Chris Parsons returns to Ben Adam-Smith's self build home after a year to look for defects. He explains what snagging is, how the list is compiled and how the rectification process works.
Interview with Chris Parsons
It has already been a year since Ben Adam-Smith completed his self build project. In that time, Chris Parsons has taken retirement from his architecture business, but still has a few outstanding projects to work on. But before he can entirely devote his time to his new interests there's the matter of snagging to carry out on Ben's home.
There are contractual obligations
The contract that Ben had with his builder stipulated a 12 month rectification period, whereby they would return to put right any defects of materials or workmanship that arose during that time.
As part of that contract Ben kept a financial retention to ensure that happens. Once the work has been finalised Chris can issue a certificate and the remainder of the money must be paid.
Normally if defects occur they can be left and dealt with together at the end of that period, but any that occur that prevent you from enjoying your property should be dealt with in a reasonable time, which is where a good working relationship with your contractor can be advantageous.
“All defects are inconvenient, but I don’t know anyone who can build absolutely perfectly, spot on, day one.”
The architect and residents may notice different defects
Having lived in the house for 12 months there are bound to be things that a resident would notice, which an architect coming to do a defects list may not. This is why Chris recommends keeping your own list, so that the architect can determine whether they are proper defects and if applicable add them to his list for the contractor. Likewise there will also be things that his professional eye would spot that may previously have gone unnoticed.
Some shrinkage and movement is to be expected
Chris explains that shrinkage isn't technically a defect, though a contractor would likely return to put it right anyway. When using some natural materials and any type of plastering process that involves putting in a lot of moisture there will be an amount of shrinkage.
There will also be some movement as the building settles into position. This may result in cracks on walls or gaps in sealants. Generally the plan to rectify it would involve some filling and redecoration, although this could amount to a considerable amount of work.
Ben's snagging list
Ben is thankful that there are only a dozen or so items on his snagging list, including:
- They are aware of some sound connection in the MVHR from the en-suite down into the kitchen, so this is something that Chris will have to check on the drawings to try and work out what could be the cause.
- The biggest issue they've had has been the glazing. There were defects in the glass panels which was down to a manufacturing error, but the supplier dealt with it effectively and these were replaced.
- There have been some minor shrinkage cracks, but also one around the window reveals where the angle bead has moved which will need to be addressed.
- The shower tray has dropped a little which may be the cause of a small leak down into the kitchen where the silicone has pulled away a fraction.
- There is some creaking in the upstairs floorboards, which Chris thinks could be down to natural movement over time and changing during the seasons.
Occupants need to learn how to use their houses
During the hottest period of the summer Ben's house did very briefly reach 28 degrees, but this hasn't been a cause for concern. Chris says that some houses will naturally be easier to keep cool than others, based on their orientation and site constraints, so at the design stage they will try to mitigate what will likely cause the overheating. He says occupants should also learn the techniques for cooling their house.
“As designers we need to be looking carefully to try to make sure that our houses can stay cool because we’re going to get more and more of those heatwaves. We need to understand that. We need to make sure that people know how to use their houses, but most of all we need to make sure that designers know what they’re doing. This is not true of the Passivhaus fraternity but I’m not convinced that many of our house designers fully appreciate that problem.”
There can be a fine line between defects, and wear and tear
An architect in this situation can take on the role of adjudicator. Chris calls this client management, where an occupant might have something on their own snagging list that actually Chris would put down to being a matter of wear and tear, rather than a contractual defect. It's Chris' job to determine what is fair to add to the list that is presented to the contractor.
Not all defects will be detected within the 12 months
Even after the 12 month period there may continue to be some movement and shrinkage, however this will then fall outside the responsibility of the contractor.
There are other defects that the contractor can continue to be held liable for even after this time. These are called latent defects, which might be a defect in materials or workmanship. Even if it's several years later they can still have some responsibility to come back and put it right. Chris explains that there is a technical legal limit to it, but it's basically at the point at which it should reasonably have been discovered.
Later alterations are your responsibility
Ben is thinking about adding another external water tap. Because the water supply will be inside the thermal envelope Chris advises caution when drilling a hole through the building fabric and making sure a grommet is put on to avoid too much air leakage.
“But it’s something that is completely down to you to organise. There is no responsibility left for any of the people that were involved in the build contract to deal with your alterations, extensions, or anything else you want to do, other than making sure that you’ve got all the information you need to be able to do it properly.”
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