How to identify a good contractor
Every industry has its own particulars, details, pitfalls and recognizable characteristics. So how would somebody from the outside be able to identify a good contractor?
Let’s look at some of the most obvious pointers which may assist you in this decision:
1. The contractor’s dress code, on and off-site:
In construction and building, safety always plays a large roll and general workers on a building site should always conform with that in that they should wear protective clothing. For example: over hall, safety helmet, safety boots. Depending on the area and circumstances workers should be wearing dusk mouth-covers and/or gloves. Identification of the aforementioned should be straight forward for anyone.
2. Tools and machinery:
A good contractor could be identified by their tools and machinery. A quick glance over these will give you a very good impression of well maintained and looked after or not. Negative signs could be many joints in the electric cables and extensions of power tools and/or obviously poorly maintained machinery.
3. Paperwork and administration:
A good contractor could be identified by their paperwork. Are they compliant with basic statutory requirements? You could ask to see their safety file or their Letter of good Standing (this is where a contractor must be registered with C.O.I.D. (compensation, occupational, injuries and decease act) This is to ensure that in case of injuries on the job, that one could claim for compensation from the Government. You could ask for their tax nr to ensure that the company is registered with SARS. When a company has employees, it must be registered for PAYE (pay as you earn) as well as registered with the department of labour for UIF (unemployment fund) to ensure that employees who lost their job can have a certain amount of income for an interim few months (max six months) until they find a new job.
4. Signage on building site
A good contractor could be identified by proper signage (safety and otherwise) No matter how big or small a building site is, there should be proper signage indicating who is working there, doing what and with a contact number. Clear “not safe to enter” signs must be on all building sites.
5. Registered bodies
A good contractor can be identified by the bodies they are registered with in the industry, such as the NHBRC (national home builders registration council)
How to find a good contractor:
The internet today is a valuable tool to find a good contractor. When looking at different contractors on the internet you should be looking for some of the paperwork and registrations as mentioned in point 1.3 above and if you cannot find it, you can always email them requesting the same. Also, on the internet one should look for photos of previously successfully completed jobs. Good contractors will ensure that they are well represented with a website on the internet.
Word-of-mouth is always commendable. Ask people you trust if they can recommend a contractor with whom they had a good experience with.
You could ask the NHBRC to recommend a good contractor in your area.
How to deal with a contractor, instructions, management, sign-off and payment.
This can be very daunting for somebody not very familiar with the industry for the following reasons:
- You might overdo or underdo the management
- You might give unclear instructions (whilst thinking it was clear)
- You might give payment too soon or hold it too late
- You might sign the project off without proper guarantees and or penalties
Let’s look at how objectively as possible, one can approach “how to deal with a contractor”
- Rule #1 is to see and treat the building contractor as a professional in the field. It is very common in the marketplace that most people are “looking down” on a building contractor. It is because of this very wrongdoing that communication brake down from the start and from that flow a lot of negatives e.g. sub-standard quality, late completion, arguments on payments etc.
- The start of the relationship must be from a signed off plan. Both contractor and client must sign on a final agreed plan with the specifications. That equals no arguments because the plan is the overriding specification on all items.
- The document which goes hand in hand the plan is the building contract. The building contract will, amongst other things, spell out the start and end date, the total contract amount, the stages of withdrawal payments, times of enter and exit of site, penalties for late completion and sub-standard finishes and a list of individual items to customize the job.
- It is always good practice to also insert into the building contract the frequency of meetings between building contractor and client. In this clause one could stipulate that, except for emergencies, the client would not interfere in the day to day management and work of the building contractor.
- If you are the Client, ensure that you do not start managing the staff of the building contractor. This can only have negative implications. On the one hand, the building contractor could abuse the situation in that he doesn’t have to spend so much time for supervision on your job because you are in reality his supervisor. On the other hand, the building contractor could be abused by the client, who might not have the same practical knowledge but insist to manage everything.
- Before final instructions is given to a building contractor, ensure that the topic has been discussed to everyone’s satisfaction. Make a point of discussing all advantages and disadvantages. Make a point of taking cognizance of the cost, quality as well as the time involved in every decision.
- Instructions to a contractor must always be done in writing. Most people do have access to email and therefor also keep an automatic record of it. Again, it completely removes any motivation for an argument plus everyone has it clear in their mind of what the instruction is.
- Regarding sign-off, it is good practice to sign agreed completed portions of the project off. It does happen that clients keep on bringing the building contractor back to do certain repairs to completed portions but the damage to that portion was not due to any fault or mistake from the building contractor. This is unfair practice but do commonly occur. When portions are signed off, it also helps with the progress payments as that particular portions can be cost as per the original agreed rates.
