We built with Ben Trager Homes at Woodvale in Perth between June 2014 and May 2015.
I rated the builder positively for the initial design which suited our rear access garage block and our requirement for a ground floor main bedroom suite, the quality of the specification, and what we perceived to be good value for money.
However the actual building process was quite poor. I suspect that we choose a builder who was relatively new and had far too much on his work load and too few good sub contractors. My views are based on experience as this is the 5th new home build that I have undertaken in the 40 years that I have lived in Perth.
The problems started off at bricklaying stage with a laundry door frame hung around the wrong way and two nib walls in our home theatre room of different sizes, one about 30cm (as per the plan) and the other about 60cm (not as per the plan). What annoyed us at this stage is that we picked up these issues and reported them, and quickly realised that we were effectively supervising much of our own build.
A front door frame of the wrong size was delivered and several months later the wrong size door was delivered. Some people never learn.
The biggest issue for us was when the upper floor was framed and clad and I climbed the ladder to have a look and found that I could not see over the balustrade on the balcony. A major design flaw and yes in fairness to Ben Trager Homes they accepted that it was their design problem...but no apology was given. This issue delayed proceedings for two or three weeks until a fix was undertaken but that’s exactly what it was...a fix. From the inside and outside it looks like a design fault.
We have now decided to change the balustrade ourselves even though we expect it to cost us over $5000.
During the October to December period little happened on site apart from the upper level gutter painting, the removal of the scaffolding and the lower floor roof framing. Not a lot to show for 12 weeks of building and at this stage we were becoming increasingly frustrated at the inertia.
After numerous contacts and the employment of a new roofing contractor by the builder our ground floor roof covering went on in January and in early February the home was locked up.
Nothing could have prepared us for the stop/start progress over the next three months.
We have relatively small wet areas in our home but it took the tiler nearly 10 weeks from when he laid the first tile until the grouting was finished.
We had no upper level or ground floor downpipes or roof vents until the week before we got our keys.
We had an internal door hung in a passage way where it should have been a door frame only, (we were going to have a feature door fitted later). The door was left in place which saved the builder having to remove and dump it, and it suited us in the interim. But did the builder fit door handles....no way. We had to order our own and have them fitted.
The scheduling of work was at times bizarre. The garage door went in a couple of days before the painter arrived to paint the garage ceiling. The external gas water heater was installed two days before the final ground floor render was applied.
It was around February that we found that our supervisor had parted company with the builder and for some time the home simply went unsupervised.
The paving was initially incomplete because the contractor was working off an old plan...a plan that we had not seen.
We finally got access to the home in early May, certainly within the contract period, but probably some weeks later than it should have been finished. And when you are building to a budget and have rental outlays of $500 plus a week avoidable delays are significant.
In the two weeks after getting our keys my own contractors painted the interior, fitted out our lighting and ceiling fans, we had floor boards and carpets installed and all of our window treatments were virtually completed. Amazing what you can do when you are in control of a situation.
Was that the end of our build issue...Sadly no.
Both upper and ground floor toilet cisterns leaked and we found out that the plumber had failed to put plumbers tape around the water inlet pipes.
Our electrician went up into the upper storey ceiling to fit out lights and called me up to have a look and take photos. Insulation material was piled up left, right and centre and areas over a metre long between the ceiling joists had no insulation at all.
The glass window behind the cook top is scratched and a representative from the builder suggested that it had been done by the brickies on the site next door. Funny that the scratches are much the same all over the stainless steel cook top. That damage was probably done by the contractor installing the range hood but if you think you can get anyone to take any responsibility for the damage you are wrong.
And to cap it all the electrician we employed to install various light and fan fittings could not find conduit cable that we had paid for in three locations on the ground floor. We subsequently found out that the builder’s electrician only takes the conduit up the wall to the ceiling and does not extend it to a light fitting. The end result is that the upper floor concrete slab prohibits access to the conduit and it is useless. When we took this up with Ben Trager Homes they said we would not be reimbursed for conduit that we could not use as it was an industry standard. A day or two later they reneged and credited us for the conduit installation costs and the cost of two remote controllers that we had to purchase in order to operate ceiling fans in two rooms.
In five locations we could not install downlights as the builders electrician had simply run the wiring along the ceiling joists and placed the light fitting on the joist, so that a down light could not be inserted.
A final point. The home was very poorly cleaned when handed over. Our painter removed a lot of debris from inside the home and the upper level external windows were not cleaned. Grit and other matter clogged the door and window runners and we spent hours removing it so that they could move properly. You would think that after spending over $300k on a home build that the least a builder would do would clean the home properly and be proud of its presentation. Not so. We were politely informed that this was the industry standard clean.
We know of others who have built during this time and they have had no where near the issues that we have had.
The good news is that we have now been in our home for seven months and have had only one structural problem that needs to be addressed under the 6 month maintenance arrangement. (A crack in our family room ceiling).
This suggests that the quality of the finished product may be a lot better than the journey getting there. We certainly hope so.
If you choose to build with Ben Trager Homes be aware of the above issues.