STEP 7 – Find A Builder – This is one of the hardest parts because you need to find somebody you can trust. I have had experiences with various builders over the last few years with mixed results. There are a number of ways to go about the build:
- Use a company – most expensive solution but in theory the simplest. Seems to becoming more and more popular. The company will organise everything for you so you don’t care about having to find a registered plumber, electrician or gas installer or specialists to do tiling or roofing. The downside (apart from the higher cost) is that there is a fair amount of risk unless you know the company is rock solid.
- Go it alone – plan everything yourself and hire people as needed. This is the route I have generally taken. It means I have had more control over the stages of the build and if I wasn’t happy with a particular tradesman I could get rid of him without too much hassle. The problem is that it is slower as you have to coordinate everything yourself plus more stressful as you have to deal with all of the tradesmen yourself. However by doing it this way I reckon I saved money (over using a company) and it meant I didn’t have to commit to a large amount of work in one go.
- Use family – very common in Poland, especially in the countryside. Poles will use family members (even remote family with whom there is little or no contact). Everybody seems to have an uncle or cousin somewhere that knows how to build. Often ‘Uncle’ will come to live with you for the duration of the build and you pay him and give him food and accomodation. Advantage is that this option is quite low-risk and cheap but can be a bit of hassle and the build might take a while if there’s only a couple of people doing the work.
Couple of other things worth thinking/knowing about:
- Supply of Materials – quotes may or may not include material. If the builders supply material then they will often add 10% to the cost. Therefore one way to save money is to organise materials and the transport of materials yourself. Note that sometimes the builders will charge you shop price for things such as sand but the sand has in fact come leftovers that the builder has collected from previous jobs. Therefore they won’t want you to organise some materials yourself because then they aren’t making a profit from their material. So best to check where all of the material is coming from and ask for documentation. Of course nobody will want to supply an invoice (faktura), especially if you are doing things off the books – but they should still be able to provide delivery notes without any excuses.
- Quality of Materials – make sure you and your builder are clear on what your expectations are regarding the quality of materials to be used. Poles have a tendency to do things as cheaply as possible, so if you don’t say anything then you might end up with lower quality materials.
- Site Manager – those who aren’t too worried about costs might want to think about hiring a site manager. Basically this is a project manager who is independent from your builder who you pay to manager the project and check things. Cost is normally a percentage of the total build cost but using a site manager will save you a lot of stress and time. If you don’t have somebody to physically check what the builders are doing at least once a day then I can guarantee you will have problems.
- Electricity – do you have a source of electricity for the builders to use? Until you have a meter installed the electricity company will charge you a “building site rate” in order to provide you with power. This rate is outrageously expensive. Common solution is to pay a neighbour instead at a previously agreed rate.
STEP 8 – The Build
I don’t have any specific advice for this step apart from make sure you are on-site as often as possible – at least once every single day. I have had various problems such as builders accidentally digging threw our sewage pipe and water supply and problems such as drunk builders on the roof.
Other note is about the time of the year – ideally you want to time the start of the build for spring so that you don’t get delays due to bad weather/snow. If you start during summer/autumn then you are racing to try and at least get the roof on by winter.