So we have seen how to recognise the various people who will be involved in the building work, and how to understand what they say, and so finally we consider how the building work will actually progress, now that it has got going.
Section 3. How The Building Work Will Progress
When you commence your new building project, you will be presented with a Plan, in one form or another. This may be a full scale architectural design for your property, or some squiggles on the back of a Tesco receipt. Either is fine, since this is for informational purposes only and will never be seen again; nor will it bear any resemblance to what they actually intend to do.
The project will start well, with deliveries of things, including many bags of cement, and the ubiquitous radio. The radio is the only constant throughout the project, and will be played loudly at all times.
Work is essentially in 2 phases: taking everything apart, and then putting it back together in a different way. Phase 1 is quite quick, and involves the Builder and a sledgehammer. On day 1, noises will be made about how they're going to go about 'securing the property' overnight; i.e. making sure burglars cannot take advantage of the fact that you have a wall missing. In the event, it'll be home time before they really think about it, so they'll just stick some plastic over the gap and you'll have to take your chances.
On completion of Phase 1, the teeth-sucking starts, as the Unforeseen Eventualities emerge. The Chief Builder will look all apologetic as he explains that your foundations are made from the wrong type of cement, or are upside down, or some such, and... well.. 'it'll cost you'; but happily he'll know someone who can do it and is free tomorrow.
As discussed in section 2, this is not the time to get petty, unless you have developed a love for the plastic wall and would quite like to have to live with it for a while until you find more builders (sidenote: if the worst comes to the worst, and you do have to get rid of the first lot, be assured that builders do not operate in league with each other, so it's actually remarkably simple to find new ones. You might expect that word would get round in building circles, and you'd be blacklisted as 'a bit awkward' or 'hard to please'. In fact, one gets the impression that the second lot are simply pleased to have found someone more incompetent than themselves, so they'll happily come along and prove themselves to be superior).
Anyway, now we move to Phase 2, which is when they put everything back together. This is a more coordinated affair, and so takes much longer. It requires the Builder to do 2 days work, then leave things to dry for 3 days and then the Plumber needs to come for an hour and a half, followed by the Builder again for 5 hours, and the Electrician for a few minutes. The next day needs the Plumber until 3.30, but it is essential that the Electrician is there when he finishes, so he can't start unless everyone is sure the Electrician will be able to come later. The Carpenter can work through some of this, but needs to stop for a while to let the Electrician get access; in the meantime the Plumber has gone to Thailand. Needless to say, it can take weeks for conditions to be exactly right and for everybody to be able to come at the right moment.
During this phase, you need to distance yourself from the plans, or risk insanity. Accept that the builders have 'done a load of these here houses, and it works better like this'. You also need to accept the mess, and keep anything breakable or ruinable hidden. For some reason, builders do not at all mind wearing dirty clothes all the time, but they do like a nice clean white towel to get the dirt of their hands before they tuck into their bacon butty.
And so, finally, and despite everything, the work is 'completed'. There will, naturally, always be things they don't get round to finishing off. With these, you need to strike a balance. They will mostly be things that would take 2 minutes to do, and which you can do yourself after the builders have left. However, it is best to avoid having to attach anything to tiles or glass, or to undertake any form of electrical work, so if you have the choice, try to insist that these are done before they leave. They may of course try to tell you (as they sidle out the door with their toolboxes) that they'll come back and do those bits: the way to know whether this is true or not is to look for the radio. If it's still there, they'll come back; if not, don't expect to ever see them again.
And so we conclude the Guide to Builders. I trust it has been of use, and that it will save you much stress. However, remember that the best way to avoid difficulty with Builders is to not get involved with them in the first place; if your house is in need of renovation, just move. Trust me, it's easier.