who do the entire works themselves. This is now illegal and unfortunately, there is no real recourse against such ‘tradesmen.’ Today he is a ‘tiler’ tomorrow he is a ‘taxi driver’ no longer associated with the building industry. It is imperative that a domestic building contract is signed with your renovator ensuring that all items and warranties are specified. One who is NOT registered, will not be able to provide you with such guarantees. Even if s/he says that they can, unless they are registered and have the necessary insurances, then it is risky. A non-registered ‘builder’ will in most cases not comply with warranties and will find every excuse not to return back to site. An example is a double storey house which had an upstairs bathroom renovated. The waterproof membrane failed within a month after works were undertaken and the ‘renovator’ was asked to return. He advised that he did not know who these people were and the matter was left unresolved. This leads us to point 2.
- Make sure you keep a record of all invoices paid and AVOID paying cash. When you have all necessary documents, namely invoices, bank statements, warranties and receipts, you are able to verify that the shady ‘renovator’ undertook the repairs at your property. Whilst this is re-assuring, unfortunately, even if you take him/her to the tribunal, it is unlikely that you will achieve a desirable outcome as many of these individuals don’t declare personal assets and as such, monetary compensation is rarely enforced. Whilst it can be argued that you can escalate the legal matter higher, in practice, such actions may end up costing more than the actual renovation with no real outcomes.
- Ensure that you select the fittings and fixtures that you desire and have it stipulated on the contract. To ensure that you get the bathroom that you want, ensure that your builder provides you with a list of options (ideally a show room) of tiles, tap ware, shower heads, and every applicable fixture. You will need to identify the location of any shower niches and ensure that they have been factored into the pricing as well as the dimension of the shower base as well as its design (will it be a long grate or a standard chrome grate centred). Furthermore, you need to consult with the builder about the shower screen and its design. Are you able to fit a fixed panel or will you require a frameless or semi frameless screen? These and other questions will need to be considered prior to commencing works.
- Plan your budget. What is your realistic expectation? Whilst it is natural for a client to want to keep the budget to a minimum, a good and honest builder will need to ensure that there is a reasonable profit margin for him to take on the works. DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME AND THE BUILDER’S TIME! In reference to point 1 – you find that the unregistered ‘practitioners’ are the ones who are undercutting everyone else – this is because they have nothing to lose as usually there is no recourse against them. It is advisable that you set a budget in which an honest builder can work with (assuming that he is an honest builder). The builder can advise realistically what you can achieve in your described budget and it is also advisable that you seek his advice as to the best quality products based on the allocated funds. A professional builder may ask you for your projected budget and if you are uncertain, that it is not unreasonable for him/her to refuse to quote. This is because time is finite and so are resources. A builder has to allocate at least an hour to quote in addition to travel time and fuel and vehicle expenses. As such, he may refuse demand a charge to quote or decline to visit the property. Furthermore, once a budget is planned, it sets a precedence for both the builder and the client to stick to this budget. Additionally, you need to ensure that there is a cash reserve for potential variations. A builder is to advise if he foresees any risks, yet in many cases, these are unforeseen circumstances which could not have been projected. A recent example is stripping the floor from tiles to discover damaged joists due to termites. A variation had to be issued to replace the necessary joists.
- Price is NOT always everything, reputation and character is! Sometimes, it is safer to work with a more experienced and reputable builder and contractor who is reliable and pleasant. A good builder MUST understand that a bathroom renovation (regardless of the cost) is generally not a small expense and that the client is taking a big step in order to undertake these works. This relates financially but also in lifestyle for the lifecycle of the renovation. One must assume, that the owner will continue living at the property whilst the renovation is being undertaken. As such, the builder needs to be time conscious to ensure that the disturbances to lifestyle are minimal. A renovation which takes one month (or slightly more) should not be dragged out longer. A person living in a state where there is building debris, dust and building contractors coming and going will eventually become anxious and agitated. The builder therefore has to provide constant updates to the client and update on projected finish times. Therefore, it is sometimes more feasible to pay a builder who may be slightly more expensive (within the $1k-1.5k range) to ensure that the works are carried out professionally with high care and dignity for the property. Failure to contract the correct builder may result in extended delays and many pathetic excuses. An owner should also ensure that he/she is not the impediment to a smooth undertaking and completion of works. Unfortunately, this is too common as well.
- Developing a positive relationship between the builder and client. A bathroom renovation, like any renovation can be a pleasant experience or it can be a nightmare. Developing a strong communication and bond with the builder will ensure that the renovation experience is pleasant. It is therefore important to ‘feel the vibes’ during the quotation process. If you feel uncertain about a particular individual (builder) who has quoted, then even if he is price competitive, you may not get what you wanted. As such, you may request that he re-attends or have a phone conversation with him and prepare a list of questions. Whilst emails are also good and imperative for record purposes, it is important to get an understanding of the individual that you will be dealing with and to whom you are going to be paying a good sum of money to undertake works at your property. As such, we strongly recommend meditating on this process and determining who will be the choicest builder. If the builder with whom you believe you can work with was more expensive, do not be shy to call and see whether he/she can drop the price. You may be surprised! We only recommend to do this, if you really believe that this is the builder for you. Do not be disappointed if the builder does not oblige – as a good builder will always try to get the potential clients his best possible price.
- Less stress! Whilst a bathroom renovation can be stressful and certainly a lot of anxiety, as we have already pointed out, nonetheless, a good decent builder and contractor will always work hard for the clients to achieve the desired finish. Stress can strain a relationship and affect the quality of the build and the lifecycle of the renovation. We therefore recommend to take a deep breath, enjoy the ride and not be afraid to speak to the builder and ask for feedback. Humour is a good way to break a tense pattern. Realistically, if the builder whom you have selected is professional and maintains a thorough communication line with you the client, then there is no reason to stress!
Good luck with your bathroom renovation and may your expectations be fulfilled!