Contract Administration from a Main Contractor's Perspective

by Andy Phillips BSc (hons) ICIOB

As a project manager for a small main contractor, I have recently managed three residential (self build) projects with responsibility for ensuring that quality and programme requirements were met for the clients in order for them to move into their dream homes on time.

All three projects had different arrangements for contract administration:

  1. Traditionally led with an architect.
  2. Architectural plans for tender stage, then the client managed and dealt with changes and specification.
  3. The client employed the main contractor with very little drawings and specification.

Each of these has it’s own pros and cons. In simple terms, the less you have done, the less you spend (potentially!). But this means you lose the supervision and experience a professional brings to the table.

I thought it might be useful to share some thoughts with any potential self builders on things to be aware of if you decide to dispatch with the traditional architect led approach.


With a traditionally led contract, all parties are aware of the need for, and importance of, information requests from the very start. Builders estimate the time needed to complete projects based upon readily available information and they need to schedule their work around other projects and commitments.

If a client manages a builder they need to be aware of the importance of timely information provision. If a builder doesn’t have sufficient information, it can cause frustration, time wasted on site and leave work half finished.

Do not be surprised if you are asked on day one of your programme for the location of drainage or electrics within your bespoke island kitchen unit, even if it’s going to be the last item installed in the ten week build programme.


If an architect is employed for the duration of the project, quality of construction is ultimately checked independently by them throughout the project and if a reputable builder is employed, and works locally, they will be just as conscious to ensure the works are correct as the last thing a contractor wishes to do, is to return to a project to correct works or forge a bad reputation.

If you decide to undertake the contract administration of your own project you need to ensure that quality meets your expectations throughout the project. Set aside time with the site foreman to walk around the project and agree the standards you expect and return to check they are being met.

Programme to Completion

I am often asked a week before finishing a project. “Is it going to be ready on time?”.

A project can look to be weeks away from completion but good contractors know how to finish on time, or will at least be honest!

An architect will visit the site, compile a list and issue this to the contractor to ensure practical completion is certified. If this is down to you, more meetings with the site foreman will be needed to walk the job and agree the completion of outstanding works.

Summing Up

Professional costs can be saved if you have the time and understanding of the projects construction techniques required by your contractor to build your dream home.

Good communication is vital and you need understand what part you play in the process and what people need from you. Do plenty of research in advance so you know what to expect and keep those lines of communication open.

Make sure you research potential contractors and the similar projects they have completed. If you choose to manage the build yourself, you will end up having a close relationship and must be able to work together. Set up weekly meetings to discuss information, programme and quality requirements and allow each party the opportunity to air any concerns.

Happy Building!

Andy Phillips
Projects Manager
Jarvis Elite Construction

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