You may be aware of the age old saying ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. This could not be any truer in the case of self-build home projects. Self-Building is an exciting process and it is all too easy to get wrapped up in the planning & design, choice of construction methods and which contractor you are going to hire. However, there are 5 important tasks which should also be a key focus prior to any construction works are carried out. These 5 essential steps are focused on mitigating any risks and avoiding any nasty surprises further into your self-build project. They can ensure that your project runs on time, on budget and is delivered to a high quality, helping you sleep better at night.
1 – Ensure You Have a Detailed Cost Estimate in Place
Getting your cost estimate right from the get go is a key step towards success when it comes to self-building. It is essential to ensure that you have an accurate budget figure to work towards, as problems could arise if you start to run over budget. Lenders may be reluctant to lend any more money, leaving you to fund the cost overspend out of your own pocket. This is a dangerous situation to be in as it will often delay progress on site whilst additional funds are located, potentially leaving your development open to the elements or at risk of trespass and vandalism. It is good practice for a self-builder to seek the services of a quantity surveyor who should be able to measure your outline design drawings and provide you with a ‘Cost Plan’. This will aid you in your self-build mortgage or other financing objectives, as well as setting an adequate contingency to cover unforeseen circumstances.
2 – Get Adequate Insurance in Place
There are many unforeseen circumstances that can present themselves throughout the course of a self-build project. As mentioned earlier, you may be at risk of building damage, possibly due to trespass and vandalism, natural disasters such as floods and fires. On top of this, you will need to ensure that you are covered in the event of accidents that occur on your property throughout the construction process. As a minimum, you will therefore need to have public liability insurance and employer’s liability insurance in place.
3 – Align Yourself with Experts and Seek Professional Advice
We can’t all be an expert in every aspect of self-building, so it pays to plug the gaps in your own knowledge by seeking help and advice from experts. You should look to build a team around you that can offer early stage advice before you begin your project. This can often help you to think of things from a different perspective which might lead to unearthing better solutions to your problems. Your team of experts could include planning consultants, conveyancers, architects, mortgage brokers and design and build contractors.
4 – Purchase a Structural Warranty
A structural warranty acts as a type of insurance policy that will cover defective workmanship and faulty design & materials of a new build project. If you are funding your self-build with a self-build mortgage or any other type of loan, your lender will insist that you take out a structural warranty. Even if you are self-funding your project, you will still need to present a structural warranty to any potential buyer, should you decide to sell your self-build in the future. Warranty providers such as NHBC and Premier Guarantee offer a self-build warranty product which is normally inexpensive, costing roughly 1% of the total build cost.
5 – Conduct a Site Survey
Site surveys play a key role in managing the risk of a self-build project. The ground works of a construction project often present the biggest risk of the construction phase due to the unknown ground conditions that could make building difficult, or in some cases, impossible. You should ensure that a ground survey is conducted which should tell you the quality of the soil conditions for the purposes of forming strong foundations. There are different grades of load capacities for soil types, including rock, gravel, sand, silt and clay, with rock often being seen as the highest grade of load bearing capacity and clay being the weakest. Your ground survey should identify the ground conditions on your site, which will help the building contractors to better manage the risk of forming foundations on site. You should also consider having a contamination report carried out, especially if you are building on a brown field. A contamination report will assess for the risk of contaminants such as oil, asbestos, combustible material, gases and waste. It can often cost a small fortune to remove land contaminants from site, which can make some building projects unviable from a cost perspective. Finding this out sooner rather than later could save you some horror stories further down the line.
Self-building is an exciting but also risky proposition. However, by spending some quality time planning the project before you start, you can often reduce or eliminate risks. This guide is not exhaustive; however it does highlight the key areas of focus when considering carrying out your self-build.
Haydon Construction would love to form part of your professional team if you are planning to carry out a self-build project and build your dream home. We can offer advice on the construction process and how we are well placed to manage your construction process and reduce risks. For more information, please feel free to contact us.