Pre-Start Checklist for Your Self Build Project

Self-Build Zone’s Jake Fitness shares his tips on how to get your ducks in a row before work begins on your dream home
Self-Build Zone Insurance & Warranties
by Self-Build Zone
26th April 2024

Undertaking a self build project – particularly if this is your first time – can seem overwhelming. So, before construction begins, it’s a wise move to take some basic preparatory steps that will save you time and money later.

Key considerations include organising site insurance for the entire build period, appointing the right designer and dealing with planning conditions. So, arm yourself with this pre-start checklist and start your dream home journey on the best possible footing.

Protecting Your Site

The moment you exchange contracts and own your plot, you’ll want to obtain comprehensive site insurance for the duration of your project. This protects against loss or damage to tools and property, and addresses your liability for any accidents on-site (public liability insurance).

Note that standard home insurance will not cover self build projects. Instead, you’ll require specialised self build site insurance, which provides additional protection, including coverage for situations where the construction work doesn’t meet expected quality standards.

Appointing a Designer for Your Self Build

Combining your ideas for your dream home with the expertise of a good architect or designer is key to making your vision a reality, both in terms of style and structural soundness. These professionals turn your concepts into detailed, regulation-compliant plans, guiding you from the initial design to material selection and construction oversight.

Their input will be essential at each phase, including helping to line up the relevant suppliers for the build type, doors/windows and HVAC systems. Your designer should have your budget front-and-centre in their thoughts when developing your plans, so ask how they’ll sense-check costs.

Once you’ve got a plot, the excitement will be tangible – but it’s important to keep your feet on the ground and stay on top of the pre-start tasks that will give you the best chance of self building a high-quality home on time and on budget

Surveys & Reports

Several surveys may be necessary to ensure the project proceeds smoothly and complies with relevant regulations. These help you assess various aspects of the land and proposed property and how they work within the design and construction process.

Among others, you’ll need to arrange topographical assessments, utility investigations, structural surveys and reports, and ecological surveys.

Planning Design & Cost Considerations

Once your permission is granted, check your decision notice and the Planning Portal for any conditions that you need to deal with before starting work. For example, it’s common to have to provide digital ‘samples’ of key external materials for approval.

During this pre-construction period, you can use online resources, such as Build It’s Cost Calculator and Estimating Service, which will help you track your budget/spending as your project begins to take shape.

Building Regs & Project Specification

Every new home’s design must comply with Building Regulations, and self builders will need to make a full plans submission to building control. The information required for this is much more detailed than for planning. So, your design team will need to produce technical drawings, backed up with structural calculations from a certified structural engineer.

This technical design phase is also the point at which you should take out a self build structural warranty policy, which will protect the project against defects in the design and construction for 10 years following completion of the build. Once the project is on site, a building control inspector will assess the project at critical construction phases to verify that the work meets the required standards.

Builders & scheduling

It’s always a good idea to appoint a building contractor experienced with projects similar to yours, and who offers the opportunity to inspect their past work. Look for recommendations from friends and family and opt for builders affiliated with recognised organisations, such as the FMB, for greater confidence and peace of mind. Selecting the appropriate builder helps establish a feasible project timeline and working schedule, considering variables like weather conditions, material availability and subcontractors’ schedules.

Is Your Site Ready for the Construction Phase?

If your plot is pretty remote or rural, it may take longer to connect utilities (you should be aware of this from your earlier investigations). Collaborate with your build team to assess your temporary power requirements to allow work to start, plus any site huts/welfare hubs, access etc.

Jake Fitness is team leader at Self-Build Zone, which offers a comprehensive range of specialist self build, renovation, extension and site insurance cover, and self build warranties. Call 0345 230 9874 or visit Self-Build Zone’s website to find out more information.

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