What Is Snagging in Construction? Solving the Problem

Moving into a newly built home should be a dream come true, and for most people it is. But often there are little issues with a new home that mean the experience is not all it could be. How can buyers deal with ‘snags,’ and how can the construction industry do more to solve the problem?

People buying a newly built house can reasonably expect it to be perfect in every way. After all, it’s a huge financial investment, one of the biggest people will make in their lifetime. The last thing anyone expects is to move in and find a bunch of things needing to be fixed. 

In the vast majority of cases people are satisfied with their purchase and the customer service experience. According to the latest Home Builders Federation satisfaction survey, 91% of respondents said they would recommend the builder of their new home to a friend, while more than 81% were either satisfied or very satisfied with the service provided by the builder after they had moved in. 

That said, 94% of people also reported an issue with their new home to the builder. The snagging process identifies things that have been found to be wrong with the structure, known in the trade as ‘snags,’ which are generally aesthetic but sometimes relate to the functionality aspects of the building.  

What Is Snagging? 

A snag can be something like an ill-fitting window, a kitchen cupboard door that refuses to close properly, floor tiles that have been damaged or a sink that leaks. It could also be more serious, such as a staircase that’s out of alignment, an underground drainage issue, poor quality brickwork or “cold spots” on walls where insulation has been incorrectly installed—or not installed altogether. 

Some of these issues are fairly easy to spot; others less so. They can also be a headache to fix, particularly if the homeowner only finds them after moving in, when getting the housebuilder to remedy the situation can sometimes be a time-consuming and frustrating affair

The Consumer Association notes that people can retain the services of a professional surveyor to conduct a snagging survey. The association says that while there is no official snagging qualification and no standard snagging template, there are plenty of companies that offer a snag-checking service. 

The snagging process takes a detailed look at a property in the run-up to contracts being exchanged. Armed with these reports, a buyer can go to the firm that built the home and request that all the issues raised by the survey be fixed in good time.  

Conducting a New-Build Snagging Survey 

We can learn from real-life examples the importance of conducting a snagging survey on any new-build home. And lest you think snags are the preserve of so-called cowboy builders, think again. In 2017, one of the U.K.’s leading housebuilders Bovis—now called Vistry, after it merged with Galliford Try’s housing arm, Linden Homes—became mired in controversy over the quality of some of its new-build homes.  

The cost of remediating a catalogue of problems topped £10m, but Bovis was not an isolated case. Other housebuilders also saw a wave of customers complaining about problems. In 2018, residents in a block of flats in Coventry built by Persimmon had to leave their homes while remedial work was done to shore up the building

How Consumer Protection Is Tackling Quality Issues 

These and other incidents ruffled the government’s feathers. Since new homes are not covered by consumer legislation in the U.K., ministers set up a New Homes Quality Board, an independent body responsible “for overseeing the quality and the customer service provided by developers to buyers from the sales and marketing of new homes until the end of the first two years of ownership.” 

The government also created a New Homes Ombudsman, who would “have powers to hold developers to account and to require them to put matters right,” while some politicians have demanded that buyers be able to withhold up 10% of the purchase price in retentions to force housebuilders to carry out repair work.  

Using Technology to Solve the Problem 

While these schemes were created to deal with snags once a building has been constructed, tracking construction activity as it happens can solve many of the problems that get missed on completion of a project. Increasingly, modern technology is available to help ensure that snagging is kept to a minimum during the construction process itself. 

Key to all this, of course, could be making sure that work carried out at the time is to the highest possible quality. Bluebeam snagging software helped Ballymore—which is currently building two big apartment blocks in Canary Wharf in east London—track the installation of more than 4,000 individual balconies on the development.  

Faced with a tight building schedule, Ballymore wanted to gather data incrementally to improve its processes. The firm used Bluebeam’s Revu software package to help the construction team edit drawings, track construction progress and reduce risk. Revu allowed Ballymore to coordinate and collaborate from field to office—and vice versa—in real time, without losing any information.  

As a result of using Bluebeam’s technology, Ballymore was able to save at least one day a week during installation of the balconies, and document comparison times were 90% faster, as were site inspections, which were also reduced by a fifth. 

Snagging in Commercial Projects 

It isn’t just housing where snagging issues arise. Every build project needs to be delivered according to the contractual obligations laid out when the scheme was commissioned.  

Commercial clients need to be satisfied the building they are about to occupy is fit for purpose. While standard form building contracts do not refer to snagging surveys, contractors will be expected to see to it that every aspect of a development—particularly in the event of a fit-out being completed prior to occupation—such as doors and windows, the mechanical and electrical systems, lighting, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, is working as required.  

The same goes for other schemes such as schools, hospitals and industrial properties. Snags can occur on all construction projects. Keeping them to the minimum is key, and resolving quickly and with minimum fuss those that slip through the net can do much to restore a corporate reputation.

11 Revu tools to ease the snagging process