Problem Contractors?

Firstly and most importantly; please don’t lose faith!  There will always be situations that occur when ‘I told you so’ or ‘if only’ occurrences happen and alot of the time it’s because of either trying to save money or a lack of understanding water and biodiversity.  Aquatic Consultancy Ltd aim to work collaboratively with clients and contractors to ensure a pond, water feature or natural swimming pool looks and works like it should.

Contracts will quite often start off smooth enough but as they progress; your gut feeling might start telling you something just isn’t quite right.  We would always advise using someone who has the experience, knowledge and expertise to complete any project when water is involved but there are some good con-men out there so we have listed below some helpful advice on things you should be looking for before you enable anyone to start working for you or if they are already under way.

  • Communication – good communication usually leads to good results and if a problem does arise; they should let you know and provide a solution.  They should also let you know how the project is going at the end of each day.
  • Qualifications – do they have qualifications, especially if they are working within the aquatics industry.
  • Project Specification – before a contract starts, you should have been given a detailed estimate or specification.  An estimate or specification should provide you with a detailed breakdown of what you are paying for, if it’s on a handwritten piece of paper or is less than a page long; then ask for more detail.  You should know what type of materials you are paying for, for example; decking; is it hardwood or softwood, are the screws stainless and what height is it to ground level.  A foundation for paving; how much hardcore is being used, what depth of mortar, pattern etc.  Don’t be afraid to ask, after all; they should have nothing to hide.
  • Terms & Conditions – you should be supplied with terms and conditions prior to contract commencement.  These conditions protect both parties and should be agreed before the work commences.  Terms should include ‘cooling off periods’ which give you a period of no less than 7 days to cancel the contract after its accepted, title & risk, obligations & limitations of liabilities, warranty, termination and payment terms.  You should also be made aware of how long the contract might take, details of setting up site and remedying site for possible damage.
  • Portfolio & Testimonials – do they have examples of work and happy customers, if possible; go and visit a project they have completed and speak direct to their customer.
  • Insurance – do they have up to date Public Liability Insurance and if they employ people also Employers Liability Insurance.  Ask to see copies and if in doubt, contact their insurance company.  They should have a minimum of £2 million cover for Public Liability and their insurance schedule should cover them for what they are doing.  For example; a general builder would not be insured for building ponds and a landscaper not usually for constructing natural swimming pools.
  • Professional Memberships – alot of companies belong to professional bodies, such as BALI – British Association of Landscape Industries or APL – The Association of Professional Landscapers.  If they are a member, it means they have had their work inspected by a professional body and that they comply with current legislation and health & safety requirements.  If there is a problem; the professional body will usually send an independent expert to view the work and can also act as an arbitrator.
  • Timekeeping – do they turn up on time and work a full day without leaving to start or finish off other jobs.  A project should have 100% commitment from your contractor.
  • Change in Scope of Work – there will nearly always be changes in the written estimate or specification, but these should always be followed up in writing, usually emails will suffice.  You should be made aware of why a change is necessary, what change will made, any adjustment in costs and possible time delays.
  • Staffing – there should be a leader on site, giving concise instructions to other workman and not people just ‘coming & going’.  You should also notice people getting on with their work looking like they have at least done this before.
  • Payments – these should be made clear before the contract starts and larger payments will often lead to stage payments.  Make sure you are paying for work that has been done and for materials that have been delivered.

If you require assistance in either checking work in progress, which we can do when other contractors are not on site, or reading through project specifications before they get under way, then we will gladly assist.  We are also able to recommend a few contractors based around the UK who we know are qualified, experienced and competent in achieving first class results.