Why Does My Bathroom Smell And Have So Many Problems?

If you go to any of the Building Associations websites, you will discover a whole list of common problems people experience once they move into their new home or renovation.
I will be discussing some of the problems this week and offering some solutions to them. Please feel free to send me any questions or your experiences.

One time I had a client who called me to come and check why one of his bathrooms had a bad odour. I went to the house and the room smelt terrible. I asked the client quite a few questions and the answer was very simple. Has anyone ever wondered why basin wastes or toilets hold water?




The simplest reason is; water stops the smells in the sewer pipe from permeating into the room. The reason the bathroom had a bad sewer smell was it was hardly used. The water in the shower pipework (in plumbing terms called “The Trap”) had evaporated and the smell came through the trap. That is where the term “Priming the trap” comes into play.3-18-smelly

You have to make sure that all the plumbing in the house is regularly inspected and water is placed into the traps to stop any sewer smells. You will find a tap in some instances above a waste in the floor. The regulations call for the tap to be placed to prime the trap.
Or have you been to a hotel room bathroom; every time you use the basin or the shower, the waste in the middle of the room made an awful gurgling sound. This is another way of ensuring the trap is primed all of the time.

Due to the expense of copper there has become a revolution in plumbing a house. Some pipework used today is a High Density Polyethylene product. Instead of welding copper to points, there are fittings that are specifically designed to fit every transition needed for construction. Only minimal amount of copper is used for last run and fit off of the basins, taps etc. I have attached the link to illustrate what it looks like, and its applications; there are others on the market.





The great thing about this system is; it has reduced the amount of water hammer people have experienced when the water flowing out of a tap or from the washing machine when it suddenly shuts off the water, the ripple effect is water hammer. Water hammer commonly occurs when pipes haven’t been clipped properly in walls or under floors and ceilings.

I have had plumbers use heaps of clips on copper pipes, the water hammer was still occurring. Think of a stream of water; what would happen if you cut it off in an instant? The momentum going down has to go somewhere. The beauty of the polyethylene pipes is the fittings absorb the ripple effect and it has proven to become a better system than using copper throughout the house. There is nothing wrong with copper if you are a traditionalist. It is up to you to do the research and be happy with what the pipe has to offer.

Another common problem is water leaking in shower bases. (I am talking about fully tiled shower bases). If the waterproofing has been done correctly and a leak control flange has been installed under the shower waste, there should be no problem. The most common mistakes in showers are; People do not place leak control flanges (see the link below to show you what they look like). Grout is not a waterproof product. The tiles might have a glaze and be impervious to water, the grout soaks in the water and it gets trapped under the tiles. A control flange lets the water flow under the tiles and travels to the waste; the pressure is released with the help of the design. You could get the whole floor sealed which will solve any water issues.


What I am discovering lately is; having a shower fully caulked with a silicone or, a polyurethane based compound, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is done correctly. If water gets behind the walls and under the floor tiles of the shower, if the walls are fully caulked, the water is trapped under the tile and salts and calcite will come through the grout and tiles. (Calcite is like the stalactites and stalagmites under a cave)

The only problem with leak control flanges is; calcite build up or hairs trapped under the flange and blocking the passage of water flow. All you have to do as maintenance is take out the waste and the flange cleaned and wiped down to get rid of hairs or the calcite build up. This will ensure the water drains properly.


I have had two jobs with problem showers; the reason for these is because the guys on site listened to the tiler who has been doing it wrong for the past twenty years. The problem is; the tiler won’t come back and fix the job when it leaks or fails.

The Builder and the home do it yourselfer is responsible for all the workmanship that is done on the job. Most people have no idea about waterproofing and plumbing issues; they think the tradesperson knows what he is doing so they don’t have to bother checking his workmanship. I always leave it up to you to know what you are doing and the repercussions if you don’t research your product.

Have a great week



The Silent White Soldiers Eating And Destroying Your Home

A few years ago I was called out to investigate a termite problem in Toorak (Melbourne Australia). It is quite rare to have such an infestation in this part of Melbourne. Unfortunately no one is safe from any termite infestation. Termites can be hiding in timber that is bought at a timber yard. Every effort is made to treat timber to kill of any borers or termites. If a process is done incorrectly in the timber mill, then the problems do occur.

termitesI heard of a roof which the roof tiles collapsed shortly after the house was completed. There were termites in the hardwood battens. The termites ate all of the timber and weakened the battens; this resulted in the roof tiles collapsing. Unfortunately the termites found there way to the neighbours house and started eating the walls and floors.

