Legally all builds need a building SURVEYOR. They are appointed by you, the owner, but if you choose one of the 3 Porter Davis like to use, and push under your nose during the Tender stage, then they will pay the cost of the Surveyor.
The SURVEYORS’ responsibility is to check the house pre-slab pour, at frame stage and at the end of the build.
They are checking for major code violations and any deviations from the engineer’s plans. They do not pay attention to every small detail of the build despite who is paying them. There can be only 1 Surveyor appointed to a house build.
People will often use building INSPECTORS, as they will look at every small detail in your house build and make sure the build is happening in accordance with your plans and in accordance with the building code or the manufacturer’s guidelines for the installation and use of their product. These are things that most people know very little about, and the Surveyor is not concerned about; therefore this is the reason most people will choose to have an INSPECTOR as well as the legally required SURVEYOR.
Also, people feel that the Inspector is working for them and have their best interests at heart, whereas the SURVEYOR is just ticking the boxes to make sure there are no major structural issues with the build.
The main difference between them is that the builder can not complete the house unless the SURVEYOR signs off on each stage. The builder does not have to comply with any direction from an INSPECTOR. So both of them have their place.
So, what do you get from an independent building inspector and why should you pay your hard-earned cash for something when the builder should be building your house up to code anyway.
Well, there are many interpretations of what is acceptable; the building code states that it should be:
- A. built to code and
- B. built in a Workmanlike manner.
No matter whether you get your house built privately or through a volume builder, you should expect this to happen, however, it is not always the case, or better phased as – there is a lot of room for movement and interpretation of ‘Workmanlike manner’.
First off, can you afford it?
Well, my Dad once told me if you can’t afford to service a car, then you can’t afford to buy one. The same goes for a house. If you can’t afford to get someone in to check that the house will be built correctly, then you can’t afford to build one to start with.
The cost is 1% of the whole build – don’t cheap out now.
We went with Darbecca as they had so many great reviews from people on https://forum.homeone.com.au and admittedly, we didn’t look around at anyone else. However, since having built and used them, I can and will certainly recommend them.
Below is the pricing we were quoted in July 2017 – so things may have changed a little.
Stage Inspections Double Storey – (Standard Pricing Double Storey) – Discount Pricing
Pre Pour/Steel Inspections ($490.00 + GST RRP) $470.00 + GST discounted
Slab Inspection ($330.00 + GST RRP) $0 (combined with frame inspection)
Frame Inspection ($539.00 + GST RRP) $490.00 + GST (inc. complimentary slab inspection)
Pre Plaster ($539.00 + GST RRP) $490.00 + GST (inc. complimentary frame reinspection)
Pre Paint/Fixing Inspections ($539.00 + GST RRP) $490.00 + GST
Waterproofing Inspections ($430.00 + GST RRP) $390.00 + GST ($120.00 + GST if combined with Fixing)
Final Inspections ($730.00 + GST RRP) $590.00 + GST
Re Inspections ($425.00 + GST RRP) $390.00 + GST
The pricing above is based on a standard 2 bathroom, 4 bedroom home to a maximum of 40sq.
As our house was outside of these parameters, we incurred additional charges due to having 4 bathrooms, 5 bedrooms and the size and complexity of the home.
Stage Inspections Double Storey – (Standard Pricing Double Storey) – Discount Pricing
Pre Pour/Steel Inspections ($490.00 + GST RRP) $470.00 + GST
Slab Inspection ($430.00 + GST RRP) $0 (combined with frame inspection)
Frame Inspection ($639.00 + GST RRP) $590.00 + GST (inc. complimentary slab inspection)
Pre Plaster ($639.00 + GST RRP) $590.00 + GST (inc. complimentary frame reinspection)
Pre Paint/Fixing Inspections ($639.00 + GST RRP) $590.00 + GST
Waterproofing Inspections ($530.00 + GST RRP) $490.00 + GST ($220.00 + GST if combined with Fixing)
Final Inspections ($830.00 + GST RRP) $690.00 + GST
Re Inspections ($525.00 + GST RRP) $490.00 + GST
Red Spay paint is the Independent Inspectors markings
I would recommend that you get all the inspections done, from Pre Pour through to the Final, however in saying that, we did skip the Pre Paint/Fixing one and it made things more involved in the Final inspection/ PCI. If I did it all again, I would not skip any.
Pre Pour/Steel: This inspection is conducted the afternoon prior to the slab being poured. They endeavour to schedule this inspection for a time that sees all works fully completed and with the concreters in attendance during the time of the inspection, i.e. the day before the slab pour or the morning of. This allows for the defects to be rectified during the course of the inspection; our Slab supervisor was super cooperative.
Once I had been provided with an approximate date of the Slab pour, I contacted Darbecca and made a tentative booking; more information is better than less at this stage as things can move very quickly. Darbecca got the name and number of the Slub Supervisor off us and rang him directly to arrange the date and time of the inspection, although I was still involved, the two men had worked it out with very little back and forth from me as the go-between. You get 2x Supervisors on your build – one for the slab and one for the rest of your build, the Slab Super is doing a lot of these over and over again, they get to know the Inspectors and a good Inspector will form a good relationship with them.
