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Foreman vs Building Supervisor: The Block vs Reality

Working with a Building Supervisor

If you watch The Block, you can’t miss the formidable presence of Foreman Keith, aka ‘The Blockinator’. And you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ll be scrapping with your very own version of Keith when you have work done to your home.

In real life – as opposed to reality TV – very few homes and home building jobs are big enough to be able to afford or warrant a full-time Foreman.

And in the real world, although they have the same qualifications, you are much more likely to be calling the ‘Foreman’ a ‘Building Supervisor’.

There are similarities: like Keith, your Building Supervisor is very much the key relationship once your plans are approved and building work is scheduled to begin – your key point of contact until it’s time to say ‘tools down’.

Made-for-TV heated exchanges are good for TV ratings, but not so good for your stress and blood-pressure, nor the success of your building project!

That’s why we thought this guide to the real-world Building Supervisor will help you have realistic expectations of what they do, and enable you to get the very best from them.

What are the key tasks of the Building Supervisor?

Essentially, the Building Supervisor is your building project manager, who:

  • is your first port of call during the building work … but note some of the points made in the sections below about how much contact you should expect and when;
  • coordinates the different trades, arranging them to come to your home in the right order;
  • makes sure any building materials arrive in time for the respective trades to be able to complete their work efficiently;
  • keeps Head Office fully informed of each stage – what has been done and what’s to be done next – so that they have a complete centralised record;
  • keeps Head Office fully informed about any issues or changes requested by the homeowner, again to make sure everything is on record and accounted for.

When can I expect to see / speak to the Building Supervisor?

If a Building Supervisor isn’t full-time, asking what else they are doing and when you will see them is a fair question.

Typically, a Building Supervisor is looking after several jobs simultaneously. At Addbuild, they might be overseeing six different projects all over Greater Sydney.

Initially you’ll meet your Building Supervisor before the start of the build, and regularly thereafter. That initial meeting will be to talk about the project, go through the plans, ensure everyone is on same page and establish the starting date.

They will usually visit in person when someone is there working on the project, or at the very least, will talk to you on the phone.

Most of the tradies used by a builder like Addbuild are experienced and top quality and they don’t need to be micromanaged. The Building Supervisor keeps themselves informed of the progress of the trades, confirms everything is going to the expected timeline, and ensures the flow of work continues.

It’s a good idea to schedule a once-a-week catch up with your Building Supervisor as an opportunity to ask questions.

As mentioned above, the Building Supervisor keeps records of what is happening and passes them to Head Office so that they have the full picture stored centrally and can keep you informed. In Addbuild’s case at least, you will always get a weekly call from our Head Office on a Thursday or Friday with a rundown of what is happening the following week.

Making Changes

If you have any issues or changes, it’s important that you don’t talk to one of the tradies on site. Talk to your Building Supervisor who can work out logistics and cost implications that might arise. If you talk directly to the tradie, you might receive an unexpected bill, or cause a delay.

The Building Supervisor will liaise with Head Office in these instances so that they can be resolved efficiently, with both sides being clear on what will be done and when, and how they might change the schedule.

As they are on the road a lot, it is important that you follow up with an email or text to make sure that what you have discussed is in writing. Any cross-wires will be clarified if there needs to be a further discussion.

What can’t you expect from a Building Supervisor?

Your Building Supervisor will get back to you as soon as possible, but this doesn’t necessarily mean immediately. They may be on the road, dealing with another issue at another home, or already on the phone to one of the many other people who might contact them.

When you consider the fact that they work across multiple jobs, with multiple homeowners, trades and suppliers, their phone runs hot during the day and it might be difficult to reach them directly at first.

Just as we say above that you should text or email after you’ve had a discussion with your Building Supervisor, it’s a good idea to text them if you aren’t able to get them immediately on the phone – a smart backup to leaving a voicemail.

Building Supervisors are very experienced at juggling competing priorities. Understand that they will get back to you as soon as they can.

In all situations bar emergencies, we recommend that you don’t call the Building Supervisor outside of work hours. Very little can be done before the start of the next day (outside of emergencies) and respecting their desire to have time with their family will ensure that the relationship remains constructive and professional.

Your Building Supervisor won’t necessarily become your best friend either! They are busy people who have to execute multiple tasks quickly, so forgive them if they don’t at times engage in ‘small talk’.

Know that they aren’t being rude, just getting on with the job for you and other homeowners. They won’t be able to give you a daily rundown, they see the bigger priority as ensuring that everything is as per the plans, contract and to schedule.

Other considerations

It’s also worth knowing the general rhythm of building work. Sites tend to be busy with a trade always there at the start of the build, usually the carpenters, but towards the end this is less the case as some trades can only start once another has finished.

In the case of Addbuild, the tradespeople used are high quality and therefore in high demand. Jobs vary in length, so a small delay on your job could lead to a skilled tradie bringing forward the 6 day job that was meant to follow yours. So instead of waiting one day, you may have to wait longer for that tradie to be available again.

It is quite common for homeowners to select or supply items such as bathroom tiles, fittings and taps. Make sure that you don’t miss the deadlines given to you by the Building Supervisor for these items to be ready on site.

If there are selection or supply problems, let them know immediately, again following up in writing. Please consider that it may cause considerable delay or worse, have a highly skilled tradie waiting idly on site charging you for their time.

This is another reason to make sure you don’t ask the tradie to do that extra favour you thought they could do whilst they were there! It could be an expensive mistake. Talk to your Building Supervisor first.

Parting ways

Like any industry, the building industry has its own unique and sometimes foreign terminology. “Practical Completion” or PC is one of these terms.

It neither means that the job is 100% finished nor practically or nearly finished! It means for all practical purposes the job is finished. In other words you, the homeowner, takes possession and can start to complete any work you are doing outside the contract, such as carpet installation, or simply start moving in.

There may still be some minor defects or incidental items to attend to that do not stop you taking possession. These will be attended to during the defects liability period which starts from the date PC is agreed between you and the Building Supervisor.

After this, you can finally bid what we hope is a fond farewell to your Building Supervisor. It’s now time to really relax and start enjoying your newly improved home!

We hope this insight into the world of the Building Supervisor enables you to understand the competing pressures on their job, and how to make sure you get the very best from the person who is so key to managing your project. In short, we hope this helps you help them … which in turn helps you!

If you are planning a building project, Addbuild is Sydney’s leading home additions and extensions builder as well as offering experienced design and DA approvals services. Feel free to contact us by calling (02) 8765 1555 or by using our online form.

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