​Keep things on track with your tradesperson with regular, open communication. Know what to expect and your responsibilities as a client.

Establishing a good relationship with your tradesperson is key to a successful and stress-free project. As with any relationship, you need open communication, respect and trust on both sides.

Communicate well

1. Have a pre-contract meeting

Discuss:

  • working hours
  • times and length of lunch and tea breaks
  • whether they will do weekend work
  • what happens in bad weather
  • the stages of the build — who will do what, and when
  • the process if something unexpected comes up
  • what documentation you'll get at the end of the job
  • what your builder needs from you, eg toilets, powerpoints, parking.

2. Agree a formal communication schedule

  • weekly meetings, phone calls or emails
  • walkthroughs, if you're living offsite.

3. Keep up informal communication

Regular conversations, whether by phone, email, text or in person, help to maintain the relationship and ensure everyone knows where things are at.

If there are small things you notice you would like sorted, collate them into a list and email it to your builder once a week. This makes it easier to keep track of, and avoids sidetracking them from the big stuff.

Make sure your tradesperson isn't telling you what they think you want to hear. Ask them to be frank.

Be a good client

To help the project run smoothly and maintain a good relationship, you should:

  • be available during work hours so your tradesperson can check things with you if they need to
  • listen, read and understand any advice, queries or documents
  • ask questions if there is anything you're not sure about
  • raise issues early
  • be clear and specific about what you want
  • give your contractors space to do their jobs
  • make any ground rules clear at the beginning, eg shoes off inside, whether they're allowed on the neighbour's property
  • provide the essentials — a toilet, parking, access to power, workspace clear of children, pets and clutter
  • be friendly — the offer of a cup of tea and biscuits aren't essential but can go a long way in supporting a good working relationship
  • make payments on time.

Homeowner rights and obligations(external link) — Building Performance

The best way to avoid issues is to keep talking with your tradesperson. If you have any concerns, raise them as soon as you can.

What to expect from your tradesperson

Your tradesperson should:

  • provide all required documentation
  • be honest and explain what is going on in language you can understand
  • raise issues early
  • respect any house rules
  • do the agreed work and stick to the contract
  • meet Building Code requirements
  • leave the house safe and liveable
  • fix any defective building work you tell them about within 12 months of the building being completed.

Builder and designer rights and obligations(external link) — Building Performance

Common issues and how to avoid them

Raise any concerns as soon as possible.

It's common for clients and tradies to have different understandings or expectations about the:

  • terms agreed in the contract
  • level of quality and finish (eg, understanding that a quote was cheaper because it included lower quality products)
  • scale of the project, including time and complexity.

Repeat back to your tradesperson what you think you have agreed. It can help you spot if either of you has misinterpreted what the other has said.

You should only withhold payment if you have serious concerns about the quality and timeliness of work. Otherwise, stick to the agreed payment schedule, and pay invoices within the specified timeframe.

Things often come up during the course of a build or renovation that mean plans have to change. Make sure you understand the time and cost implications of any changes, and discuss with your contractor if you have any concerns. Agree changes in writing — by updating and signing your contract or agreeing by email.

Don't keep making changes to the plan unless there's a good reason to — especially changes that affect the consents or when sub contractors can do their work.

When things go wrong

Talk to your contractor as soon as any issue comes up — it might just be a misunderstanding. If you have ongoing or serious problems, you will need to take extra steps.

Read more about Dealing with disputes