This home in Toorak, the termites ate a large area of the timber hardwood flooring. I had never seen such precision workmanship before. They ate the timber and all that was left was the film of polish. You couldn’t detect the damage unless you were looking for it or was probing the floor.


Treatment solutions


It took three days to take off the boards that were infected, and another two days to patch and replace them with new boards. While the boards were off, a Termite company came in and sprayed under the floor with a chemical that is specific for termite control. They proceeded to drill around the perimeter of the house a series of twelve millimeter diameter every one hundred millimeters apart. The majority of the house was surrounded by concrete. They pumped the same chemical into the holes which seeped under the house and became like a barrier to stop any future infestation.

In the past there have been a whole heap of arguments and concerns regarding the Chemicals used for the termites. The old ones have been banned as they have found they were good for killing the termites and also causing illnesses to the people using the Chemicals. These days the companies use environmentally friendly chemicals, they don’t have the same toxic power as the old ones. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Soil poisons are the least-preferred method of control as this requires much larger doses of toxin and results in uncontrollable release to the environment. Soil type, weather, and application techniques influence the mobility of insecticides in the soil; soil-applied insecticides must not leach through the soil profile to contaminate groundwater.

The Costs

The whole house had to be re-polished; luckily the infestation didn’t reach any skirtings, architraves and doors. Luckily the home was double brick. The whole cost of fixing the problem was minimal compared to replacing walls, and all skirtings, doors etc. The client was extremely distressed and you cannot put a figure on the angst and stress over the whole situation. I suppose Builders are like nurses or Doctors who don’t seem to react to problems like someone who is experiencing it for the first time.


Here are some facts about termites I found interesting


Termites: sometimes known as white ants. They are found particularly in the subtropical and tropical regions, their recycling of wood and other plant matter is of considerable ecological importance, even though in our home we find them as pests. Termites build nests to house their colonies, in growing trees, inside fallen trees, underground, and in above-ground mounds which they construct, commonly called “anthills” in Africa and Australia, despite the technical incorrectness of that name. Termites usually avoid exposure to unfavourable environmental conditions. Termites are also considered to be a major source of atmospheric methane, one of the prime greenhouse gases.


Look up your area on the internet and find out if you are in a termite infested area. Or call a Building Surveyor to confirm. If you suspect you have damage, call an expert straight away.

There are physical barriers used today instead of spraying. There is a stainless steel mesh that is placed around all pipes penetrating your new ground concrete slab. http://www.termimesh.com.au/index.cfm

There is a plastic type flashing that is placed in between the brick mortar joints that have a chemical that deters termites from crawling up through the walls or floor slabs.

Sprays are used before any plastic is placed on top of the compacted sand for a concrete slab. This is more economical for those who can’t’ afford the mesh solution.

At the end of the day it is up to you to find all the solutions that you can afford or feel comfortable about.

Have a great week





The Silent Chemicals Eating At Your Home

I am astounded that a lot of Builders and Do It Yourselfers have no idea for what I am about to tell you. It amazes me that there are Buildings being constructed daily, only a selected few who have taken the time out to do some research about this.

There are so many products in the market today. Every time someone makes a bold claim the masses flock to the companies as if they are some form of God or saviour. They quickly go to their jobs and use the product straight away, thinking that it is the best thing since sliced cheese.

One of my Foreman in the eighties was telling me when he was an apprentice, the Builder he was working for was always trying the latest and the greatest. He came to the job one day and showed him the first tungsten tipped saw blade. For those who don’t know, think about a normal saw blade on a power saw, the teeth have a toughened piece of metal glued to it. The metal has been put through a special process, that’s why it is call tungsten tipped.

The Builder told my Foreman that the blade cuts through everything. Timber, brickwork, the lot. Back then, blades were around ninety dollars each. The Builder had earmarked the brand new tungsten tipped blade to cut an opening in the brickwork. He told my Foreman to get the saw and told to do it. Out came the saw and the new blade. Two seconds into the cutting of the bricks, and tungsten tips flying around everywhere and luckily missing vital organs. The hum of the saw stopped and the blade was destroyed. The Builder was in dismay, as he thought that this “little bewdy” would solve his problem.



