…and other unprintable phrases about build or reno regret.

Welcome to Bootcamp for Your Build or Reno. We could fill a book with our customers’ build-and-reno-regrets. Wasted time, wasted money, spiralling costs, unqualified choices, and a finished - or sometimes unfinished - product that makes you weep and cry: “Never, never and never again!”

If - in spite of your friend’s disaster warnings, or the unfolding of a neighbour’s nightmare you watched from over the wall - you are still determined to go ahead with a dream reno, or a big new build, best you read on. We’ve compiled a bunch of helpful tips and lists of ‘keep-away-froms’ to steer you in the right direction. Of course, things can always go off-script at the 11th hour… but at least you’ll be armed with a shoulder to lean on, good sense, a bit of wisdom and a clear head.

 Building or renovating is not for the faint-hearted. Builders, contractors and homeowners very seldom part as good friends. And, spoiler alert, you can make enemies of your neighbours, too. Get savvy.

Ten things your builder/renovator won’t tell you:

1.“My quote is not cast in stone”. The quote is the bait to reel you in. Very often, the extras, and any changes to the plan, however minor, will cost you more. And what you regard as part of the job, the contractor will regard as an extra. Expect to pay at least 20 - 25% more than the quote. The Gauteng Master Builders’ Association www.gmba.co.za advises you should never accept the cheapest quote. Rather compare at least three detailed quotes. That way you are able to compare individual items – which you must specify. For example, if a quote includes tiles, the builder will make an assumption about quality and type unless you are specific. And another thing… never accept quotes based on a rate per m2. One builder might quote you R2000 per m2 while another will quote R2500. Accepting either of these could leave you seriously out of pocket because you have no idea what you will be getting for that money. Quotes must be as detailed as possible. Right down to the last nail, preferably.

2.“My contract is for my protection only”. Any contracts drawn up by builders or renovators are likely to be written in their favour. We recommend you purchase a standard contract form available from the Master Builders’ Association in your region. The contract covers common issues encountered in the industry but you can delete those not relevant to you, and add clauses that work for you.

3.“I’ll use your deposit on someone else’s house”. Many small contractors have a cash flow problem, and this puts you at their mercy. The Association is, in general, not in favour of deposits, because, as they say, a reputable builder should be able to make a start on your home – at least lay the foundations – before asking for the first payment. If your proposed contractor defends the deposit he’s asked for by saying he needs it for purchasing materials, counter by saying you’ll pay the suppliers directly. That way you own the materials. (We’ve heard shocking tales of contractors who’ve taken the deposit and disappeared, never to be seen again.)

4.“Don’t expect me to pass on any savings”. Builders make money by marking up every item purchased, e.g. doors, window frames, tiles etc. One unfortunate customer of ours was told he could get a good discount on a garage door if he paid cash. He later discovered he could have got the same door for nearly R1000 less than he paid. Faceclap. Once again, the Association says: “Get everything in writing, in minute detail. And any amendments must be explained and co-signed. That way you know in detail exactly what you are paying for. Unless it is discussed, priced, agreed to and put in writing, just say no.”

5.“I won’t stick to the completion date”. So many unhappy people have been let down by a project that just never seems to get finished. Some have had to wait not just months, but years past the completion date. Ensure you have a late completion penalty clause in the contract. Then, two months before the completion date, if it looks like you’re way off completion, send a formal letter to the contractor, reminding him of the penalty clause. Do the same thing a month before the date, and then two weeks before the deadline, warning him you will be applying the penalty clause.

6.“I may not hang around to finish the job”. Wait, what? Yes indeed. Bankrupt builders who go belly up can cause homeowner hardship. We know people who’ve been sweet-talked into handing over the final instalment before it was due in terms of the contract… a few days later, they heard the guy was put under liquidation. They were left with a half-completed house, without a roof, in the rainy season. They also discovered that the window frames and doors – which the builder claimed had been bought with the first instalment – had yet to be purchased. Advice here? Do your homework and reference check the builder. Phone the referees. Visit completed projects. Then, make sure all payments made are for work completed.

7.“I’ll make sure your neighbours hate you”. Water pipes sawed through. Dividing walls cracked. Sprinkler systems damaged by trucks driving over verges. Noise. Dust. Oh, the list is endless. Our advice? Speak to your neighbours, warn them of your project… long before the drama unfolds. Apologise when things go wrong. And best of all, check on the rep of your contractor and any problems he caused other neighbourhoods with previous contracts.

8.“I’ll sneak in second-hand fittings”. Specify the quality of the goods to be purchased in the quote. Ask to see ALL invoices. Enough said.

9.“My guarantees are empty promises”. A 5 year guarantee on a plaster job. Yeah, right. The reality is there’s no such thing as the perfect building, so a builder’s willingness to come back and mend is paramount. (Reputable builder comment applies here again.) Give your builder the incentive to honour his word by holding back a percentage of the price (this is a retention fund), say five percent, for three months. You can pick up any problems and get the builder back to rectify them.

10.“I don’t stick to building regulations”. Without the correct information at your disposal, you are entirely at the mercy of the builder or renovator. Has the foundation been dug to the right depth? Are the cracks that appear serious or not? NEVER START A NEW BUILD, A BUILD-ON, OR A RENO WITHOUT APPROVED PLANS.


Peace of mind comes at a price, people.

Your build, build-on or renovation is a major investment. Your home is where you heart lies. We are all quite prepared to pay an estate agent a fee to sell our houses for us. So why don’t we employ the same thinking when building a house? Why don’t we pay a building consultant for their expertise? Why do we put our happiness straight into the hands of what are rightly termed “Bakkie Builders” (a few shovels and a bag of cement do not a builder make!)



Details, details, details.

So, even if it’s retiling job you’re about to start, a lot of what you’ve read still applies. Consider this: you’re not just putting money aside for tiles. You need to consider tile cement, spacers, cleaning products, bull noses or step edges. Next step. Our advice is #DDIY (Don’t DIY), call in the experts. But consider carefully the artisans you choose to lay your magnificent tiles. Get references. If you’re in Gauteng, you have the fortunate advantage of our brand new Italtile Installation Service when you purchase Italtile tiles.


Avoid the coulda-shoulda-woulda. Do your homework.

Before this turns into Volume One, let us close by reiterating: do your homework. Investigate. Contact the Master Builders’ Association in your region. And read the wise words of these articles we’ve earmarked for your attention:









Right, now all that remains is for us to ease you (and the paper bag you’re breathing into) out of the cupboard that you’ve locked yourself in. OK, so we’ve painted a realistic picture.

(Get over the shocks sooner rather than later.) Remember, with a good contract, reputable contractors, expert advice from the Master Builders’ Associations, and your Italtile peeps – always passionately and compassionately here for you in store or online with the very best products, the most sensible advice and qualified, creative ideas – you’re ready to build or renovate without regret.


Be careful out there. #live beautifully with #noregrets