Many Domestic Builder Registration/Licence applicants believe they only need to be associated with the building industry to obtain a building licence in Victoria.

The reality is very different.

Meet Steve. Steve is 32 and has been on site working in various capacities for 15 odd years. He did a carpentry apprenticeship and has worked mainly doing basic carpentry jobs, framing, lock-up and fixing work and cabinetry over the years. He believes his experience is enough to warrant him getting a Domestic Builder Unlimited Licence (DB-U). He knows heaps of blokes who have a DB-U licence and their experience is similar to his, so he reckons he should get his as well. Steve also helped his cousin Mark do an extension on his house and helped his dad build his new place as well.

All too often, the belief that just being on site for a number of years is enough to warrant obtaining the crème de la crème of licences, the DB-U. The reality is that to obtain this licence, the Building Regulations stipulate that an applicant needs to have at least three years of practical experience to the satisfaction of the board. No one but the Building Practitioners Board (BPB) can confirm whether or not you have enough relevant experience but they would expect Steve to provide evidence of working in a supervisory or overseeing role under the supervision/direction of a licenced builder for the minimum three years.

Steve would also be examined on his knowledge and experience in all facets of the DB-U licence. There are over 20 categories of Domestic Builder Limited licence that fit under the DB-U including brickwork, swimming pools, earthworks, concreting, roofing, structural landscaping, and so on. Additionally, they are also required to have a solid working knowledge of the AS 1684 (Timber Framing Manual), The National Construction Codes and various construction related statutory documents and standards incorporating the Building Act, Building Regulations, OH&S Act, Contracts Act among others.

Steve will also be examined on his knowledge and experience in the building and business administration processes. The BPB would expect him to answer questions on topics such as building contracts, conflict resolution, estimating and tendering, employment law, quality management, and health and safety, just to name just a few.

So, it’s not just a matter of being “in the industry.” The requirements are firm and there for a reason. To obtain the DB–U, the BPB requires applicants to be experienced, knowledgeable and confident of their capabilities in many areas, not just carpentry.

What’s my advice to Steve? Perhaps he should consider the Limited Licence for Carpentry, DB-L-C, gain more experience working for an established builder and take on a role with more scope and responsibility. He might also consider completing a training course, such as the Diploma in Building, through a reputable RTO, that will help him gain more knowledge in many areas. Once he has more relevant experience, I would expect him to be much more confident in achieving his DB-U registration.

  • Andrew Heaton
    Industry Journalist
    2 years, 7 months ago

    Tough though this may seem, assessment processes such as these are necessary in order to ensure those who complete the work have the knowledge and skills required to do so correctly and safely.

    That not everyone who has simply spent a little while on a building site can necessarily qualify to get a Domestic Builder Unlimited license is a good thing, and should be welcomed by all involved including the consumers whom the industry serves.

  • Good read. Thank you. In my role as principal and head underwriter focusing on builders, subcontractors and owner builders insurances, we see far too many with little commercial skill to operate a successful (commercially profitable to survive) business. Technical skill is just one element of several core skills to develop a successful and thriving business. Builders are not just tradesman, but hold clients most precious dreams in their care.

  • Who is assessing the assessors? I'd follow this propaganda if the board was a little more transparent and a little more reflective of the reality. Expectations of future builders are not always off target. But the expectations of the board may be…there are many DB-U holders that are not half as experienced as many potential builders and many future builders that are told to go study rather than applying a tiered scheme that could allow a future builder to progress their career through experience. QLD has a good system. Low rise, medium rise and high rise for example. Here in Victoria a board sits and decides…you are a builder or you are not.

    Do some work…apply conditions, improve the system, help the ones falling through the cracks. If looking after the consumers and the industry as a whole is really the intent. Building industry regulation from a boardroom…please.

    • Alison you are 100% correct. Australia was well on the way to adopting the Queensland model that recognised a graduated class of licence based on higher level post trade qualifications. This is essential as the antiquated view of carpentry and bricklaying trade licences being a basis for being a good builder is past its use by date. If you look at the type of houses, medium density dwellings and apartments being constructed well the skill to pitch a traditional hip end roof and lay up some bricks is becoming a thing of the past. A good builder needs far more management skills than being a competent tradesman.
      The problem in NSW and I'm certain elsewhere is that private RTO's are selling the base post trade qualification (Certificate IV Building) like hot cakes to anyone who can turn up or log on a computer and fill in a form. Time for the respective OFT's to only accept a qualification obtained from reputable non-commercial training providers like TAFE colleges and universities. Private RTO's have a vested interest in ensuring that their clients get the qualification they pay for regardless if they have meet required assessment standards.