Note: This is not a sponsored post. We have written this post to highlight how you can improve your contract documentation and project quality using a detailed specification.

So you’ve saved your deposit, found some land, and now you’re ready to sign on the dotted line with a builder to make your dream home a reality. But have you really thought about what you’re getting for your money?

Project builders focus on volume and speed, not necessarily quality or compliance. Hoping your builder and their trades will do the right thing is naive.

The secret to getting what you pay for in a new home is demanding that a proper specification, like NATSPEC, be included in your building contract. NATSPEC provides minimum standards for materials and workmanship and cites regulatory requirements so you know what you should expect from your builder.

Don’t get stung learning that not all builders are created equal. Be savvy and get what you pay for - insist on a detailed building specification!

What Is NATSPEC and Why It Matters for Your New Home Build

NATSPEC is Australia's leading building specification system. It provides detailed, pre-written specs for the construction industry that aim to give you peace of mind about the quality and compliance of your new home.

When you sign a contract with a project builder, the specs outline precisely what you're paying for, so there are no surprises. It details the minimum standards for building elements and areas like:

  • Materials
  • Quality
  • Durability
  • Functionality/Purpose

Without a proper spec, you hope the builder and trades will do things well, as in, where quality standards are not clearly articulated, you trust everyone will do things properly. NATSPEC gives you confidence because it details minimum standards in black-and-white and does not leave quality open to interpretation.

Some key things NATSPEC specifications include (see an example specification in the link below):

  • Structural components like concrete, framing and roofing
  • Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems
  • Doors, windows, cabinetry and other fittings
  • Flooring, tiles, paint and other finishes

While project builders may use their own specs, they may not be thorough or definitive. For peace of mind in the construction of your home, include a detailed specification in your contract. Your new home is worth the investment in high quality from the ground up, and that starts with a quality building specification.


Click here to view a sample NATSPEC Domestic specification

How Builders Cut Corners Without a Detailed Specification

When you sign a contract with a project builder, you expect quality and value for your money. Unfortunately, without a detailed specification, corners are often cut in ways you may not discover until after the handover. To really know what you're getting, demand a comprehensive building specification be included in your contract, like NATSPEC's Simple Domestic Building Specification. Here are some of the ways builders cut corners in pursuit of time (speed) over quality:

  • Trade rates and simple quotes are used rather than detailed specifications. Builders get quotes from tradespeople based on rough outlines, not specific standards. Quality can vary, and shortcuts may be taken to maximise profits (time and cost maximised, quality minimised).
  • Minimum compliance is aimed for, not best practice. Builders will do only what's required to meet basic regulations rather than following industry best practices or asking/determining client expectations. Construction details, waterproofing and framing details, insulation, waterproofing, and acoustic performance may be subpar.
  • Generic products are specified, not optimal ones. Rather than choosing high-quality, long-lasting construction materials and building products suited to your home's needs, builders will use whatever basic materials get the job done at the lowest upfront cost. Consider brick cavity ties for example: every home must use brick cavity ties with a corrosion resistance rating adequate for the environment in which it is being used. Builders often use galvanised ties on all sites because these are readily available and cost-effective. Stainless Steel ties are required when the home is in proximity to the ocean or marine environments.
  • Oversight and inspections are limited. Without a proper spec, there are no standards to measure quality against. Since no detailed requirements exist, builders can avoid accountability for shoddy workmanship or substandard materials - they "flim-flam" in grey areas of paperwork where insufficient detail leads to assumptions or worse - liberal interpretation of what quality should be.

By demanding a comprehensive specification like NATSPEC be incorporated into your contract, you ensure you'll get the quality home you pay for and deserve.

Don't just hope for the best - get the details in writing upfront and use them to hold your builder accountable every step of the way. Your new home is too big of an investment to leave to chance!

Why You Can't Rely on Supplier & Trade Quotes for Quality Assurance

You're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on your new home, so you want to ensure you get what you pay for, right? You can't rely solely on a builder's supplier and trade quotes/base rates to guarantee quality. These typically only reference the minimum specs to get the job done, not the details that ensure it's done well.

Technical specifications must be clearly outlined in your building contract to achieve quality. Specifications like NATSPEC provide comprehensive details for all components, from concrete and framing to electrical and plumbing. They specify minimum standards for materials, installation methods, testing procedures, and more. Using a trusted spec means there are no guesses or assumptions, just clear expectations for quality at every stage.

Without strict specifications, you cannot know if cheaper alternatives will be used or corners cut to save money. The results may look fine at first, but problems can surface down the road. Specifications give you reassurance and leverage. If work doesn't meet the required standard, you have grounds to insist on fixes or compensation.

Consider bricklaying for example: everyone generally asks bricklayers, "what's your cost per 1000?" If you expect bricklayers to quote and use the appropriate mortar mix particular to your site when they mention their rate to you, guess again. Many bricklayers don't use lime in mortar these days, so your mortar is not as hard and long-lasting as it should be. Lime is essential in a mortar mix. General purpose mortar should be a 1:1:6 - cement:lime:sand mix ratio. If you don't specify this, trades will do what they do at your cost! You may even hear bricklayers say "we don't use that so you don't get white marks on your brickwork." This is bullshit. If you want to learn more about what white marks on hard surfaces are, read our blog post all about efflorescence HERE.

Some suppliers and trade contractors may claim their methods and materials are superior or that specifications will limit creativity or cost more. Don't buy into this. A good spec still allows for customisation but ensures a quality foundation and compliance with building codes & regulations. It gives you confidence in what you're paying for and peace of mind in your investment. Specifications are not meant to be burdensome but to make clear everyone's expectation of what quality means particular to a project. Expectations vary, and so do specifications.

