You've done your research, checked the standards, and are ready to request contractor quotes. But have you truly considered what will occur once they commence the work?

The truth is, most contractors have their own methods that might not necessarily align with regulations or meet Australian standards. Be prepared for responses like "we don't adhere to that approach here" or significantly higher estimates to complete the job correctly.

The reality of trade standards often diverges from what's documented. As a new homeowner, it's crucial to approach the work with realistic expectations. The standards are in place for a reason, but not all contractors strictly adhere to them.

The Problem: Why Contractors Say "We Don't Do It That Way Here"

Contractors often develop their own methods over the years that may not align with required standards and regulations. When you request a quote and specify certain standards, the common response is, "we don't follow that approach here." In reality, they often take shortcuts to expedite the work and boost profits.

For instance, many contractors bypass proper procedures for waterproofing wet areas like bathrooms to save time and money. However, their approach may fail to adequately seal and protect, leading to costly leaks or water damage in the future.

Don't hesitate to challenge contractors who disregard the rules. Your home is a significant investment, and cutting corners is not an option. Ask them to explain how their method differs and why they consider it acceptable. Seek multiple opinions from other tradespeople. Ensure that any contract you sign explicitly mandates compliance with standards. If not, be prepared to withhold final payment until the work is executed correctly.

Your home should be constructed to endure, not just quickly and inexpensively. While "we don't do it that way here" might be a common refrain, it's essential to be highly cautious of any contractor unwilling to perform the job safely, ethically, and within the bounds of the law. The well-being of your home relies on it.

Behind the Scenes: How Contractors Learn to Cut Corners

Contractors learn the tricks of the trade from more experienced builders, and unfortunately, some of those tricks involve cutting corners to save time and money.

The Reality of How Contractors Operate

Many contractors pick up bad habits that become second nature, like using inferior materials or taking shortcuts with installations and compliance. They get used to doing things a certain way to increase profits and often tell homeowners, "we don't do it like that here" if asked to follow proper standards.

Homeowners seeking quotes should be aware of this reality and specifically outline minimum standards for work quality and compliance with building codes in the job specifications. Get multiple quotes to compare, check online reviews, and don't just go with the lowest bid. A contractor willing to cut corners to win a job is likely to continue cutting corners to increase their profit margin.

inferior workmanship won’t be apparent for some time. By then, warranties may have expired and the contractor long gone. Do your due diligence upfront to avoid headaches down the road.

Once work begins, regularly inspect progress and don’t be afraid to speak up if something doesn’t seem right. Politely but firmly insist the work meets the standards outlined in your contract. Your contractor may push back, claiming, “we’ve always done it this way”, but stand your ground. You’re paying for the job to be done properly and legally.

With vigilance and carefully choosing contractors, homeowners can avoid becoming another victim of “we don’t do it like that here”. Do your research, know your rights, and don’t settle for subpar work. Your home is worth the effort to get quality and compliant construction.

Quoting Games: Why You Can't Always Trust Contractor Quotes

Quoting Games: Why You Can't Always Trust Contractor Quotes

When getting quotes for home renovation work, don’t be surprised if contractors don’t always include everything required to do the job properly. Many tradespeople have learned tricks over the years to win jobs by underquoting the competition. They may leave out key details or cut corners to give you a lower price, hoping you won’t notice until the work’s already done.

As the property owner, it’s up to you to make sure any quotes you receive will meet minimum standards for quality, safety and compliance. Do your own research on the latest building codes and trade practices so you know what to ask for. Get multiple quotes from different contractors for comparison. Be very specific in describing exactly what you want done. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

NATSPEC has developed detailed specifications for different types of construction which you can use as the basis for minimum compliance standards for trade packages. Read more about NATSPEC in this blog post.

Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions about materials, methods and permits. A reputable tradesperson should have no problem explaining their quote and approach in detail. Watch out for vague responses like “we don’t usually do it that way” or “that’s not how we do things here.” This is code: "we’re not actually planning to meet the proper standards or building regulations.”

You may end up paying slightly more for a contractor who does things by the book, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing the work was done safely and to code. Your home is too valuable an investment to cut corners on. When comparing quotes, look for signs like:

  • Itemized breakdown of labour and materials
  • Mention of relevant permits, inspections and regulations
  • High-quality, durable and code-approved (code-marked) materials specified
  • A reasonable timeline for the scope of work
  • References from previous clients (check them!)
  • Certifications and memberships in professional organisations
  • Training and upskilling - when did they last learn something new about their trade and why? This is even more valuable than certifications and memberships, often "one off" events only procured for compliance.

The lowest quote isn’t always the best. Look for value, quality and transparency to get work you can trust. Your home depends on it!

Balancing Time Cost & Quality

I'm sure you're reading this and thinking, "this sounds like an ideal world scenario," believing that everyone will adhere to regulations simply because you ask them to. Frankly, this should not even be a topic for discussion because contractors should already possess the knowledge and commitment to abide by the national construction code and relevant standards. We understand that time constraints often apply when you have a project, and there's a limited window to get things done. Some contractors take advantage of this by presenting a "take it or leave it" approach in their quotes, essentially telling you to accept their terms or forgo the work altogether.

