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What and who you need before hiring a contractor in South Africa

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
House Marshall Modern houses by Beton Haus (PTY) LTD Modern
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No two building / constructing projects need be the same, which means everything from your budget and timeline to your type of professionals will differ from another’s. However, there are certain things that always remain the same, including the steps you need to take before hiring the right contractor.

And these are those steps…

1. Know the importance of plans / drawings

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Municipalities are doing more to put a stop to illegal building work. Remember that any structure with a solid roof must have an approved plan and needs to be constructed within the building line setbacks for the property. If it’s a garage or car port, consent from your neighbour is necessary. 

Building inspectors are required to inspect a home before it’s sold so they can issue a rates clearance certificate. This is in order to determine that what has been built is reflected on the approved plans they have on record. 

When there is no plan for building work, it is up to the owner to submit an as-built plan to the municipality.

Should the work conform to the relevant building- and zoning regulations, there shouldn’t be any issues. Otherwise you could be liable for the structural amendments, possibly even the demolishing of the entire structure. 

2. Find the potential contractors

In the process of finding potential contractors, you may want to go to the websites of professional organizations or regional bodies to check a candidate's credentials. Note that you have to beware of the contractor's expertise and types of work. For example, if a contractor works on new builds on a sub-contractual basis, it doesn't make sense to check if the firm is NHBRC registered, as the registration is only required for prime contractors.

Coming highly recommended is Cape Town-based Beton Haus, a construction company specializing in structural concrete and home renovations. With more than 40 years’ experience in the building industry, Beton Haus is relied on by numerous clients for their top-notch services. These services include (but are not limited to) painting, flooring, plastering, steel fixing, and electrical structural amendments. 

3. Interview your shortlist

Once you’ve done a bit of searching for potential contractors, draw up a shortlist of at least three professionals. During the interview / initial meeting, think about including the following questions:

• How many projects have you worked on?

• Have you worked on projects that are similar to mine? 

• Can you show me some examples of previous projects?

• Can you provide me with your customer references?

• Can I see proof of insurance? 

4. Compare the quotes

To help your candidates draw up the relevant quotes, present them with a drawing, a specification, and a pricing schedule for your project. Your architect can help you set these up. Take note of the following:

• Watch out for items that have been deliberately excluded by the builder on his quotation. These usually denote items you have to pay for yourself. Compare this quote with the others to see if that item is included. 

• Ask your builder to include rates in his quote for items that you may wish to extend during the contract. 

• Request quotes that neatly show the breakdown of all the costs instead of lump sums. This allows you to better compare the various quotes, plus know exactly how much you’re paying for what. 

• Be on the lookout for provisional cost items regarding the quality of those items. Most of these should be covered by the specification. If items like taps, for example, are not covered by the specification, ensure your builder has priced a reasonable quality product in his quotation. 

5. Contract and payment

Agreeing on a payment schedule which fits both parties is crucial. Generally speaking, most small concrete contractors in South Africa require 50% upfront for materials and labour, and 40-45% prior to casting concrete, with the remaining 5-10% on stripping. When it comes to larger contracts and renovations, these payments come in the form of draws, with a 25% upfront deposit and regular draws based on works completed. 

Remember: always listen to your sixth sense when it comes to choosing a contractor. This will be a professional working relationship and you will be spending lots of time together. Thus, you must feel 100% comfortable communicating with them and allow them near your home and family (depending on your type of project). 

From one professional to another, let’s indulge in An interview with Johannesburg interior design firm Spegash Interiors

Which structural / building project will you need a contractor for?
Modern houses by Casas inHAUS Modern

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