How to Make Sure Your Builder Follows Quality Standards

You must ensure your builder adheres to proper quality standards in constructing your new home. Don’t just assume they have your best interests in mind—get involved and verify critical details.

Residential Building Specification - eDocs

Consider the above QMBA RBC Specification, which is used in conjunction with the Residential Building Contract (RBC) for a moment. This is considered by legal experts to be the best contract in Queensland to use because of the level of detail it forces Builders to go into when filling it out. The opening paragraph of this Specification states:

This Schedule shall form part of the Specification and must be read in conjunction with the Residential Building Specification and the drawings. All items noted in the Specification Schedule shall be included whether covered or not by the relevant clauses in the Specification.
Refer to the Building Act, Building Code of Australia (BCA), Queensland Development Code (QDC) and relevant Australian Standards for the minimum standard of building construction required by law.

This is what both Builders and Suppliers and in some cases trades do - blanket statements such as the one bolded above "you must comply with what you need to" type statements. Legally, this works to a point (although you would have to pay a small fortune to prove your case and determine how you are right), but it is much better form and practice to detail what these minimum standards are for each trade or work package. This is exactly what NATSPEC has done. They have created a document that details and references all the standards and regulations outlined above.

By including a NATSPEC specification in your contract, you spell out, unambiguously, the minimum standard that your builder, suppliers and trades must achieve and not leaving things open to interpretation (read open to litigation).

Check References and Reviews

Do your homework on the builder. Ask to see examples of their work and speak with previous clients. Check independent reviews as well. Look for a proven track record of quality, satisfied customers, and a willingness to stand by their work.

Conduct Regular Site Inspections

Visit the site often, ideally once a week or at significant milestones. See the progress and quality firsthand. Notice details like straight walls, proper waterproofing and flashings, seals around windows/doors, and insulation that is installed correctly. Point out any issues right away and make sure they are properly addressed.

Review Third-Party Inspections

For key elements like the foundation/slab (private engineer), frame (building certifiers) and plumbing (council), external inspectors will assess if the work is up to code. Get copies of all inspection reports and certificates of occupancy. Double-check that any required remediation was completed.

We highly recommend engaging your own independent building inspector to asses stage claim work and at critical constriction phases. Read our article, "Should you engage a building inspector when building your new home?" HERE.

Do a Thorough Stage/Claim Walk-Throughs

Tour your home with the construction supervisor or builder at the end of each construction stage before paying the presented progress claim. Note any issues that must be completed or brought to an acceptable standard before authorising claim payments. Do not believe promises made by anyone and see for yourself or ask for documented proof of completion before you pay. Discuss details of all systems and warranties before signing off on stages. Get copies of compliance certificates as soon as they are available. This is your last chance to catch anything amiss and ensure all is as it should be in your new home before you release payment to your builder.

Staying on top of the details and verifying quality at each stage of construction will give you confidence in the final result and help avoid unwanted surprises. While it requires effort, ensuring standards are met will provide you with a home that delivers what you pay for.

Insist on a NATSPEC Specification in Your Building Contract

Hoping for quality is wishful thinking. Insist on a detailed NATSPEC specification in your building contract, then use it to ensure quality on site.

Suppliers and trades may reference and suggest compliance with all relevant Australian Standards and regulations in their quotes. However, the current state of quality management in the residential construction industry in Australia indicates that Suppliers and trades DO NOT ADEQUATELY PERFORM QUALITY MANAGE onsite. Mainly, suppliers and trades are solely focused on productivity and completing as many jobs as fast as possible to take advantage of favourable building conditions (demand exceeding supply). They leave quality control up to construction supervisors who are generally not always onsite supervising work quality. It's easy to see how trades and suppliers get away with "as seen" quality management.

When a comprehensive specification such as NATSPEC is designated and incorporated into your contract, then shared with trades and suppliers for integration into their subcontracts, they are provided with an established written standard specification or minimum level of quality standard to achieve. While this doesn't necessarily guarantee an automatic enhancement in the quality of their work, it empowers you as the client/owner of the project, offering leverage over both the principal and subcontractors.

NATSPEC gives you peace of mind that what’s in the plans and quotes is required for compliance and quality.

  • Demand your builder incorporates the NATSPEC Simple Domestic Specification into your contract. This helps avoid surprises, shortcuts, and subpar work.
  • Review the spec with your builder to understand what it covers and ensure you’re both on the same page for expectations. Ask questions if anything is unclear.
  • Use the spec as a checklist during construction to check off each stage and ensure work is done to standard. Take photos of anything questionable.
  • For variations or additions to the standard spec, get written clarification to avoid confusion or corner-cutting.

While a detailed spec adds time upfront, it saves headaches later and gives you leverage to push for quality if needed. Think of it as insurance for building a home to a lasting standard. Many owners regret not taking this precaution, finding issues too late that are costly to fix.

Don’t just hope for the best in your build—take action by demanding clear specifications upfront. Combined with diligent monitoring during construction, this is your secret weapon to getting the quality home you pay for. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!


So there you have it, the secret to getting what you pay for in a new home build. Don't just take the builder's word that they'll build you a quality home. Demand detailed specifications, like NATSPEC that will be used to construct your new home. If they can't provide anything more than generic supplier quotes and trade rates, walk away or add accountability into the contract through a detailed specification.

You're about to make one of the biggest purchases of your life. Do you want to gamble on, hoping the builder and trades will do quality work? Of course not. Use a proper specification to hold them accountable at every build stage. Ensure builders, suppliers and trades work to detailed specifications and don't leave quality up to chance. It's the only way to ensure your hard-earned dollars result in a home built right the first time.

Visit NATSPEC below and purchase the SIMPLE DOMESTIC BUILDING Specification for $99 GST inc