Useful information and top tips if you are planning to self-build, renovate, extend or convert your home.
Decide what you want from your project
Before doing anything else, prepare a ‘client brief’ that outlines what you want to achieve, your aspirations for how you wish to use the space, your preferred style and choice of materials, and your expectations in terms of sustainability and method of construction. You do not have to have this brief in place from day one; you can develop it over time, with the help of your appointed project team.
Be realistic about your available budget
Don’t under-estimate the total cost of your project and have a contingency sum available if possible. Remember that, as well as paying for the building work, your total construction budget needs to cover the cost of any searches, regulatory and professional fees, getting utilities to your site, and any taxes such as VAT.
Appoint a project team that is right for you
How your project team is structured will depend on you and your skills as well as the complexity of the project. Unless your project is very simple, you may need an architect and if you’re proposing to make structural changes, you are likely to need a structural engineer. Likewise, we strongly recommend that you employ a construction manager or building firm with specialist skills. This is because overseeing construction projects is complex, carries legal duties, requires a broad competence, and is very time-consuming. If you choose to manage the project yourself, you must be aware of your limitations and your legal responsibilities as a client.
Ask the professionals for advice (see below).
It’s a good idea to at least talk to an architect and/or building surveyor in the first instance.
Architects are highly qualified professionals trained in the art and science of building design. The title 'architect' is protected by law and the profession is regulated by the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Architects develop the concepts for structures and turn those concepts into images and plans. Their work involves more than just the appearance of a structure. Everything architects design should be functional, safe and meet the needs of the people who use them.
Architects are trained to support a client from the beginning to the end of the project, including the planning and construction phase, and have a particular skill in administering construction contracts. They are required to hold professional indemnity insurance and to meet the professional standards of the ARB Code of Conduct.
Architectural technologists are qualified to offer design services and manage projects from inception to completion. They can lead the technological design of a project to realisation. However, they do not train for as long as architects and may not have the skills required to support you through an entire building project.
If you are dealing with a large, older or run-down property, a building that is unusual or altered, or if you are planning major works, you may wish to appoint a building surveyor. They can survey the condition of your building and advise on defects, and repair and maintenance options. If you require a structural survey, you will need to appoint a structural engineer. Building surveyors may be able to undertake some design work for you. They can also advise on building defects, building regulations, construction contracts, dilapidations, health and safety, and project management.
Construction projects need managing throughout their entire lifecycle. They need someone to control site operations, organise personnel and materials, and keep tabs on the construction budget.
On a domestic project, it is normal for your building contractor to take on this role. However, it is possible to hire a separate construction manager instead. Either way, it’s a good idea to acknowledge the need, agree the scope, and be clear about who is responsible from the outset.
Whether you are building a new home from scratch, carrying out renovation work or having a new extension built, you are going to need to find a building contractor to carry out the work. Take your time in finding a firm that has the necessary experience and skills for your project. It is good practice to get quotes from at least three firms, but make sure the quotes can be compared like for like, i.e. are based on the same information.
Your builder is best placed to cost the project, ideally as part of a tender process, based on an outline schedule of works. They will also advise on how long the project will take. Your builder is legally obliged to ensure that certain aspects of the works meet building regulations and will build that into their cost and schedule.
The construction budget you agree should include reasonable allowances for the cost of materials, personnel and any minor adjustments on site. If significant changes are required on site, they are likely to impact on costs. Remember also that a construction budget does not include the cost of searches, inspections, professional fees (including Party Wall and Boundary matters) or taxes such as VAT.
Look for reputable local firms that have experience of the type of work you need doing, who can deliver the project for the right price. Ideally, look for those that are quality-assured or accredited by a professional body, such as the CIOB, that have the right insurances, and can demonstrate a commitment to quality of service. For example, you would expect a professionally competent firm (and its professional body) to have a complaints procedure in place in the event of things going wrong.
You need to feel that you can trust and work with your builder. A referral from family or friends who may have recently had some work done is a good place to start. Your architect or building surveyor (if you have appointed one) is also likely to be able to recommend some reputable companies.