The Silent Chemical Exposed


Treated pine or CCA treated (Chromated Copper Arsenate) has taken the Building Industry by storm. Mainly because, it’s specially treated with chemicals, and to stop rotting. People forget that treated pine still twists and warps. The chemical composition in the mix is Arsenic 2.7%, Chromium 3.8%, Copper 1.6% and softwood dust 91.9%.cca-composition

I have seen and spoken to so many people that have told me they have placed treated pine directly on top of their Zincalume (Zinc/Aluminium) roofing sheets or underneath their valley iron boards.

The wonderful chemical reaction when the zincalume and the treated pine meet is copper oxide. Remember the good old days when they used calcium chloride to speed up the drying process in concrete? This resulted in the reinforcing being eaten away by the chemical reaction causing “Concrete Cancer”

Copper oxide eats away the zincalume sheets. In no time, the timber on your deck will be slowly eating away at your roofing material, and when that storm comes along, you will be wondering where the leaks are coming from. You have to make sure that, no part of the treated timber is in contact with any of the metal roofing.

How many times have I seen people do home maintenance and place ordinary Lead flashing on top of zincalume sheeting. Have you ever seen the white dust or oxidation happening to a roof when these two metals are exposed to each other?

There is a flashing that looks like lead, which is specifically manufactured to be used on zincalume sheeting. Old fashioned lead flashings can still be used on Galvanised sheets; this has been around for years. My theory is; people are creatures of habit, even though the new product might be a bit shinier than the old galvanized sheeting, the same flashings or fixing details still apply. (NOT SO every time!)


Go to your supplier and tell them exactly what you are proposing for your roof or decking. Ask them all the questions under the sun. Make sure that you have covered everything and you are satisfied with the whole process.

Lead and zincalume don’t mix, treated timber or CCA timber do not mix with zincalume either. There are other chemical reactions that are happening as well. Different materials mixed together forming toxic substances that eat at your spoutings, e.g. galvanised sheets and zincalume don’t mix. Even lead in a pencil can harm your zincalume roofing products.

Your plumbers should know all of these things. That is why I leave it up to the experts to advise me, I also do my research just to make sure they are not trying to pull the wool over my eyes, or to make the job seem more expensive.

For further information please check out the following link, there are some amazing details for you to know, and consider for any future work.


Have a great week




Working with the Artisans of The Industry

Sixteen years ago I worked on an amazing brand new French Provincial home in Toorak, Melbourne Australia. The interior designer was an amazing man who was quite controversial. I say was: as I only found out recently he died of a heart attack last year in 2012. John Coote was his name.

He had a great sense of humour, quite dry and you either loved or hated him. He pushed you beyond what you thought was possible at times. He travelled the world and was the interior designer of the rich and famous.

I had the greatest privilege in working with him and earning his respect. After the job was finished we went out for dinner and I had a wonderful time. I got to spend time with him and see first hand how this guy charmed and pushed people around.


The Lipstick Conspiracy


I laugh every time I drive past a particular home in Toorak. John told me the story where the lady of the house wanted him to pick the colour of the timber gates at the front of the home. All John could see was this lady’s mouth going on and on and she wouldn’t shut up. John noticed her lipstick colour and got the painter to mix the colours in front of the client. The colour was the exact match to her lipstick. She had no idea,but absolutely loved the colour. To this date I find it hilarious and sad at the same time.

John had some great stories to tell and some amazing sayings. Instead of constructing features of the home from a sketch or a dimensioned drawing. John would draw a sketch on a piece of paper. Give it to me, and I would make a template out of Masonite. John would to come over and tell me what he thought.

The best was the front columns of the home. The template was made in such a way that we were able to expand the template. The template was made in two halves. John came over and put his thumb and index finger together and look through his fingers like a monocle and when the template was to his desired width he would yell out the famous words. “ That’s Fine!” This became the on site catch cry.400px-Artisans

The mouldings to the fireplace chimney was made and placed at the top for John to see and either alter it or “ That’s fine!” We went through so many sheets of Masonite on that site. The end result was the home won the best finishes of the year award in 1999. And a few years later was sold for a record price.

At site meetings he would sit back and listen to the clients concerns and them asking him for details. When things would get a bit too serious, John would throw in an innuendo. At times it would go over the clients heads, but I would sit there and have a chuckle. John would then look at me with a child hood smirk on his face.


