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What is meant by building project snagging?

In this blog, the first of 2 blogs dealing with building project snagging and defects, James Bryden, CLPM’s Managing Director explains what a snag is. He also describes how to best go about snagging for building projects, to ensure you get it right.

Snagging is a term used widely by builders, but it is not strictly a contractual term. It is a slang word used in the construction industry to describe the process of checking building works before they finish, and compiling a list of unsatisfactory or outstanding works to be done. These snags are therefore the minor defects or omissions which the contractor must then resolve for their client prior to the practical completion of the project.

A snag is typically something that is damaged or broken. It can also be something that has not been fitted properly or looks unfinished. Examples might include a large scratch on a wall, a missing handle on a cupboard, or a faulty tap. Most snags tend to be cosmetic, however more serious defects can arise such as poor tiling of a bathroom or radiators than don’t work properly.

In an ideal world, snagging generally takes place a few weeks before practical completion, and is typically carried out by the project manager, who is acting as Contract Administrator. For residential building projects it is often done in conjunction with the client. On very large projects, where there are multiple buildings for example, sometimes the snagging list is split up and completed in phases as each section of the project becomes ready for inspection.

Snagging inspections need to be done after there has been a proper builder’s clean. The area should be cleaned throughout and should be fully accessible. The spaces should be clear of any tools or protective materials. There should also be full, permanent lighting to ensure that everything can be easily inspected. Systems such as hot water, alarms, ventilation or underfloor heating should all be checked to be in good working order.

It is important when carrying out the snagging process that meticulous, dated records are kept. All snagging items should be communicated to all parties in writing, and receipts of acknowledgement should be filed. Snags can often become the source of conflict, and it is important that the process is carried out in a fair and structured way. Snags are notorious for potentially becoming the subject of argument or even litigation long after completion, and as occupants can cause damage after handover. Sometimes capturing and documenting photographic evidence can also be a useful.

Once the snagging process is finished, a snagging list is then issued to the contractor by the project manager. The faults that are identified should then be rectified, at the builder’s expense, prior to a certificate of Practical Completion being issued.

Rectification of these snags is part of the building contract, and so the client would not normally pay for this work, unless the problem was caused by something other than defective workmanship or materials.

In some cases what is known as a ‘Schedule of Significant Items’ can be appended to the certificate of Practical Completion. Again there is generally no provision in the building contract for this, but it can be agreed by the parties, if for example the client needs to move back into their home even though significant outstanding snagging items remain. There may also be circumstances, when a client settles for accepting an unresolved snag (such as a damaged tile or kitchen unit) in return for a discount payment of the final account.

We work to the rule, as clients are generally very keen to get into the house, that they can take “beneficial use of the Works”, but there is an agreed list of minor snags, normally cosmetic or external. We would hopefully not allow defective of omitted works in the list unless by mutual agreement.

We also require electrical certificates, gas safety certificates, and confirmation from Building Control that they are happy as well, prior to issuing Practical Completion, these may be added to the snag list, plus any other handover paperwork. Gas and electricity certificates are important as they verify the installation safe to use, so without those systems being used at risk and therefore unlikely to be insured.

Certifying Practical Completion is a very important milestone for your building project, and it is important that all parties are happy before certification. It is also worth highlighting also that Practical Completion changes the insurance status of the project, so as a client you must have your insurance in place.

Practical completion has the effect of:-

1. Releasing half of the retention. This retention figure is an amount, often 5% of the value of the total contract, and is detailed in the building contract. The retention is there to ensure they fully complete the works – including the snagging list and items which come to light within the next defects period.

2. Ending the contractor’s liability for liquidated damages. These are damages that are stipulated within the building contract and which become payable to the client in the event that there is a breach of contract by the contractor. Typically this would be being liable for the client’s additional costs such as storage or rent if the builder were to fail to complete the works by the completion date.

3. Signifying the beginning of the Defects Liability Period. This is the 3 to 12 month period after Practical Completion, where additional defects become apparent.

The Defects Liability Period is a subject that is dealt with in our second blog – Part 2 What is a Defects Liability Period?

Are you planning a major building project? If so, having a building contract drawn up and an experienced, independent Contract Administrator in place will protect you and help ensure that your construction works go smoothly. If you’d like to understand how CLPM can help then call 01923 896550, email or complete a contact form.

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Our Construction Project Management and Quantity Surveying Services cover London, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, and West Sussex. We provide Energy Efficiency and Heating System Advice across the UK.
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