First and foremost, it's important to note that not all contractors operate in this manner. Additionally, this attitude is influenced by the current supply and demand dynamics. When demand for contractors and trades is low, they tend to be more receptive and adjust their rates to align with the market. Conversely, when they are in high demand, their arrogance can increase, affecting both builders and home owners alike.

The only solution to this issue is determining whether you are willing to modify your time constraints. This adjustment would give you more time to search for alternative contractors who adhere to higher quality standards or reconsider your quality expectations. We have crafted an in-depth blog post that delves into the "holy trinity" of Time, Cost, and Quality and how it applies to construction projects - READ IT HERE. In every endeavour, compromise is inevitable, regardless of the industry or the desired outcome.

Bringing Work Up to Code: Enforcing Standards Without Breaking the Bank

Once you’ve received quotes from contractors, you’ll want to make sure the work will be done properly and up to current building codes. However, bringing subpar work up to standards can cost money and time. There are a few ways to enforce high-quality work without excessive fees.

Be specific about your requirements

When requesting quotes, specify that all work must meet current building codes and standards. Get details about the exact standards the contractor will follow for plumbing, electrical, structural, and other work. If a contractor says, “We don’t do it like that here,” keep looking.

LINK: The National Construction Code - NCC Website

Do your research

Study the building standards and the National Construction Code (BCC) so you understand exactly what standards need to be met. That way, you can properly evaluate the contractors’ promises and spot any potential issues. Check government websites for code details as well as resources for new homeowners.

Inspect work regularly

Don’t just check in at the end of the project. Visit the site often, especially at key points like plumbing and electrical installations or roofing and framing. Take photos and notes about anything that looks questionable. It’s much easier to have issues fixed as the work progresses rather than after the fact.

Get permits and inspections.

For major work, make sure the contractor obtains all necessary permits. Request to see them. Local building inspectors will then evaluate the work at important milestones. Point out any concerns you have to the inspectors. Their job is to make sure standards are met, so take advantage of this service you’ve already paid for with your tax dollars.

Hold payments until satisfied.

Don’t pay progress payments or the full amount until you’ve inspected the stage claim and are confident all work meets the agreed-upon standards. If you discover issues that require fixing, withhold a reasonable amount from the payment until they are addressed properly. This motivates the contractor to make things right so they can get paid in full.

Be careful of contractors who use lengthy terms and conditions that include clauses preventing payment retention (retention of payment clauses). These clauses are specifically worded so that you must pay a stage claim first and then report quality issues. This is untenable in our mind because "he who has the gold makes the rules." Once you have paid, there is almost no equitable outcome for you if there is defective or non-compliant work.

Following these tips will help ensure your contractor does quality work that’s up to code—without you having to bear the high cost of fixing shoddy craftsmanship after the fact. Staying actively involved in the process and verifying standards are met at every stage is key. Don’t get stuck with subpar work just because “we don’t do it like that here.” You deserve better.

Educating Yourself: Resources for Savvy Homeowners

As a homeowner, you need to educate yourself on proper building standards and practices. Don’t just take a contractor’s word for how something “should” be done. Do your own research from reputable sources so you know when a contractor’s methods don’t measure up.

Building codes and standards

Familiarize yourself with the building codes and standards in your area. These exist to ensure safe, high-quality construction and renovation work. Ask your contractors specifically how their work will meet these codes and standards. Don’t accept vague assurances—get details.

Product installation guidelines

Obtain the supplier installation guidelines for any products used in your home, like plumbing fixtures, HVAC equipment, windows, etc. Compare these to how your contractor proposes to install the products. Ask questions about any discrepancies.

Homeowner forums and reviews

Search online for homeowner forums and reviews discussing contractors in your area or those you’re considering hiring. Look for mentions of work that didn’t meet standards or codes. See if the contractor addressed issues adequately. Reviews from past clients can reveal a lot.

Second opinions

For complex or expensive projects, get second opinions from other reputable contractors. Compare their recommendations and estimates to make sure everything seems reasonable. This can give you more confidence in the contractor you choose and the job they propose to do.

Don’t be afraid to be thoroughly annoying in your quest for information and accountability. This is your home and a huge investment. Contractors may try to take shortcuts, but you can get the job done with persistence. Staying on top of standards, best practices, and the specifics of your project is the best way to avoid hearing “we don’t do it like that here.” You’ll know the difference, and you can demand better.


So there you have it, the truth about trade standards and why contractors don't always comply. As a new homeowner seeking work done, you now know to take quotes and promises with a grain of salt. Research the latest standards and regulations to call out contractors if their work doesn't meet them. Be firm in demanding compliance for work that will impact safety, quality, and longevity. You're paying good money, so don't settle for shoddy workmanship or excuses. And if needed, don't be afraid to get inspectors or licensing boards involved to enforce standards. Your home is worth it. Stay educated and stand up for quality - you'll be glad you did down the road.