Without The Best You Cannot Be The Best


John always surrounded himself with people who had as much respect and flare as him. He loved working with the famous Landscaper Paul Bangay. Paul would compliment the work that John was creating. He loved working with Michael Toscano a renderer who went to Versailles to learn the art of rendering.

He loved Mattioli Bros who had a particular painter that understood Johns colour palette and would mix up colours for John. It was amazing to watch: He would stand over the painter and cry out. “ More burnt Amber, touch of black etc.” when the painter was brushing the samples on a board, John would throw in. “ I saw this colour in Versailles” Who knows if he did or not, I wasn’t the one to question him, but it sounded impressive.


If you ever get the opportunity to work with amazing people like John Coote. Lap it up and learn as much as you can. These people are amazing and will push you to places you never knew you were able to get to.

Yes; John was loved and hated. But the more you piss off people, the more you know they are envious of you. People like John don’t come into your life everyday. Seize the moment, and when you get the opportunity. At times it becomes frustrating, but the benefits will always be with you for the rest of your life.

I learnt a lot when it comes to “eye for detail”. It’s like someone opening your eyes for the first time and seeing things that were always there but you never noticed.

I cant finish this article without some of John’s wit and sayings. These have stayed with me since meeting him. I will miss him, I am a better Builder after meeting and learning from him. I wanted to make this a light hearted story and I hope I have done him justice.

“ Yes I’ve seen that that staircase. It reminds me of something out of the set in Sunset Boulevard”  John Coote

“ I’ve seen Brand X kitchens. It reminds me of something out of a Viscount Caravan” John Coote

Here’s a great article on John’s life from Vogue Magazine http://blog.vogueliving.com.au/2012/04/12/a-tribute-to-john-coote-1949-2012/

Have a good one



The Shocking Truth- Are Builders Experts?

Sorry to burst the bubble on people who think that a Builder is an expert. Let s explore this issue further and check what the dictionary has to say.

Building Practitioner.  A person who practices a profession or art.

An Expert: believed to have special knowledge of a subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially (and legally) rely upon the individual’s opinion. Historically, an expert was referred to as a sage (Sophos). The individual was usually a profound thinker distinguished for wisdom and sound judgement.homehome

So Technically Builders are practising their Art. Your GP or General Practitioner is not an expert, he is practising medicine. Your Doctor will refer you to a Specialist in a field if he thinks there is something specifically wrong with you. He cannot and will not diagnose and rectify an issue. He leaves it to the specialist.

We are practising Builders and not experts. We can try our best during construction to address where there might be a potential crack or movement in the future. No different to control joints to concrete or brickwork. The frustrating part is the crack will occur everywhere else than where it was designed and hoped it would.


You Learn Something Everyday


I never claim to know everything about Building but have accumulated enough knowledge in the past thirty two years that helps me Build whatever is thrown at me. There are times when I have to research a way to get a certain part of the Building constructed. Along the way of discovering how to do this new construction technique I find other methods of construction.

I might see a multi-story building go up, I understand the methods but don’t really have the intricate details of how the Building is being organised and constructed. This doesn’t mean I have no idea about Building. All it means is I have not mastered the art of Constructing a Multi storey Building. Doesn’t make me any more or any less a Builder. I tell a lie. I spent the first ten years of my career on commercial Buildings. It’s been a longtime since I have been on a Commercial site with external Allimacs and Tower cranes..

What I have discovered through the years is that we are only as good as the knowledge we have at the time of doing the work. Years ago we used to place wet area plasterboard in a shower. All that was required was a metal angle nailed in the corner. The sheet then silicone the joints. This was the norm and that is what we did.

These days we place the water resistant sheet and waterproof the walls and the floors. Gone are the days of relying on a water resistant board ( not a waterproof board ) and a few beads of silicone. So were we dodgy Builders back then? As I said we are only as good as the knowledge at the time.

Here’s another one: Fully sealing a mirror creates issues in the future. The back of the mirror can’t breathe and the silver backing either wears away or mould builds up behind the mirror. If you don’t silicone the mirror it
would look like the Builder couldn’t be bothered finishing the product.

Do You caulk the junction between the wall and floor tiles in a shower? If you do to make it aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Then where does the water go that seeps behind the tiles when someone showers?


