So you've noticed some dodgy workmanship on your building site and the niggling feeling that your builders aren't delivering what you've paid for in your contract.

Don't stress, it happens more often than you think. But now it's time to speak up before things get out of hand. Approaching your builder about substandard work is never easy, but with some tact and preparation you can resolve issues and get the quality you deserve.

Stay calm and remember, you're in the right here - you just want what you paid for.

In this article, I'll walk you through how to have an effective conversation with your builder, refer to the correct building standards, and if needed, how to get help from an independent expert. You've invested too much money, time and hope into your build to accept second best. So take a deep breath, find your inner resolve, and let's make sure from now on your site delivers the goods.

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Identifying Non-Conforming Building Work

When you notice work that doesn’t meet building standards or code, it’s important to address it right away. Speak to your builder or tradespeople as soon as possible in a polite yet firm manner.

Identify exactly what the issues are. Double check that the work really doesn’t comply by consulting the building plans and code. Make notes about what’s wrong and in what areas. Provide photographic evidence if needed.

Request a meeting with the site supervisor or builder to discuss your concerns. Explain the problems in a straightforward, unemotional way. Focus on the facts and refer to the specific building code clauses or contractual obligations that haven’t been met. Offer to provide your evidence to support your claims.

Suggest reasonable solutions and request a plan of action to remedy the non-conforming work. Be open to negotiation while standing firm on getting the work up to standard. It may help to get advice from a building consultant on what constitutes acceptable solutions.

Follow up regularly to ensure the agreed solutions are carried out properly. Provide any access needed to fix the issues. Stay polite and professional throughout the process. Getting angry or threatening legal action prematurely won’t achieve the optimal outcome.

With a constructive approach, you can get non-compliant building work rectified without damaging your relationship with the builder. Complying with building standards is in everyone’s best interests to ensure a safe, quality finished product. Maintaining open communication and setting clear expectations are key. Stay positive - you’ll get there in the end!

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Reviewing Your Building Contract

When issues with workmanship or compliance arise, the building contract is your guide. Review it thoroughly to understand your rights and the obligations of the builder before approaching them.

  • Double check that the work in question clearly violates the contract, building code or relevant standards. It's best to be certain before raising a dispute to avoid unnecessary conflict. Reach out to us and we will share with you how you can access the Australian Standards FREE OF CHARGE (its not illegal either!)
  • Note the specific clauses or sections of the contract that have been breached. Be prepared to show how the work fails to meet the agreed standards. Having evidence like photos, expert opinions or reports will strengthen your position.
  • Request a meeting with the site supervisor or construction manager to discuss your concerns. Explain the issues objectively and propose solutions to remedy the situation. Try to resolve disputes through respectful communication and mediation before escalating the matter legally.
  • If the builder is unwilling to rectify the problems, you may need to get local authorities like councile building inspectors (when the issue relates to plumbing or council services), engineers or private certifiers involved to assess if the work complies. As a last resort, you can pursue action through consumer tribunals, courts and tribunals to enforce the contract.
  • Renegotiating aspects of the contract should only be considered if you wish to compromise. Any changes made must be documented legally to avoid future disputes. Seek legal advice before signing any revised contracts.

With patience, preparation and professional support if needed, you can work through building disputes and achieve an outcome in line with your contractual rights. Staying calm and communicative is the key. If all else fails, you have lawful means to compel the builder to do the right thing.

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Approaching Your Builder Diplomatically

Approaching your builder about non-conforming work should be done carefully and diplomatically. You want to address issues promptly but avoid escalating tensions or damaging your working relationship.

Here are some tips for a constructive conversation:

Stay calm and composed

Take a few deep breaths to avoid getting emotional. React in a measured, reasonable manner. Yelling or threatening will likely only make the situation worse. Box breathing is a fantastic technique to remain calm and present to prevent your emotions (anger/rage) from getting out of hand.

Box breathing: To start the practice, empty your chest of air completely. Maintain an empty breath for a four-count hold. Next, inhale through your nose for four counts. Hold the air in your lungs for a four-count hold without creating back pressure. Keep an expansive, open feeling even when not inhaling. When ready, release the hold and exhale smoothly through your nose for four counts. This completes one round of the box-breathing practice. I suggest repeating this cycle for at least five minutes for optimal results.

Focus on facts

Explain specifically what work does not meet the standards outlined in your contract or building regulations. Provide any photos or documentation to support your claims. Stick to the facts rather than making personal accusations. Its easy to admonish anyone for any reason but it barely leads to anything constructive rather than making the conversation positional rather than factual.

