Basement Clerk of Works

When I was a young man in construction, large projects would have a clerk of works or a resident engineer. These people represented the client and they had real power.

I remember a whole truckload of concrete being chiselled out because the Clerk of Works had seen through his binoculars a labourer telling the driver to add more water; and I remember bricklayers starting work only to find that every brick they had laid the day before had been pulled over because they had exceeded the 9 courses daily limit.

  self build basement

But by the 1990s 'Design and Build' had been invented along with the term 'Turnkey'.

From that day on you let a building firm decide what materials they would use and they would look after their own quality. But that proved to be a recipe to choose inferior materials, cut corners and not pay their workers in full. Just think of Grenfell and tower cladding for absolute proof our construction industry is broken. Of 3 of our biggest builders: Carillion is liquidated, Interserve in administration and Kier's share price suddenly plunged.

Dame Judith Hackitt investiated the Grenfell Tower disaster. This link takes you to a YouTube video.Dame Judith explained that the current system allowed the industry to get away with its race to the bottom.

In very simple terms I am your Clerk of Works for the underground concrete structure and I won't take any bull. i won't allow your workforce to rip you off in the way they are used to ripping off main contractors who, in turn, are ripping them off.

You are different to a main contractor and you want to treated differently.

You can buy my supervision, concrete admixture, rods and nuts plus a bit of training and I will guarantee the concrete and the joints.

What happens without a clerk of works?

It seems to me that work almost always goes badly when the client trusts a builder as main contractor and the builder sub-contracts to a 'basement specialist' because the main contractor doesn't know much about how to build a basement himself.

These photos are basements where I was called to see if I was prepared to help sort out the mess. These basements were built by people who claimed to be 'specialist'. These are not basements I helped to build.

This first 'specialist' told the main contractor, who told the client, that they had only added the 'permitted' amount of water to the concrete when the truck arrived. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as permitted water added to concrete.

I said that they had added so much water the concrete couldn't possibly be waterproof any more, but even worse it will be very much weaker with so much water and it might not be strong enough.

This concrete had so much water added that a lot of the cement washed out to the surface.

The stones deeper down will barely be bonded together.

I have other photos, on other pages, of this commercial basement in Hammersmith that water poured into for 8 years No wonder the internal drainage system kept breaking down.

Quite clearly the sub-contractor did not deliver the concrete into the wall formwork in good condition. As the concrete crashed through the steel reinforcement it coated all the steel and the formwork in cement paste which is why there isn't enough cement paste around the stones at the bottom..

water added to concrete laitance    water added to concrete weak bad workmanship

i was asked to go and see this basement in North London. Building Control had swung by earlier, not looked very closely, and approved it.

steel reinforcement error

steel reinforcement error

This basement and swimming pool were built with a famous brand waterproof concrete that came with a guarantee. But it wasn't sound concrete that was leaking. The work looked good until the numerous leaks were investigated and it became clear poor workmanship and leaving before the work was properly completed were entirely to blame.

clerk of works

The client had to pay out another £8,000 to chisel out the dirt, clean the voids and get them all filled properly.

Most gangs who build many basements do so on big projects like those where I cut my own teeth: shopping centres, large schools, hospitals and office blocks.

I was a site engineer in those days, keeping an eye on the tradesman and making sure they built in exactly the right place.,

This is a typical tale of a main contractor, who the client trusted, sub contracting the basement build to a team who claimed to be specialists. But in reality they were just tradesmen who usually worked on large projects where site engineers gave them constant direction.

The piles were already in and they formed the pile caps over them. But now they had lost sight of where the walls should be. None of the 8 walls were parallel to where they should have been. None of the 8 corners were a right angle. They did not know what to do or who to ask so they carried on till the client, an accountant, told them to stop. The wall to be the flank wall of the house above was 300mm in the wrong place so the structural engineer had to design a solution involving extra thick walls and a beam.

specialist basement contractor

Putting this work right cost more than the work had cost doing the work wrong. The client's bill more than doubled. But it was impossible to fit the house on top without getting the basement walls right first.

Here are two photos of concrete pours I supervised. This is the plant room for a swimming pool all of which will be buried.

supervised concrete slab

supervised concrete walls

Every visit to site costs £300, whether a site meeting, clerk of works inspection, training or supervision.

Honestly, dear reader, my supervision is cheap because it is frighteningly likely that the cost of putting work right or paying for extra products to overcome poor workmanship will cost many times more.

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