In a world full of Internet knowledge at peoples finger tips, it is very hard to explain to people what is true and what is false out there. The unfortunate misconception is that we are experts and we know everything. As I wrote in an article a few weeks ago regarding floors failing. The expert will tell you after the fact what when wrong. But cannot tell you before the fact.

The only thing a trades person  can do is keep researching and going to trade nights or enrolling into night school. The practices from the past may not necessarily help you in the future. You have to adapt to what is going on at the present time.

Future clients please understand the Builder will do the best he can with the knowledge he has at the time. He will do what is asked of him in regards with the material and the technology at the given time. He is not an expert but merely a person practising his art.

Always be open to learn something everyday!

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Albert Einstein

Have a great week!



Foam Buildings getting a Bad Name

Polystyrene/Foam board Construction is getting a bad rap these days. It’s insulation and acoustic properties and lightweight construction is really good. Unfortunately most people who install the product really have no idea what they are doing. People think you put the foam bards on the outside of a home, screw them to the studwork and render over the whole lot..

Unfortunately there is a science and it requires a bit more research and understanding. The biggest problem foam faces is the UV rays of the sun. So many homes have been constructed with the foam boards. They are left out in the sun, the board starts to go yellow. Then the renderer comes along and renders over the whole house. The board when it turns yellow forms a chalky coating. The render is glued to this chalky face and after a while the render peels off so easily with no effort.

Overseas Cheap Is The New Fashion

Not all Foam boards are the same. There are cheap alternatives from overseas that are low density. Unfortunately the board cannot span between a 450mm stud framed wall. If anything; the board after time will sag between the studs. Honestly I wouldn’t take the risk. The render and the labour is the same. Saving on Low density boards is a huge risk. Leaving out in the Sun then rendering over a chalky layer is a total recipe for disaster and believe me there have been some huge ones out there.

The best product on the market is the foam boards that have the first coat with the mesh already made in the factory. These high density boards have already have the first coat on to be protected from the sun’s UV rays. The installers can relax knowing that the board is protected from the elements.

Little Things That Make A Huge Difference

There are bottom foam blocks that are fully rendered on four sides. these blocks are used above a flashing over a roof or form the bottom of the foam wall on a timber framed wall. The foam block is fully rendered before installation in the factory. One issue using the cheap or naked foam boards don’t have a rendered coat on the underside where the flashings are located. It is commonly forgotten by the renderer. the board absorbs the moisture and the render after time startimages to peel off.

Some applicators use polyurethane when the boards are stacked on top of each other. Others use the foam that comes out of a spray bottle in between the joints. the logic being; all the boards are connected with the same material throughout.

Do Not use liquid nails to glue the boards. it eats away the foam. Just like silicone and bitumen don’t mix. Stainless steel and galvanising is not a good marriage. And off course treated pine and zincalume is an absolute No No.


Like I say week in and week out. You are responsible for the success or the failure of your job. You must research your product and understand the pro’s and con’s of using the product.

If you still want to use the naked foam on the walls. Please do so as long as you understand what you need to do so the render sticks to it. Sometimes a simple sanding of the board and clean will get rid of the chalky residue.

Use stainless steel grade screws near the beach. The salt water can get in and rust a normal galvanised screw.

Make sure you find out the density of your foam beforehand and ask the supplier to give you the details in writing, what the product is, and what it can do. Supervise your renderer and make sure the render is placed with the right mesh and material.

This is an example of a great product getting a bad wrap due to construction processes that should be understood and adhered to.

Have a great week


Sunglasses For Your Home

I had a lot of people write to me asking what to do with the existing glazing in their homes. A few questions I had this week were: “I am worried about the old handmade glass on my existing windows, but I love the character of them?”, “How can I reduce the amount of heat coming into our home without changing all of the glass to our windows?”.

We finished a job a couple of years ago in Hawthorn, the structure was designed to have roller blinds concealed in the walls and external blinds concealed in the roof space. The cost of having inner and outer blinds was astronomical. The client decided to go with the internal blinds and not the external ones. They were still concerned with the amount of heat, as the majority of the windows faced North and West.

The other issue was the fading and deterioration of the blinds, and the polished floor boards. I remembered using a 3M film, just like the film used to tint cars. The cost of the film was a third of the price compared to the external blinds. The clients were happy with the solution.6872120413_585b5f7a0d_z

We chose 3M as it is an international company with a great reputation. The product used was called, NV (Night Vision). At night the product reduces the amount of internal reflection, and doesn’t spoil the outside view. There are about four levels of shade, the amount you want depends on how much heat you want to expel, and how much of light you want to decrease in the room.

