More than skin deep

Remedial builders, defects and icebergs alike… what lies beneath the surface matters most. 

The regulatory scrutiny of remedial building work – indeed all construction in NSW – has muscled up. On 1 December 2023, the state officially opened its first one-stop-shop for building regulation.

Led by Commissioner David Chandler, Building Commission NSW assumes ownership of all regulation, licensing and enforcement of quality and standards. Teams from NSW Fair Trading and the Commissioner’s Office have formed the new body with an injection of $24 million in state funding.

Strata schemes are encouraged to weigh up all considerations when choosing a remedial builder. With an engineering background and 15 years’ construction experience, Tim Kurniadi heads up the Remedial and Insurance divisions of Paynter Dixon.

“When owners corporations are fixated on the lowest-cost remedial services, they often fall into the same trap as the original developers and builders,” says the remedial expert. “There are no quick shortcuts to quality and compliance.”

The cycle of inferior repair work can lead to persistent building issues or escalate in ways which prove more costly in the long run.

Escalating costs

According to the NSW Strata and Property Services Commissioner, John Minns, there is a growing consensus for better educating the sector “along this journey of what’s involved when costs escalate.”

“Particularly special levies that are being imposed at the moment around things like emerging or latent defects,” said Mr Minn in a recent podcast1.

“Those type of things are a problem, because they’re unbudgeted in many cases, but we can help people through that process and the people in genuine need, who are doing it tough and are too embarrassed to talk and being judged by their peers.”

What is quality?

Awareness of professionalism is uneven at best, says Tim: “Quality is often a superficial or visual judgement, such as how well the floor tile is laid – or the selection of tile.”

“A lot of remedial builders are engaged to fix aesthetic issues, such as cracks to a façade. However, the failure typically originates beneath the façade and surfaces at a later point.

“A minor leak is a waterproofing issue in the first instance. Over time the water ingress corrodes the underlying steel structure. The concrete repair has now become an expensive structural strengthening repair.”

Defect domino effect

Tim points to a landmark joint-university study of building defects which examined – among other aspects – how identified defects result in “multiple interrelated failures.” The report found that at least 30% of building defects are a result of waterproofing or roof and rainwater disposal failures2.

The financial impact on lot owners can easily snowball into large-scale rectification works, raised levies, loss of rent and property value depreciation.

Furthermore, owners corporation committee members are often left to make complex decisions on behalf of other lot owners in the event builders avoid their responsibilities in rectifying building defects.3

Unseen quality

Hence, it’s prudent to understand the quality of service behind the price, says Tim.

For example, cost-cutting proposals can often reduce site management to part-time supervision by a roaming supervisor or trades person. In contrast, Paynter Dixon guarantees full-time site supervision by a dedicated Site Manager whose role upholds quality and safety on site.

Recognised as a Tier 1 remedial builder, the company takes complete responsibility of the project from concept to completion. This provides a single point of responsibility for design, authority approvals, project cost, and hand over.

“This new era of accountability underlines the importance of partnering with trustworthy service providers who act in your best interests. There is simply too much at stake.”


1 Flatchat, 2 November 2023,

2 N. Johnston (Deakin) with S. Reid (Griffith) An Examination of Building Defects in Multi-owned Properties’, 2019, p 58

3 ibid, p 59