The advice provided here is primarily aimed at self-builders looking to go down the full build route whereby a single building contractor undertakes all the work. This said, certain aspects apply equally to both self-managed and DIY self-build projects.
If you are building in an area which you know well, chances are you know of most of the local builders. This being the case it’s a simple matter of asking them for references from previous customers and ensuring they’ve had experience of undertaking similar projects.
If you are unfamiliar with the area in which you plan to build but have friends, family or work colleagues who are, it is likely someone will be able to give you a recommendation. Failing this you could ask the local council planning or building control office for a list of reputable builders.
By employing a local builder you benefit from their local knowledge. They will know about any local by-laws, be familiar with local ground conditions and have a good working relationship with local council officials and utility undertakings. All of which will ensure the project goes more smoothly.
There can be little doubt that local knowledge will serve you best.
Be wary of kit manufacturers offering a turnkey solution, unless you have deep pockets! The reason for this is simply a matter of cost and management – by the time they’ve added in travel and subsistence costs it would be very expensive and managing a project at arm’s length is rarely satisfactory. Frankly, any kit manufacturer (unless they are within say 50 miles of you) will struggle to provide this service cost effectively or efficiently. There are almost certainly going to be delays and co-ordination issues.
Erecting the kit and building a timber frame home should not offer any kind of a challenge to a local builder. We supply full working drawings and an erection manual which provide all necessary information. Exceptionally, we can provide a structural kit erection service (to wind and watertight stage) but, again, travel and subsistence costs weigh heavily into the overall cost of this service.
We recommend you employ a National House Building Council (NHBC) registered house builder. As the leading home warranty and insurance provider and standards-setter for UK house-building, NHBC’s ‘Buildmark’ covers around 80% of new homes built in the UK and currently protects over 1.6 million homes. And, you will need a ‘warranty’ for mortgage purposes.
To find an NHBC registered builder in your area check the NHBC Register.
If you plan to either undertake most of the work yourself or project manage a number of separate trades, the ‘Buildmark’ route will not be an option. As an alternative, the NHBC offer a ‘Solo’ policy designed specifically to tackle the particular risks of self-building. It’s exclusively for people who plan to build (or contract a builder not registered with NHBC to build) a home for their own occupation.
It’s available for new homes up to a maximum of 400m² and building work must be started within one year of the date they accept your application and completed within two years of the date your foundations are concreted. But, this is not for the feint hearted and a good understanding of building construction is a pre-requisite.
If you’re really stuck, there are various national and regional trade organisations which you could search including the Federation of Master Builders, Scottish Building Federation, Trustmark, Fairtrades and Checkatrade.
If building in any other way than through the NHBC you will need to appoint a suitable qualified, independent, building supervisor who will provide the Professional Consultants Certificate required by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. In this case any ‘warranty’ claims for defects would be made against the consultant’s professional indemnity insurance.
Failure to have any form of ‘warranty’, whether you need a mortgage or not, will make it difficult, if not impossible, to sell your home. And, none of us knows what the future holds!
Finally, make sure you obtain quotations from at least three builders and, once a contract has been signed, don’t make any changes. Changes will always cost you dear!
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