CIOB directory of Chartered Building Companies
CIOB is a mark of quality you can trust. By choosing to work with a CIOB Chartered company or individual member you can be sure they are working to a professional code of conduct and set of standards which gives you peace of mind.
Call our customer service department on 01344 630 700 or email us at [email protected] with the Member’s full name and any other information you may have (area they live or work in, company name, email address etc).
For builders to be able to quote or submit a bid, you must let them know your plans in sufficient detail.
Once you have a shortlist (of usually 3–5 companies), ask for quotations or bids. Ensure that your tender documentation, which will include your client brief, provides a detailed description of the project. This will help the companies to produce an initial response that is comparable with others.
Note that the tender documentation will form the basis of your eventual contract, so it is important to be accurate. If you appoint an architect, they will draw up tender documentation on your behalf. If your project is large or complex, you may need to appoint a quantity surveyor to provide early-stage cost advice.
Make sure that your tender document secures full details in writing of what is included in the bid and what is not. It should cover everything in the tender document, including arrangements for site maintenance, clearance, health and safety, material supplies, and so on.
Ask how long the companies have been trading and what experience they have of the type of project you are planning. Always ask for references.
Your property is likely to be your biggest single asset so make decisions based on quality and value rather than the lowest cost. You are very likely to want the work to last and to add value to your property.
It is your responsibility to check that anyone you are appointing is competent. If they claim to be a member of a trade association or professional body, be sure to check their credentials.
Follow up with referees. Among other important questions, you are likely to want to know whether they were happy with the builder’s conduct and quality of their workmanship.
Check whether the builder is insured. They should have public liability insurance to protect themselves against property damage, and personal and public liability insurance to protect you and the general public in the event of an accident or injury. Employer liability insurance is compulsory. Contract works insurance will provide cover in the event that bad weather delays progress with building work.
Finally, check guarantees and warranties. Are the builders offering a guarantee on a large scale job? If it is a new build, you will need a guarantee on the property.
Yes. A written contract is essential as it will clarify responsibilities and obligations, and protect you and all parties involved in the project in the event that things go wrong.
It should include clauses on payments, start and completion dates, sub-contractors, workmanship, delays, and materials provided by third parties.
It should also outline what work is to be done, the arrangements for security and safety, the cost of the work and materials, details of any catering and lavatory provision, hours of work, expectations for cleaning up and disposal of waste materials.
It should commit the builder to returning to the site after completion to fix any issues or ‘snags’ you have discovered (such as cracked plaster or paint) before receiving final payment.
Be clear about your budget from the outset and make sure that payment terms are included in your contract.
The Construction Act (section 109 HGCR Act) entitles the payee to stage payments for any work under the contract unless the contract states that the duration of the work is to be less than 45 days or the parties agree the duration of the work is estimated to be less than 45 days.
It is usual to pay at the end of an agreed phase of works, or in monthly instalments, although this will depend on the value of the project. For example, a small project may just require a one-off payment on completion.
Avoid paying upfront or a cash deposit. This shouldn’t be needed.
Avoid a ‘cash in hand, VAT-free’ deal: you will not have a valid contract if there is no proof of payment.
Under the Building Safety Act, the client is legally required to undertake the duties of Principal Designer and Principal Contractor unless they appoint competent professionals to carry out those duties on their behalf.
- If you appoint an architect or a designer to your project, they should be able to carry out the Principal Designer role on your behalf.
- If there is more than one builder on site you will need to specify a Principal Contractor.
- Both appointments must be made in writing, otherwise you will remain legally responsible for the principal contractor and designer duties.
Provide all possible information about the construction site or building on which the project will be completed that your builder may need to complete the project safely, such as information about boundaries and access, existing structures, site security and any health hazards.
If your project is likely to last longer than thirty working days and have more than twenty people working at the same time at any point, or exceed 500 person-days, you are legally required to notify the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
Our Members agree to hold to the CIOB’s values, professionalism and ethics as required by our Royal Charter. We take any breach very seriously. In the unlikely event you do encounter an issue with a CIOB Chartered Company or individual Member, please visit our Complaints page and provide as much information as possible. This will be reviewed by our Governance department who will endeavour to provide a solution.