Subcontractor problem

So in order to save time on one of my current jobs I brought in a subcontractor to build a retaining wall, with central steps, skinned with decorative brick work. Brief was given and plans shown. Part of the brief was to make sure the step was square to the doorway in an existing wall midway through the garden which wasn't 100% central anyway so that I could put in a straight paved path. Now seems simple enough but I come back to find that when I look from the top of the retaining wall, the steps are on the piss and don't line up but rather are too far to one side. Now this is as the steps are halfway built. I raised the issue with the subcontractor and he's adamant it lines up, but it's quite obvious that it doesn't even by eye and without running a line. There is nothing wrong with the construction of the wall it's all square and everything it's just that the brief and common sense haven't been used and he's just steamed ahead and ruined the look of the step and path leading to middle of the garden. How the hell did he manage this!? Shall I just knock it down and start again? Or should I just extend the left hand side and have a wider step? Either way I don't want this fella back on site for fear of more cock ups and added costs will be taken from the subcontractors pay. Anybody else ever had a subcontractor come in and do something wrong?

You need to be a member of Landscape Juice Network to add comments!

Join Landscape Juice Network

Email me when people reply –


  • Better change it for your peace of mind and the customer will probably bring it up later anyway. We used maybe three brickies for such work over the years and although the actual brickwork was fine, none seemed to stand back and occasionally 'take stock'. In the end I did all of our brickwork, so that I could tweak as I went along. 

  • Tell him to put it right or you won't pay him.  After all your customer may take that attitude with you.

  • PRO
    How was it explained - just verbally off plans ?

    Was there room for misunderstanding - you may well know the intent, but could he of misunderstood ?

    Was he given written specifications and/or copy of plans ?

    Have you asked him to show why he thinks it’s in line ( might show up a misunderstanding ) ?

    Is there written contract in place ?

    Playing devil’s advocate as I’m sure it’s not been done on purpose - so it’s down to a misunderstanding or incompetence ( yet it appears his technical ability is good )....
    • He had written specs, drawn up plans, a verbal brief.. the works. I have basically ended the contract as per terms, minus the price of the cockup and sorted out another brickie to come in on Friday.
  • PRO
    When employing bricklayers we always did the setting out with lines and levels.

    On new housing sites the ground workers engineer does the setting out and generally the ground workers bricklayers do the foundations to damp course level, then the site bricklayers take over.

    Even so I have seen some ridiculous mistakes in brickwork, such as a hospital lift shaft that the lift would not fit into and two story porches on houses, even a upside down chimney with the fireplace opening in the loft (honestly, they held the plans upside down,).

    Why did you think the bricklayer could do his own setting out?
    • With the amount they charge you would have thought they would be able to do their own setting out!

    • Perhaps because anybody with half a brain could do that lol! I'd expect somebody with all the qualifications and experience to be able to follow a plan... We had put the footings in ready, lines marked out too, all level, gradient and everything. I can only assume that he had misunderstood, disregarded the existing mark outs and just tried to centre the stairs to the length of the new retaining wall rather than square it to the existing wall opening.
  • PRO
    Did you hear the words “making it work bricks”?
  • We were landscaping a housing estate containing three in line blocks of flats. As I walked round the back of the flats with the site manager, I hesitated at the corner and cast my eye down the three buildings The Site manager wanted to know what I was looking at. When I asked why the last block wasn't inline with the other two, he said 'Sh*t, does it notice that much? We marked it out wrong when the piling went in and only noticed when the scaffold came down yesterday!'  We popped in an extra little group of 5 trees strategically placed trees and all was well.

  • PRO
    There is a story that some years ago Lawrie Barrett arrived on a site near Bromsgrove in the company helicopter, got out and pointed at a house then enquired if it was the show house, when the reply was yes he said knock it down and start again or we will never sell anything on this site, turned and got back into the helicopter and flew away.
This reply was deleted.

Landscape industry Jobs


HortiServices Ltd are well respected Professional Landscapers in South Cambridgeshire, providing design, installation and maintenance services. Our success can be attributed to the loyalty of our customers, high quality of our work and our… Continue

Hard Landscaper

We are looking for an experienced worker to join our hard landscaping team. Projects will include patios, dwarf walls, decking, fencing and related activities. You will be happy to work on your own or with other members of the team, as the size of… Continue

Yard Foreman / Delivery Driver Machinery Installer

Yard Foreman & Delivery / Installation Specialist Working with a team of dedicated hard working enthusiasts in the Grass & Groundcare machinery industry the successful applicant will be responsible for scheduling deliveries and collections,… Continue

Landscape Construction Manager

Job Summary We are an established garden design and build company looking for an experienced and enthusiastic Landscape Construction Manager. This is a hands-on role which involves building high end garden designs and overseeing the on site team.… Continue

LJN Sponsor



PRO Supplier

Etesia UK Dealers Visit Factory in Wissembourg

Etesia UK dealers recently visited the company’s HQ and factory in Wissembourg, France to see their state-of-art factory and production line.

More than 15 dealers, made up of new and existing companies, took part in three days of visits…

Read more…