If we had not had Darbecca, we would have ended up with our main water and gas feed in the middle of our guest bedroom despite the building SURVEYOR already having come on-site and signed off on everything – I know this because I was there the day it was all prepped. The Surveyor turned up, did a quick walk around, made a sarcastic comment to me when I asked about a potential concrete leak / overpour area and left, then approximately 30min or so later our Inspector showed up and made a long list of areas of improvement. All of which were fixed immediately by the Slab Supervisors ground crew who were on site.
Once your slab has been poured, all subsequent inspections were coordinated by us, as the slab is the only one on a very short time frame.
We communicated with our Building Coordinator, our Tender presenter, our Contract presenter and our Site Supervisor that we were getting an independent Inspector but in no way does PD coordinate with them directly after the slab is laid.
Slab/Frame: The frame should be 100% complete for this inspection. This includes roof trusses and bracing, but before the sisalation /paper wrapping or the roof goes on.
They will go around with spray paint and mark the areas of concern and also send you another report.
This was the potential over pour area I pointed out to the useless Independent SURVEYOR who was so rude to me and made a sarcatic comment about ‘what did I know’ and ‘what do you think’ – Well they didn’t and my Independent INSPECTOR picked it up and now it’s going to be fixed.
Frame Re-inspection/Pre Plaster: This inspection takes place once all wall straightening has been completed, and all plumbing, electrical and ducted heated rough-ins have also been completed. Ideally, the brickwork/Hebel should be done as well. However, some sites have a “reverse build” process where the brickwork/Hebel may not be completed at this stage but can be checked in subsequent inspections as required.
They also do a frame re-inspection at this point to make sure any defects pulled up before have been rectified. This frame re-inspection is completed free of charge, provided that the property had been inspected at the Slab/Frame stage.
Some inspectors have a lockup inspection, however, the terminology “lockup” is an industry-standard expression to describe a stage payment claim and does not necessarily mean the home is securely “locked up”.
If you are getting this stage done, it is very important that NO plaster is installed, once the plaster is up – it hides everything – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Pre Paint/Fixing: This inspection is conducted prior to any paintwork after the plasterwork has been fully completed. This includes all architraves, skirting and internal doors. Brickwork/Hebel is also examined at this stage.
Now we skipped this stage and regretted doing so as some walls were out of plumb and not straight, it was fixed at PCI but made for a longer process.
Waterproofing: The waterproofing is checked in all wet rooms and includes the balcony areas on a double-storey home.
If you skip some stages – DO NOT skip this one, our guy picked up things we would not even have thought of, and it is a critical area.
Final/PCI: This inspection is conducted once you have been given a date and time for your walkthrough presentation with your site supervisor. All works should be 100% finalised (but they never are), and the occupancy certificate should be obtained, as is stated in your contract (but rarely is).
If you can, get your Inspector to go through the house before PCI, so you have the list ready when you go around with your Site Super.
What do your inspectors need?
Prior to the first inspection, you need to send them through a copy of:
- Soil Report
- Engineering Plans
- Stamped and Approved Building Plans and Specifications
- Engineering Plans for the Foundations, Articulation Joint Layout, Truss Layout and Bracing Layout Plans and Specifications
This is all provided to you by PD; you just have to gather and pass it on.
Working with both parties
I would recommend that you provide Porter Davis with an outline of the specific inspections that you plan on doing, along with a formal request (i.e., an email to both your Building coordinator and Site Supervisor) that they inform you at each stage, once the build is nearing readiness for an inspection.
Pick your battles.
It is an Independent inspectors job to point out every little thing that is wrong – they have to prove there worth, and this is what you are paying them for. However not everything on the list NEEDS fixing, and some things you can do yourself – why would you not get everything on the list done, I hear you ask – well you have to have a semi-working relationship with your site supervisor and thrusting a long list of thing under his/her nose and demanding that they be fixed is a great way to piss them off.
Read through the report, walk around on site (if you can) and eyeball them for yourself, you should break the list up into 3, the ‘must actions’, the ‘need to action’ and the ‘I can live without’ actioning. Then either re-write the list into an easy to consume/ ready to handover document or photocopy it and cross out the items that you don’t need to be fixed.
A little give can go a long way; we got a lot more fixed then we expected, simply by telling the Site Super that we understood not everything on the list would be fixed and that we took it with a grain of salt.
Do not just forward the list on and demand it all to be fixed; this is the reason why some volume builder charge extra if you are getting a private inspector in. We were lucky that we didn’t get this fee but many couples, only months after us, were asked to pay for the privilege – personal I would still have got them in despite the ‘Hassel Fee’ being charged.
From menormy, you get your slab report before you pay the invoice, but that is because the timelines are so tight on getting the remediation works done. All other reports are only sent to you after you have paid that inspections invoice, for us this was not a problem, and as soon as I emailed the admin girls that I had made the payment, they sent it over, not waiting for the funds to clear.
To view the full documents and see what our house reports looked like from Darbeccac – check them out in the below links:
Dave and I have often talked about the question of ‘Do you get a better quality build by using an Inspector’? By having a 3rd party look over their shoulder and constantly check their work? I think the answer is ‘Yes’ but that is just my opinion.