Wise words for weekend renovators

Weekend renovators in Victoria are warned that it’s wise to remember not every job is DIY and using registered tradespeople is vital to protect yourself from an accident or costly mistakes.

Victorian Acting Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria Elizabeth Lanyon said that TV renovation shows often get people inspired about making changes to their own home, but it’s important to know your limits and when you need to employ tradespeople.

“Before starting any work on your home check with Consumer Affairs Victoria or the Victorian Building Authority to see who should be doing that work,” Dr Lanyon said.

“If you’re engaging a tradesperson based on advertising, look beyond their glossy brochures and check with the authorities that their licenses and registrations are current.

“Be wary of people who knock on your door or who telephone you unexpectedly, offering cheap deals on jobs around your home. They may be travelling con men.

“A major benefit of using a registered builder or tradesperson is that they know when you need things such as council permits and structural assessments for the work being undertaken,” she said.

In 2013-14 Consumer Affairs Victoria was contacted more than 24,000 times from people looking for advice and assistance with domestic building queries, including warranties, major failures and defects, the cost of building work, poor workmanship or delays in getting work done.

Our checklists take renovators through the process, step-by-step. View them at our Checklists for building and renovating section.

Before you start, it is important to check the credentials of the tradespeople you’re using – including electricians, plumbers, carpenters, bricklayers and concreters – and take some precautions to make sure you get the results you want:

  • Decide exactly what you want and describe it in details, use photos if you can.
  • Check the license or registration of your builder or tradesperson you are engaging through the Victorian Building Authority website or Energy Safe Victoria.
  • Ask to see certificates of currency for public liability insurance, which will protect you or third parties against any damage the builder or tradesperson may cause.
  • Get everything in writing. A major domestic building contract is generally required for work over $5,000 but we recommend a written contract for all renovation work.
  • Get three quotes and choose based on what they offer, not just price.
  • Always get a receipt for the work, in particular if you’re paying in cash.

There are also a number of jobs that due to their complexity should only be done by a building practitioner as it could have a big impact on the structural integrity of your home, including demolition, re-stumping, re-blocking and structural work.

Plumbers, gasfitters and drainers must be registered or licensed by the VBA and are required to provide a certificate of compliance for plumbing work costing $750 or more. Electricians are licensed by Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) and are required to provide a certificate of electrical safety for all electrical installation work.

“Most people know that jobs such as electrical, plumbing and gas works require a qualified tradesperson, but any building practitioner doing work worth more than $5,000 also must be registered with the Building Practitioners Board,” Dr Lanyon said.

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