We have done lighter films in South facing windows and the darkest on the North and East. I found a link that will show you what I am talking about. http://tinyurl.com/29kkke

There are a huge range of films on the market; I am talking about this product to demonstrate what we have used in the past. It doesn’t mean that all other products are not up to scratch. I always tell everyone to always do your homework.


Your Child’s Safety


In the “good old days” glass was handmade. You can tell when you look through the glass and it distorts the view (assuming you haven’t been drinking). Back then; the Building Industry didn’t have the Codes that we have today. These days every piece of glass that is placed in, windows, showers or balustrades, must be in accordance with the Australian Standards. You cannot place ordinary float glass on a shop front window, legally if anything happens; the person who installed the glass and the Builder will be in trouble.

Recently we renovated an office, we found the glass to the main doors weren’t to code; the people leasing the office space asked the owner to pay for the glass to be upgraded.

The solution to keep the cost down was to place a clear film over the glass. This bought the glass up to the code.

Another project we placed film to a little girl’s bedroom bay window. The bay window below had a toy box seat for storage. The client was worried her daughter might step onto the box and break the glass easily. We placed the clear film on the old glass, our client felt secure about her daughter’s room.


New Standards Can Be Costly


The problems with changing old glass windows are; normal float glass is around 4 to 6mm thick. The outside rebate of the window was made for that thickness glass. In today’s standards (depending on the size of the windows) some glass can be 10-12mm thick. The rebate on the window cannot house the new glass. The solution is to take out the window, get a new sash to fit the thicker glass, or try to router a thicker rebate, plus new weights in the window pockets.

This is a messy job, you have to consider the painting afterwards. The easiest solution is to get a clear film to bring the glazing to the right code. No mess and no painting, unless you love painting.


I always say to do your homework; in one particular case; the glass on one window cracked, it was toughened and a big sheet. What I didn’t know at the time was; laminated glass is not a heat soaked product. In other words; the film absorbed the heat and the laminated glass cracked due to the increase in temperature. It didn’t help that the heat was trapped behind by the thick blind.

If the glass was toughened, then it wouldn’t have cracked. Laminated is used for security reasons, you need to hit it quite a few times before you can make a hole in it. Toughened will shatter into a million pieces.

This piece of glass has been the only one that has cracked. None of the other jobs we have done have had any problems. I wanted you to know what we have experienced, in any building decision there are so many factors to consider. It is up to you to make the choice that suits your particular project.

Have a great week




The Modern Day Builders Secret Weapon

Believe it or not, a Builders diary is a legal document. That’s right! Whatever you write in your daily diary is a legal document incase you are taken to court or have any disputes over any matters. A lot of Builders and clients work on blind faith and don’t wish to be confronted by any hassles.

How any times have you heard a Builder say the client told me to do an extra to a house? The works get done and then a dispute arises after the fact and the parties dispute what was said and assumed. No one documented anything and it all becomes hearsay and nasty.photo

Instead of writing a variation quotation and send it to a client and wait for approval which is the correct way of doing things. The Builder just wants it done because the tradesman is there, or he assumes it will all work itself out at the end of the job. Most Builders just want to get on with the works and can’t stand being stopped or stuffed around. Doing paperwork is painful and takes up the Builders time. This is where things get done without approval and disputes arise.

A diary has to be precise and done daily. Not at the end of the week and you’re trying to remember what happened. All conversations done with the client should be documented. Including the time and the length of an important conversation. To make things a bit more professional: An email or whichever means you can do should be sent to the client. This way they can either change what was written, or if something in the conversation was missed, it can be clarified immediately. Do not send them the excerpt of you diary as it could make the client feel you are after them. Make it professional!

Below Is an example email/letter/fax

Hi Martha

Thank you for being onsite this morning at 7:30am Wednesday 14th January 2013. The following items were discussed and need to be clarified to avoid any possible delays.

5 extra power points, 2 cat 5 cables, HDMI cable and a coax in the master bedroom. 1.2 m above the south wall for future Television/foxtel.

