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Friday, June 24, 2011

Who is The Panda?

The Panda's name is Weston Liew and Grandpa Panda is called Joseph Liew. Here are the two handsome Pandas. Yeah... I know... they look like brothers right? But no... they're Dad and Boy. Dad is on the left and Boy is on the right. Don't underestimate The Boy. He calls the shots.

The company name is Metropole Builders Pte Ltd and if you wanna engage them, you really should check out whether they are BCA registered (i.e., whether they are a licensed builder). They are at present licensed and are likely to be in future, but building a house is a very very costly endeavour, and so every individual should do his own thorough checks.

I interviewed one contractor last year who was not himself a licensed builder but was able to bid for my contract through his friend's company. I did not much like that for 2 reasons. Firstly, who actually would be legally liable when things go wrong? The contractor or his licensed builder friend? Secondly, is there something wrong with the contractor if he cannot get the BCA license? So I picked Metropole Builders instead... because they were licensed.

The main contractor is only as good as his sub-contractors are. So far, I have watched how Metropole's sub-contractors work.

The electrician (called Cliff) is careful and meticulous. He doesn't like to be taken advantage of and can be somewhat sensitive if he thinks people are trying to wrangle unfair freebies from him. But if you treat him fairly and respectfully, he is a wonderful... wonderful, very warm fellow who does a good job. I suppose that in his line of work, many people try to pull fast ones on the trades people, and that's what makes Cliff wary of house owners and their quest for freebies. And yes... he is a licensed electrician.

Metropole's plumbing sub-contractor (sorry, dunno name) sends a well tanned skinny person with a ready smile and a lot of enthousiasm for his work. He was competent enough to point out discrepancies in the architect's drawings and was most meticulous in measuring exactly where the pipes should come out in a bathroom. This has to be done before placing sinks and shower screens and all, and hence, it is somewhat more difficult because there are no reference points. I liked him enough that I bought him tea and buns.

Metropole's waterproofing people were real pros. They are authorised applicators of Quickseal, a well-established brand of waterproofing products. And I really liked the aluminium windows guy because he sounded a few alerts that prevented me from making bad decisions about my windows.

I was also quite impressed with the tilers. Such STRAIGHT lines!!

Joseph (Grandpa Panda) is at site every day. Some days, he tarries very long to supervise works that are a little complex. Other days, he pops in and out a few times in a day. Muthu is there all the time to make sure the team works seriously and well. Weston (The Panda) comes by about twice a day (like me). He is the one I turn to when I am unsure what to do. The Panda will patiently explain things to me and take time to produce solutions to my concerns.

For example, I was worried that the rain water down pipes would provide convenient nesting places for rats. The old house had a colony of rats that have fled or been exterminated by all the digging and building going on on my plot. It was Weston (The Panda) who very patiently helped me think through a solution and implement it. He is a trained civil engineer from NTU. You won't find many contractors with that kind of qualifications.

This said, I do feel that it is important to personally supervise the site as well. No matter how good the contractor, things slip between the cracks. I go to site twice a day and alert The Panda to things that I see. Sometimes, people forget. Other times, the owner just wants things done a certain way to be very kiasu. Unless you communicate yourself, the contractor won't know. Weston (The Panda) is easy to talk to, as long as you treat him with respect and give him his dignity.

But all men and boys are like that. Even Little Boy responds well when treated with respect.


Malar said...

Such a detail information! Now any Singaporean can refer to you for advice if they are about to built a house!

petunialee said...

Malar - Hee! And I have been dispensing advice left, right and centre.