We’re writing this because we’ve just heard another bad bad story re a strawbale home 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 all of the work the subbie will do (not an hourly rate), it must specify what exactly they’ll do. That means, it’s clear what work they’ll finish and how much the total amount is. eg. 3 coats of render inside and out =$x and includes GST. Provided that the owners provide accommodation for example. What a fixed quote is NOT it could take 3-4 weeks to do, a day rate of $x, pump $x, labourers $x per day etc etc. Then 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).

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?