6 – Olive Stores – employing contractors

| 17th October 2015 | 0 Comments

How to Employ Builders and Sub-Contractors

Olive Stores, Brenchley, Kent TN12 7NQ

No 6 in series


Tradesmen subcontractors and builders


In the last article I informed you as to how you can find quality Builders / Sub-Contractors to price your works. Now I would like to tell you how best to select and employ your ‘Power Team’ to carry out the work. Employing Contractors, the right contractors, is essential to the success of your project.

Assessing the bids

So let’s assume you have selected your builders/sub-contractors and you have either:

  • met them on site, talked through the project and handed them the plans and any other supporting documents to
  • assist the pricing process or
  • sent out your tender pack (Plans, bill of quantities, specification) to them all with a return date of 2-3 weeks. (Give them more and they will use it)
  • Let’s say out of the five you met or sent the documents to 3 have submitted their price.

Now what you need to do is look carefully at not only the bottom line, but each item/price given. You need to look to see if there are any glaring errors and to see if they have put in provisional sums. (a price for an item that will require more information before it can be finalised).

Each contractor needs to have priced the same thing so check they have. If necessary send an all-encompassing letter/e-mail asking them to confirm they have included for this and that. When replying ask them to provide the following:

  • References – make sure you check them
  • Experience and qualifications especially when dealing with Gas, Electrics, Trees etc. Ask to see the CV’s of the key operatives who will be working on your project.
  • Public Liability insurance and if applicable Employers Liability Insurance.

Once you have all this and have met your contractors it will then be up to you to decide on who wins based on:

  • Price – which will need to be converted to a lump sum if possible
  • Experience
  • Capability
  • Availability
  • Relationship – Do you get on – A basic thing but essential.
  • Contact the winner and get contracts/agreements/programme signed before informing the others. Don’t burn your bridges just in case the contractor has taken on another job or after consideration doesn’t feel comfortable with his price or the work itself.

This happened to me with the plumbing. I selected my contractor and told the rest they had lost. I met the plumber on site, dealt with all the paper work but then asked for method Statement and he said “ a what”. I said it was a straight forward document which my CDM co-ordinator would help him with but that night he called to withdraw his commitment. I then had to call the 2nd place finisher and offer him the job. Fortunately he agreed once I had said how great he was and what a mistake I had made employing somebody who didn’t know what a Method Statement was.  He did, or he said he did and then consulted Google.

Employing Contractors


Make sure you agree a contract or sub-contract agreement with whoever you choose and within the contract/agreement detail the price agreed and how they will be paid by way of a schedule of payments. This helps you to control cashflow by paying all on the same day. Make sure you allow for a retention – Money kept back until all work and any snags have been completed.

Builder/Subbie relationship

If you are going to employ a builder for part of the work then employ sub-contractors for the rest – eg Builder for main structure to watertight then subbies thereafter – this is fine but please be aware that if you ask a subbie who is working for the builder on the first part to be involved on the second, he may not be willing to help. This is because he was brought to the project by the builder so it would feel wrong to him if he were to continue on site without you first speaking to the builder. You may come and go but his relationship with the builder is more long term.

Your Relationship with the Sub-Contractor

Agree a programme of works with the builder and each contractor and try to stick to it. Don’t make it too tight. Allow a bit of breathing space to allow for any delays.

On the Olive Stores project we overran on the first fix carpentry by 2 weeks so when the plasterers arrived it was chaos. We helped with the plasterboard fixing where we could but the end result was that I paid them an extra £2,000 due to lost time across their contract period.

Agree start dates but bear in mind that the above could happen or on the other side of the coin the subbie may be overrunning on their current project so may arrive later than planned. In essence plan for delays and overruns where possible. Have a project start date and a finish date with a float of time which you can use across the project.

Make up your mind and don’t change your mind where possible. My wife has a habit of asking for sockets and light fittings to be moved once they have been installed – first fix. If this happens, just be aware of the cost implications to the subbie and pay him an extra over (additional payment over and above his contract value) if required.

Follow on trades. Make sure the work that has been completed by one trade prior to the arrival of another is of a good enough standard that the next trade will be able to get on with his work without delay. No contractor wants to follow a bad tradesman.

Commitment. Make sure that your builder or subcontractor is aware that once on site all work must be completed before moving on to another project. You need to be his priority. You cannot afford gaps unless of course there is a pressing need and there is room in your programme to accommodate him. ‘One good turn deserves another’ as the saying goes.

Payment. The contract/agreement will have the payment process laid out in detail. Don’t be late and don’t be early. Make sure that if the project needs to be administered through the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS – deduction of tax at source) that all contractors submit their information for verification in good time and definitely before the first payment run. Issue payment certificates detailing the agreed price, any Variations, CIS deductions, Retention and VAT.


There are good and bad Builders and Sub-Contractors. Finding and employing contractors especially the good ones doesn’t need to be hard work. Just follow my advice above and take your time over the selection. Tradesmen work very hard (most of them) and want to do a good job. In return you must pay them on time. Good communication will ensure the relationship moves along nicely and the project is completed on time and to budget. Bad communication more often than not will generate over runs, create a poor relationship and ultimately the project will finish late and be over budget.




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Category: Builders & Subcontractors, Construction Phase, Olive Stores - Brenchley, Property Developing

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