Suggest solutions

Have some reasonable solutions or remedies in mind to propose to your builder. Be open to compromise and alternative options but to not compromise on standards as prescribed under regulation or national standards. The goal should be resolution, not punishment. Ask your builder for their recommendations on fixing issues too. If there options differ from yours, ask them to qualify their reasoning and how their solution complies with code/regulations/australian standards.

Put it in writing

After speaking with your builder, follow up with a formal letter restating the non-conforming work identified and the agreed upon solution. Have them put in writing their method of rectification and advise them that you will authorise and repairs in writing before they are to proceed. Be sure to inspect repairs for compliance and take finish photos so you have records of the matter completiong. Never trust your memory to provide you with factual recollection, always use photgraphs to avoid any inherint human bias. Get estimates for timelines and costs in writing as well. This helps avoid confusion and provides documentation if needed to take further action.

Stay involved

Continue to inspect work in progress to ensure proper steps are being taken to remedy issues. Provide feedback to your builder and tradespeople. While it’s best to maintain a cooperative spirit, don’t be afraid to be firm if conforming work is not completed as agreed. Your builder should be willing to work with you to resolve all non-conforming work to your satisfaction.

Dont be everyones friend

Don't try to be friends with everyone. In my experience, tradespeople and builders often play the "we're your friend" card when it benefits them. Personally, I've never believed in this approach because it lacks professionalism and blurs boundaries in a work environment. It becomes more difficult to address issues with a friend rather than a colleague. Treat everyone respectfully, but avoid trying to be friends with everyone as they may take advantage of this.

With patience, diplomacy and open communication, you have the best chance of getting your builder to correct any work that does not meet proper standards without damaging your working relationship or budget. Staying actively involved and documenting each step of the process will give you peace of mind that issues have been fully resolved.

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Negotiating a Fair Resolution

Once you’ve noticed the non-conforming work, it’s time to approach your builder to discuss resolving the issues. Staying calm and collected will make the conversation most productive. Follow these tips:

Schedule a Meeting

Request a meeting with your builder to review the work in question. Explain specifically what does not meet the standards outlined in your contract or building codes. Provide any documentation or evidence to support your claim. A face-to-face meeting is best, but a phone call can also be effective.

Focus on Facts

Stick to the facts about what work was agreed upon and what has actually been done. Avoid accusations and remain respectful. Your goal should be to come to a mutually agreeable solution, not prove who is right or wrong. Discuss how the work can be rectified to meet requirements as efficiently as possible.

Be Open to Compromise

Understand that resolving building disputes often involves some compromise from both parties. You may need to accept a small delay in the timeline or your builder may reduce costs on other work to account for the re-do. Look for solutions that satisfy the key issues without becoming adversarial.

Get it in Writing

Any resolution you come to needs to be formally documented to avoid future discrepancies. Review and sign a change order that specifies what non-conforming work will be redone or remedied and a timeline for completion. This protects you legally and gives your builder clear direction on how to proceed.

Consider Mediation

If you’re unable to resolve issues directly with your builder, you may need to bring in a mediator. They can review contracts and building standards objectively and help facilitate a compromise. Mediation is less costly and time-consuming than pursuing legal action. It aims to find a solution that works for everyone involved.

With a constructive approach, open communication, and a willingness to compromise, you can negotiate a fair resolution to non-conforming building work. Following the proper steps will help get the job done right the first time and avoid bigger headaches down the road.

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Get local authority involved (if necessary)

As a last resort, you may need to get your local building authority, council or a building inspector involved to assess if the work complies with regulations and issue any notices to remedy or stop work orders. However, this step could damage your relationship with the builder and prolong the dispute resolution process. Only take this step if ADR (alternative dispute resolution) methods have failed and the non-conforming work is a safety risk or major defect.

The most constructive approach is to first address issues directly with your builder, then consider ADR if needed. Complying with your contract and building standards is in the best interest of both parties, so approaching the discussion with a solutions-focused and cooperative attitude is key. Staying calm and professional will achieve the best outcome.


Remember, stay calm and composed, focus on the facts and how their work fails to meet the required standards. Explain clearly how you expect the issues to be remedied. If they push back, don't be afraid to get a second opinion from an expert or threaten further action.

You've paid good money and deserve quality work - don't settle for less. Approaching the situation professionally will get you the best results. With a bit of patience and persistence, you'll end up with a home that's built to standard and gives you peace of mind.