- Sign-off at the end of the project, also referred to as final sign-off, must be done very objectively and with as much knowledge as possible. From the viewpoint of the building contractor, he cannot request such sign-off if all items are not complete within the scope of work, quality and time frame. From the viewpoint of the Client, final sign-off must be done in consideration with the architect or engineer. After final sign-off, final payment must follow unless the contract dictates an agreed retention percentage.
- Payments in advance should seldom or never be done. Payments should only be done for work completed. It is, however, common practice that payments be made for “material on site”
The different kinds of Contractors and their individual traits to look for:
In general language the term “Building Contractor” is used for many different types of contractors in the building industry.
One does however have to understand that every contractor will have its outstanding trait/s. It is seldom or ever the case that one building contractor has all the skills. It is therefore also common in the industry that certain traits or skills are being sub-contracted. This goes for the majority, big and small, building contractors.
Taking cognizance of the management skills and use of quality sub-contractors of a building contractor is thus also very important in the identification and finding of a good building contractor.
Let’s look into the traits, qualities and potential qualifications to find different kinds of contractors in in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
Plumbing contractors Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
A plumber is, with respect, many times refer to by all other contractors as a ‘special kind of person’. This is not at all being said in a derogatory context. It is just common for a plumbing contractor to follow his own route, his own time schedule and his own safety specification. Plumbing is a specialized discipline and although people can easily criticize plumbers, most of the time when managed well they fulfill a professional job. What most people don’t understand is that ‘communication 101’ is not part of a plumbing trade curriculum. That does not mean that they cannot do their job professional, all it means is that one must repeat and confirm the requirements and requests expected again and again to ensure the required outcome of the job.
One must take cognizance of the fact that plumbers work with water and therefor take extra precautions for potential water bursts or floods. Do not always blame it on the plumber but rather assist them in taking the necessary precautions.
Electrical Contractors Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
Clients employing electrical contractors should always confirm that they are properly licensed with the local authority. The competency, qualifications and certification of this trade is of obvious importance due to the safety and potentially dangerous work of an electrician.
Depending on the scale of work and/or technical specifications, an electrical contractor must execute all work under the formal supervision or inspections of an electrical engineer.
On all electrical installations, a Certificate of Compliance (CoC) must be issued by the electrical contractor. It is not the intension of this article to zoom in on the detail qualifications of an electrician which enable him/her to issue such CoC but only to highlight the fact that such certificate must legally be issued as part of the completion and the responsibility of the electrical contractor.
Painting Contractors Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
Most clients are of the opinion that “anybody can paint” and this misconception has cost many people dearly. The average person wouldn’t know that only the very best tradesmen, after they have gone through severe testing will get the qualification from large paint suppliers as “Preferred Applicator”. If you need professional painting to be done in your home or office, you should only appoint a painting contractor with the qualification and status of a ‘preferred applicator’ by at least one of the large paint suppliers. This will ensure not only their workmanship, but they will use the correct amount of paint on a specific area, the correct type of paint, do it with the correct tools, prepare the area as per specification, ensure the correct temperature etc. etc.
Professional paint contractors will have ample sheets covering existing floors as cleaning up afterwards may cause other/new problems, they must have the correct safe ladders. They must put out safety signs when working in an area where other people work in case the specific paints are hazardous.
Painting is a professional trade and the painting contractor must be selected accordingly.
Gardening contractors Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
There is a wide variety of services available when in general referring to ‘Garden Services’ and one should from the outset decide which of these services to concentrate on to fulfill your specific needs.
- Garden services could refer to a team executing weekly maintenance in residential gardens. Mowing the lawn, trimming the edges, trimming the hedges, removing garden refuge, raking the flowerbeds and sweeping the paving.
- Garden services could refer to Commercial Landscaping, irrigation and garden design. In this instance, one would have a more holistic approach to integrate with the rest of the structures and to end up with a sustainable low maintenance garden. It could be standard practice here that it would include the services of a Landscape Architect.
- Gardening contractors could be judged by their professional tools, trained staff and value-added services. They should make proposals to the client without the client asking because they have such professional knowledge of the plants, irrigation, area, temperature and trees, to name but a few items, which can add value to the client’s garden.
Paving Contractors Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town
Paving Contractors most of the time need more space on the stand or area they have to execute their work on as their stock (pavers, sand and cement) must be delivered in large quantities. They also most of the time do earthworks and require truck and other earth-working machinery to operate on the site.
Paving Contractors most of the time need to be coordinated with other contractors and services and their time schedule will be crucial for the rest of the project.
C PRO Vino(Pty) Ltd has been working with all of the abovementioned contractors together in projects. In some cases, as sub-contractors but in many cases as trained in-house disciplines. C PRO Vino(Pty)Ltd is well equipped to either execute and/or manage all the above disciplines to ensure the Client experience a seamless building contract execution so that the client can carry on doing in whatever he/she is doing.
Thus, if you have any questions or quarries, feel free to phone myself; Kobus Engelbrecht 082 575 2202