We’re writing this because we’ve just heard another bad natural building story (not with us), nor did the owner do one of our courses or workshops. We’ve seen many epic fails and we don’t want you to:

1. Sign a written quote and fixed price contract (for builders and subcontractors of natural materials)

Once you have a fixed quote with a clear Scope of Works, then you can go to a fixed price contract. That’s what you will want and which will protect you from a job that can cost 2-3 times more than a verbal quote you were given (this happens all of the time with other subbies).

Written quote references:

Scope of Works, Building specifications, Engineer’s plans, CC stamped plans incl window & BASIX committments


What a fixed quote is NOT – “Takes 3-4 weeks to do, a day rate of $x, pump $x, labourers $x per day”.

Contract should be by HIA, Master Builders or Dept Fair Trading. Contract specifies exactly what work is completed, what materials and labour this includes

eg 3 coats of render inside and out =$x and includes GST
(not just a daily or hourly rate with a vague estimate on how long it will take).

·         Scope of Works
·         Building Specifications
·         Engineer’s plans
·         CC Stamped house plans including window schedule & BASIX
·         Electrical Schedule
·         Colour Selection Choices (PC items, tiles, appliances all chosen)
·         Payment Schedule
·         Start date
·         Home Warranty certificate
·         Builder’s licence number and name is the same as on the contract and home warranty certificate
·         Public liability and builder’s insurance

2. Speak to their last 3 clients (or even suppliers) are they happy and what would they recommend them? What are the reviews about them say, what’s good and bad about them. Did they go over budget? We’ve had some subbies constantly 2 or 3 times over what they quoted! What are they like to deal with (level headed, rational, great communicator or a nightmare builder to deal with)

3. Sign variations, look out for provisional sums – If you or the builder are deviating from the plans get the plans redrawn or sign a variation so everyone knows what’s going on and agree. Look out for Provisional Sum items in the contract. They are basically allowances in the contract and if they go over, you have to pay more and if they go under, you get a discount back. They can be good, but if the builder is new to strawbale building, they may not be good at making enough allowance, so ask them how they came to that price.

4. Check their compliances before you sign a contract: insurances, public liabiltiy, home warranty eligibility, contract insurance, is their license valid for the work they doing, is the license name the same as their company name and is it the same on the contract? Is the geographic state where they’re licensed to build? Do they have workers compensation insurance for their workers or volunteers, do they have a WHS system?? Some builders can’t even get home warranty! and Go online, check out reviews in their company and personal name

5. Trust your gut. There are usually warning signs before you engage a subbie, it could be lateness, bad communication/documentation, are they doing what they’ve done many times or is it new to them?