We love when we get to do a Q&A with someone like Andrew from Slabba's Tiling, Melbourne. The great thing about this Q&A is Andrew is an experienced Tiler as well as an Owner Builder.
Here's what he had to say…
Tell us a little about your Owner Builder project.
I've added an extension to an existing house as an Owner Builder. I’m a tiler by trade, have been for 24 years so I’m in the business and have good contacts. My trade also means I have a general idea of what needs to be done which helped me get my Owner Builder permit.
You've found the process easy, why is that?
The right connections have really helped me. As well as my own contacts, my carpenter was able to recommended a surveyor, a bricklayer and other trades so that made it easy for me as they came recommended.
For someone not in the industry, my personal view is to speak with friends or anyone for that matter because word of mouth is the way to go. Don’t be shy and ask questions because there are plenty of people able to guide you.
Recommendation is key.
As a tradie, do you still get quotes?
I still get at least 3 quotes regardless as I still want to know the going rate. It doesn’t always mean I go with the cheapest quote. For example, my plumber doing my Colourbond roofing, he wasn't the cheapest but he was recommended. So for an extra $300 to $400, I was more inclined to get him than getting someone that I don't know just to save on price.
Price shouldn’t always be a deciding factor.
How do you keep records of everything?
I keep all paperwork including receipts of work that’s been done. This helped with tracking spend and staying on budget (not exceed our limit).
Staying on budget is key with any kind of renovation because it’s very easy to go above budget.
Always allow a buffer. The buffer helps if switching to better equipment or materials. For example, a downlight that’s $2 more than budgeted.
What are your biggest tips when it comes to the start of the build?
There's nothing worse than having a tradesmen come to your job site and it's not ready, so being organised is key. It helps with the timing of the trades. For example, I have my bricklayer, he'll come in and I make sure there are no other trades around him to delay him from finishing the job.
Safety is paramount.
Have the work site safe. Because I’m doing an extension it involved demolition so there was a need to remove a lot of existing timber from the house. Having a mini skip on-site helps to keep the site clean.
You don't want to have any injuries because the site's not up to standard.
Safety also includes things like extension cords being kept to the side so people don’t trip. All of this is important especially if you do have tradies working next to other tradies.
Keep the site as safe as possible.
What’s the trick to ensuring your trades are on-site at the right time?
The trick is you're never going to be able to get everybody to come in when you want. You need to know the order of the build (find it here) and give the tradesperson at least 1 week notice. Be lenient and give minimum of a week.
What insight can you give to Owner Builders who also work full-time?
I'm very fortunate to work for myself and that allows me to focus on the extension. For me to be on-site, hands on, I'm actually getting the work done faster.
There’ve been times when I’ve been getting the supplies to site as well. This saves me $$ because I’m paying trades by the hour, so instead of getting them to go out and get supplies, I do it on my time. Or the supplies are delivered.
Me being on-site full-time also means the work can progress a lot quicker compared to someone who goes to work 9 to 5. There were things I changed along the way and again, being onsite made that easier and trades can continue to working. This would be a slower process (or even hold up work) if explaining over the phone.
But if you're working a nine to five job and it's hard to take time off, then it's going to be a little more difficult because it’s not a short-term project. You’ve either got to think about whether you can take a couple of months off or at least request some flexibility to leave work and get on-site to be across the work.
Ask Yourself: Do I have the option of taking time off work or ask for flexibility during the critical stages?
What are your top tips for Owner Builders?
- My biggest tip is to be very patient especially with trades. Give them enough time to do their work.
- Communication is so important. Always communicating with all trades. Be fair and understanding.
- Its really important to have good relationships with your trades – keep them happy!
- Do your homework in terms of your quotes. Know what materials they include in quotes so you can compare apples with apples. This is crucial because any kind of work uses different quality materials which impacts price. For example, for me as a tiler there are many different adhesives available. I choose to use an expensive adhesive, but that's why my price is not as cheap as a different tiler who would use a cheap adhesive. Material side of things is very important. What they use and how they go about it.
- Always ask a trade how they charge i.e. an hourly rate, daily rate or total job rate.
A very big thank you Andrew from Slabba’s Tiling, Melbourne for your insight into being an Owner Builder from a Tiler's perspective.