A provision for a Nobo heater in the Master ensuite behind the door on the south side. Situated central to the wall space. 200mm above the finished floor height to the bottom of the heater. I am currently discussing a suitable size unit for the room. This will also determine the price of the unit.

An extra GPO and phone cable central to the splashback on the South side of the kitchen. 300mm above the workbench for a cordless phone provision.

A proposed extension of the kitchen splashback length approx 500mm.

If there is anything I have missed or something else you want done, please email me back so I can issue you with Variation quotation for your approval. No extra works will be done until the variation is approved.

Please note: The electrician will be onsite the next few days, we need to finalise this beforehand or there is a chance it will increase the price. Reason being:  getting him back will delay the project. I will also lose time as we need to start plastering on Friday 16th January 2013.

Looking forward to your response. Please call me if you are unsure of anything.


John Smith



Acme builders Pty Ltd

22 Acme street

Kinsgswood 3177



Never Ever Shoot From The Hip


I was at a coffee shop years ago and a guy came up to me and asked me if I could fit his small aircon in a window for him. I went to his house and he showed me what he wanted done. This was about 20 years ago and I was a bit wet behind the ears back then. This guy insisted I give him a price there and then. I shot from the hip. Put it this way: I finished the job, it took me one day longer and the cost me more getting the window modified to fit the aircon than I had anticipated. That was one big lesson: I just shut my mouth and did the work and got paid. He knew he got it for a great price. I never got all the other work he was promising. Maybe because my prices were correct after the fact.

I could have argued or tried to get more money from this guy or argued and lost what I got paid. But! Your word is your word, I had a choice to walk away, elevate the price so high he would have found someone else to pressure and do the work cheap for him. Just another lesson to the Bank of the Universe.

Never put yourself in a position where a client wants a rough price. They will use this against you if the price is much higher than the one you shot from the hip.

I always say to them  beforehand.

“I have no idea and will get back to you once I get my guy in the office to check it out. I don’t want to set up something that will cause issues later on.”

Back To The Diary

Your diary has to show who came to site that day. Deliveries and all the work that was done. All important phone calls should be documented and itemize what was said. In a court of law you will be able to show the mediator all of your conversations and documentation. Most companies who deliver goods to site take photo evidence with the date and time they dropped off the goods. This way there is no dispute if the materials walk off the site.

If you think I am going on and on about being in court or having dispute with your clients? You are right. I don’t want to see anyone have a dispute or experience being in a courtroom and believe me it’s not a good place to be. The defense is there to discredit you. And you have to sit there being discredited by someone who has no idea who you are and what you are all about.

I had to go to court for a client who had a dispute with the person who supplied the door hardware on a huge job. We are talking about fifty thousand dollars worth of extras that weren’t approved by the client. I had my diary and documented all conversations as I was the Site Manager for the Builder.

The defense tried so hard to discredit me. They were twisting words and trying to catch me off guard. I went home that day feeling deflated and upset. It was Sept 11 2001. I went to bed early that evening and the room started spinning. I was so stressed out. When the planes hit the towers in New York, my wife ran in to wake me. I thought it was a dream: I woke the next morning to discover it wasn’t a dream.

The Builder went broke and the poor guy who supplied the hardware tried to get money out of the client. I felt so bad. But I had to tell the truth as I had seen it and documented. Unfortunately the hardware guy lost his money and paid for a four day court case. This guy’s documentation was not up to scratch. He was pulling at straws. He believed the Builder was going to pay him because he had a long association with him. Justice was not served that day. The wrong person was judged unfairly. Please note: It is not the justice systems fault. They are only as good as the evidence and facts presented to them.


Please realize the power of the written word in a diary,letter,email etc. This is a serious document that will help you in any future endeavors.

I see so many tradies come to site with last years diaries that are filled with scribble. Be systematic and concise. The message you are giving to your clients and anyone who sees your documentation is that you really couldn’t be stuffed. If that drops a person’s trust, then you are in trouble.

Do I hate paperwork? The answer is yes! Do I do it? The answer is yes!

Once you experienced a court case that rips all of your integrity and everything you believe apart. You cannot go back and produce work that is sub standard and write in a diary precisely what happened on any particular day. Your memory won’t serve you if there is no written evidence.

P.S Had a few subscribers asking me if clients should be documenting all of their conversations. The answer is; Absolutely!!!  Each party has to be responsible for their part in the whole Building process.

Have a Great Week!