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Selecting tradespeople for renovations

Choosing the right people to do your renovation job makes the difference between a positive experience or a nightmare which causes endless stress and unresolved problems.

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Selecting the builder

  • Make sure you follow a careful selection process which includes:
  • Making a shortlist from recommendations, or people you have found in the Yellow Pages or trade organisation websites.
  • Checking whether you need to employ a licensed building practitioner depending on the project.
  • Deciding whether you want someone on a full contract, labour-only or managed labour-only contract.
  • Getting tenders or quotes.
  • Revising your budget once you have some prices. Choosing the best tender, which is not necessarily the cheapest, but will take into account things like:
    • Qualifications.
    • Trade organisation membership.
    • Any guarantees offered.
    • Whether they have the appropriate licence for restricted building work, if the project falls into that category.
  • Key attributes such as:
    • Skill.
    • Honesty and integrity, i.e. someone who tells the truth, keeps promises and accepts responsibility when it is due.
    • Knowledge of the housing industry.
    • Personality that meshes with yours. This can be crucial if you are sharing your house with them for an extended period of time.
    • Patience.
    • Sympathy for your goals and budget.
  • Signing a contract.
  • Checking what insurance they have.

Selecting other contractors

Under a full contract, and some managed labour-only contracts, the choice of the other contractors will be made by the builder. In this case, the builder is known as the main contractor, and the other tradespeople engaged by the builder are known as subcontractors.

However, for a lot of renovation projects, for example, getting a roofer to re-roof your house, you are likely to engage them directly.

To select tradespeople directly, use the same sort of criteria as for selecting a builder.

Because contractors are likely to be involved in a number of projects on other building sites, getting them organised to turn up when you need them can be difficult to coordinate.

Licensed electricians

If you are contracting the services of an electrician directly, always use a licensed electrician. This is a person registered by the Electrical Workers Registration Board (EWRB). Ask to see their practising licence, which proves that they are registered.

For any new work completed, the electrician must issue you a Certificate of Compliance (CoC), a copy of which is also sent to the EWRB. The CoC is an assurance that the work has been carried out to New Zealand’s electrical and safety standards. Keep the CoC safe. You may need it for an insurance claim or when you are selling your house.

A CoC is not required for maintenance work, such as replacing sockets and light fittings. However, you can request one, and pay the fee, if you wish.

Licensed plumbers and drainlayers

With the exception of minor work, for example: installing washing machines or dishwashers, changing washers, taps and ball valves, all plumbing or drainage work must be carried out by a Licensed or Certifying Plumber or Drainlayer.

Plumbers and drainlayers are licensed by:

New Zealand Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board
PO Box 10-655, Wellington
tel: 0800 743 262; 04 494 2970,
fax: 04 494 2975.

You can check the public register at www.pgdb.co.nz.

Either the plumber, or the company the plumber works for, must hold a licence. Make sure you see their Authorisation Card. If they don't have the appropriate licence, their work must be supervised by a registered person.

Trainee plumbers or drainlayers and some other exempt persons may do plumbing work, but their work must be supervised by a Certifying Plumber.

Note that new plumbing and drainage work will require a building consent.

Licensed gasfitters

Any work to connect gas fittings and gas appliances must be done or supervised by a Licensed or Certifying Gasfitter. This includes all new installations and any work to extend, replace or alter installations or pipework. The consequences of having incorrectly fitted gas appliances can be fatal, so DIY is not allowed.

A licensed or certifying gasfitter is registered by the:

New Zealand Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board
PO Box 10-655, Wellington
tel: 0800 743 262; 04 494 2970
fax: 04 494 2975.

You can check the public register at www.pgdb.co.nz.

Trainee gasfitters and some exempt persons may carry out gas fitting, but this must be supervised by a Certifying Gasfitter. When you employ a gasfitter, make sure you see their Authorisation Card, and check the back for any supervision requirements.

Once the appliance and installation work has been inspected, tested and certified as satisfactory, you must be issued with a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate by your gasfitter. A Certificate is required for any new gas installation, and for any addition or alteration to an existing installation since 1 July 2013.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will keep a database of high-risk electrical and gasfitting work, but this will not include normal household work. NB: Make sure you keep certificates and all records of the work in a safe place.

If you do not have a Certificate for earlier work (since 1993), contact the gasfitter or company who carried out the work and ask for a copy, or search the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board website. You will find a form that you can fill out to get a copy of an existing certificate, on payment of a small fee.

Sharing your house with tradespeople

It is likely you will still be living in the house while the work is going on, so once you have your team selected:

  • Establish the ground rules with your builder and subcontractors, for example:
    • Find out their usual hours of work so you can plan when to be around if needed, or make yourself scarce to avoid the dust and confusion.
    • If you are at home most days, let them know what you will tolerate in the way of loud radios or smoking.
    • Find out who is responsible for sweeping and tidying the work area each day.
    • Make sure provision will be made to keep the house secure and weathertight if sections of the house are opened up.
    • Agree on where vehicles and heavy equipment can be left so you have clear access to the driveway and house.
    • Agree on where rubbish is to go and how it is to be disposed of.
  • Make sure you are kept informed about which days you will be without power, water or appliances so you can plan ahead.
  • Keep the work area clear of your belongings.
Case study promo

Case study

Natalie and her husband Ken decided to close in an upstairs deck to create another room. They had all sorts of problems with the windows – the plans were wrong so the windows had to be re-made, and then they were damaged in the re-cut.

Because the builder they hired was a friend, they were reluctant to start a row and complained first to the window manufacturer. Eventually the builder came and inspected the window but disclaimed any responsibility and it was only through a Disputes Tribunal that they got some recompense. Their advice? Be careful when hiring friends to work on your building projects.

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