Building Blox: Week 16 – How payments work / Quality control

What we did:

  • Tiling cont.

This week the contractors took a break to go set up disabled facilities for a family member’s house, but the sub-contractor roofer and his young apprentice were onsite to continue tiling the front of the roof.

Nothing else majorly new and exciting to showcase, so I thought this week instead I would explain payments and the contract.

Quality control

Each week, the surveyor, a crucial member of the team I rely on for impartial advice, makes a site visit to check on progress and point to any issues which he sees. It’s also my chance to ask a barrage of construction and process related questions.

As the contractors are relatively inexperienced within residential builds and it is my first big (and more professional) project, his involvement is especially important to check things are being done correctly. Of course, the council’s Building Control and the warranty provider’s inspectors should be other check-points, but given their workload and time spent onsite, I can’t rely on them being comprehensive, particularly as they have missed a couple of big issues in the past.

"The Paymaster"

Another role of the surveyor is that of a ‘Contract Administrator’ (CA) – this means he oversees the contract and payments associated with it.

This is how it works: When putting the JCT Minor Works contract together, the client (me), the contractor and CA agree what work will be done, by when, and for how much. Each month, during the corresponding site visit, the CA reviews if the contractor has completed the agreed work, and to the right standards, which may include approval by the council and warranty provider.

If the works have been completed, the CA then completes a payment certificate alongside his site report, which the client must pay within an agreed timescale. Here’s the works schedule for our project, with £££ removed:

Works schedule

Works schedule

Dealing with variations

Naturally, sometimes the contractors have completed more or less work, so the amount payable is adjusted. Being a management consultant, my instinct is to get into spreadsheets at this point to calculate this, but this is not an exact science – instead a rough percentage of the amount payable is taken instead. This process is usually relatively painless.

Issues more often arise when the scope of work changes – proper procedure is to agree the increase/decrease in work and cost implications, and relaying that to the CA, prior to it being carried out. In practise however, with a fast-paced building site and an industry which largely (particularly on the smaller side) is not in the habit of fully documenting everything, this does not happen, to the dismay of the CA.

As anyone who has carried out building work knows, there are often a lot of changes onsite, either out of necessity in construction, or a change in preference of design.

On this project, the ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ is that most variations cancel each other out, or at least are too small to spend the time quantifying – this attitude also means we avoid any ‘tit-for-tat’ behaviour and I believe we build a better relationship. Didn’t I say before that construction is all about people?! However, larger variations and discrete pieces of work are accounted for and payments adjusted accordingly.


Surveyor's visit this week

Week 16 meant a valuation and payment was due. We’re actually approx 3 weeks ahead of schedule, although some previous items are to be rectified. This week it emerged that some of the roofer’s work wasn’t up to scratch which led to some uncomfortable conversations, made worse by the 32 degree heat!

Practicality vs theory

This comes up a lot in construction, with engineers and handbooks dictating details which add little or no benefit to construction and safety. But, often it is those who specify details wield the power to withhold payments or sign off on work, so the spec must be adhered to.

In this case, the roofer hadn’t installed the tiles to the standards specified by the roof light and tile manufacturers, stating that it isn’t necessary and it’s “never done that way” – incidentally, you hear this excuse a lot in construction! The surveyor argued these things had to be done. In these instances it is often up to me as the client to make a call, which meant diplomacy skills were in full effect and the roofer had another couple of days work to bring his job up to scratch.


Next week as tiling finally comes to an end, the solar panels will be fitted and we may even get to rendering the front of the building!

3 Replies to “Building Blox: Week 16 – How payments work / Quality control”

  1. Hi A, thanks for the question.
    The roofer, contractors and I had a long (and often sensitive) conversation about what can practically be done to bring it up to the defined standards. As much as I wanted everything to be 100% right, ultimately the contractors were signing off and guaranteeing it, as well as paying for any necessary changes, so this was as much a negotiation as a demand on my part.
    Thankfully they accept they’re also learning so are quite willing to make amendments.
    Making all the changes would have been expensive for them, so a compromise was for the roofer to make some higher priority changes and the contractors to inspect the roof every year. The changes were made and we need to now check them, although unfortunately the solar panel installers broke a few whilst they were up there!
    More details coming up in week 17’s post!

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