Is Your Builder Cutting Corners?

Jun 14, 2019

dodgy builders canberra

According to a recent article in the Canberra Times, complaints about building and planning in the ACT are up 40% compared to this time last year.

When it comes to builders, the most common logged complaints include:

  • concerns that building works are not compliant;
  • the quality of works;
  • concerns structures may not be approved;
  • safety issues;
  • non-completion of works; and
  • defects and warranties.

As in any industry, there will always be people who try to cut corners so they can save a little time or money. Unfortunately, the one who ends up paying for it is you – either through an incomplete, inferior quality or non-compliant build.

So, how can you spot a dodgy builder before it’s too late? Be on the lookout for these signs:

No cost for preparing a formal tender

There is a best practice process for preparing a formal quote, which assures the builder and the client that the house they want to build is absolutely achievable.

Given the need to perform site surveys, liaise with council, get DA approval, draft and finalise the custom building design, audit the drawings to make sure the design can be built, prepare detailed specifications, obtain quotes from suppliers and contractors, prepare a Bill of Quantities, calculate the cost of hundreds of items, and more, the official quoting process takes between 40-60 hours to complete!

Prior to this, you might be able to get a “ball park figure” or estimate, but a formal quote for a custom designed and built home should never be free.

Surprisingly low quotes

If you get a quote from one builder that is substantially less than others, you should be suspicious.

We all take a similar process to get the job done, and we all need to source similar materials. So if one builder comes in a lot cheaper, it’s unlikely that it’s because they want to help you out. They may be planning to do things on the cheap (resulting in low quality work, non-compliance and even danger to on-site workers, the environment, or you).

Or, they may not be very good at managing the quoting process which leaves you at risk of a builder who goes broke while building your house.

Builders who do not charge a sufficient margin to cover their expenses (office administration, insurances, vehicles, labour, etc.) soon find themselves in a predicament that very often becomes the client’s predicament.

Keep in mind that a builder who charges less than a 20% gross profit margin is considered a medium-high financial risk by building industry insurers.

They’re non-compliant

A builder who chooses not to comply with building best practice, and even the law, often does so out of ignorance or a desire to save a few dollars.

Here are a few ways to spot non-compliance:

  • You ask to see their insurance and they won’t show you, or they do and they’re missing basics such as fire and theft
  • They’re not a member of HIA or MBA
  • Your site doesn’t have a portable toilet
  • There’s no site fencing
  • Absence of erosion control measures
  • No scaffold/fall protection
  • Rubbish is buried on the site (or may be dumped illegally)

Unfortunately you won’t be able to tell if they’re skimping on things like Work Health and Safety, Workers Comp or taxes. The only way to know on this one is if a man in a suit shows up and shuts the site down, or the builder tells you they’ve gone belly up during your build.

Of course, most builders aren’t like this. And if they are, they don’t last long. The key to finding a great builder for your home is to ask a lot of questions, do your own research, stay vigilant, and look for a company that has been around for a while. That way, you can rest assured that no one is cutting corners, and you get the home you’ve been planning for at the end of it all.

For more information on building with a reputable, established building company in Canberra, please call Danny or Robert Rosin on 6247 4799 or email

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