Over the last few months I’ve been involved with the snagging of a variety of building projects including both refurbishments of existing buildings and new builds. I think there are some valuable lessons for those of you who are embarking upon more significant projects.

The first thing to bear in mind is that the word snagging does not appear to have any formal meaning nor is it a valid contractual term. Instead, as far as I can make out it is a slang term for the inspection and identification of minor defects (and some not quite so minor!) at the end of a project.

Key to your objectives is to ensure that the list of defects is as small as is possible and one way to do this is to ensure that you are undertaking regular visits throughout the life of your building project. It is doubtless preferable to deal with issues as you go along than to require that they are rectified at the end. On that basis you should undertake thorough visits at your project, comparing the work being done to the specification provided at the outset. Ask questions if you don’t understand any facet of the work as the vast majority of builders will actually be pleased that you are taking an interest in the project.

You must also bear in mind that snagging does not give you the ability to change the specification, change your mind generally or retrospectively  rectify a generally poor quality build. These aspects can only be achieved if they are attended to at the start of the project rather than the end.

Another  provision to put in place with regards to snagging is to have an agreement at the start of the project that the contractor will return to undertake snagging. Their incentive to do so may be on the basis that a proportion of their agreed fee is held back for a period following completion or simply via an established understanding between you of what is required from them.

The during construction inspection aspect is key as some items will not be evident at snagging stage. For example, you will not know whether sub floor pipework is in copper or plastic if you only visit the site at the end of the project. Similarly you will be clueless as to whether floor insulation has been installed to the required standard if your first visit is once the carpet is down.

When engaging or managing contractors I normally hold 5% of their agreed payment as a retention. 50% of this is released to them on completion of the works and the balance is generally released 12 months later once any snagging items or latent defects have shown themselves and been rectified.

The snagging inspection itself should be undertaken once the build is completed and the project has undergone at least a “builders clean”. Undertake a methodical walk through the property during daylight hours. You should  test lighting and power sockets, kitchen appliances, taps and inspect doors, door linings, hinges, decorative finishes and the like, comparing each item with the original specification provided to the builders at the outset.

Some defects could be as a result of faulty fittings or appliances rather than being the builders fault. Catching these at the outset will enable the process of return and exchange far easier than if they are highlighted later.

Generally speaking for a major refurbishment project  I would compose a list of approximately 50  items which require resolving. This number would be significantly higher in the event that I had not kept a close eye on the project during construction.

Once the list is agreed, ask the builders for a timescale at which all the items will be completed by. The more comprehensive your instructions are at the outset the less difficulty you should have in getting any required snagging done. As an example I always specify a minimum number of sockets in each room and detail whether chrome, brushed chrome or plain white fittings are required. The less ambiguity there is, the more likely you are to get exactly what you wanted.

It has been mentioned to me in the past that some builders have refused to undertake snagging on the basis that the property has been signed off by Building Control and is therefore satisfactorily completed. To me, compliance with Building Regulations and level of finish are two separate things though this does highlight the need for clear written instructions with your builder in terms of what is expected and the level of finish required.

Following a brief reinspection after the snagging list has been undertaken checking off each of the highlighted items and your project should be complete, enabling you  to move onto the next one!