Preparing for the Build

There a lot to organise, requiring synchronisation of personnel and materials

There’s construction documents to prepare, building regulations to review, the site to fence, services (gas, electric, waste) to organise, materials to order, liability insurance to arrange etc etc. All of this and the huge task of finding the right people to build your house, at the price that you want to pay and by a certain date … “In by Christmas” is a popular target!

Sourcing the suppliers is probably the most demanding of these tasks

Criteria for selecting Suppliers
Know your criteria for selecting suppliers
Know your criteria for selecting suppliers

There are lots of different ways in which your self-build house can be constructed. The traditional build route involves the appointment of an architect, who might then assist you in the selection of a main contractor. Subsequently, thereafter, the appointment of most sub-contractors is the domain of the main contractor. At the most, you will only have to select 2 suppliers for your entire project.

At the other extreme, the DIY option is where you take over the design, planning and project management roles. If you select this route, it is down to you to select all of the suppliers required.

Factors impacting Supplier Selection

There are a number of factors that will dictate whether you take the DIY or the traditional Build Route, or somewhere in between. The factors are:

  • Extent of your knowledge of the house construction process
  • Amount of your budget
  • Your ability and availability to do some of the work yourself
  • Whether a main contractor is involved
  • The possibility of some services being packaged together

Where you have taken over the project management role, it can be a real juggling act trying to match services required by the project with services offered by the contractors. The costings for some services are easily comparable. For example, quotations for the connection of the electricity supply can be compared on the basis of cost and availability to do the work. Quotations for the installation and supply of the window units have additional variables to consider. These include whether it is double or triple-glazed, the type of gas used, the type of glass, the surface finish and whether fitting is included.

However, there are some services that are typically quoted for as a package. For example, some groundworks companies will quote for setting out, excavation and foundations at a single price which is not divisible. Similarly, some window manufacturers will only provide a supply-and-fit price, which prevents you from saving money by organising the fitting yourself.

We have created the most comprehensive database of suppliers providing services to self builders. You can search this database using a range of filters.

Appoint the Supplier

Every industry has a few members who, for whatever reason, fail to deliver services of the expected quality. You can help protect yourself from rogue providers in the construction industry by doing the following:

  1. Record your communications.
    When dealing with suppliers, follow up your meetings or phone-calls with an email confirming the salient points. If you request a quote, put the detail of your request in writing.
  2. Use references
    Don’t just take references. Follow them up, preferably by securing an invitation to view the houses built or the services supplied. This will allow you to assess the quality of materials and workmanship that has gone into the building. It is also an opportunity to speak to the house owners to see what kind of experience they had with the supplier.
  3. Get a quote/fixed price in writing
    Clarify whether you have agreed a Fixed Price or a Quote – get it in writing. Don’t expect your suppliers to remember the fantastically low quote they gave you to secure the work. ALWAYS get their quote in writing and ensure that any VAT applicable is included in the quote. If you get a written quote and it is unclear about the scope of work provided for the price, ask for clarity. If you are still unsure, seek advice.
  4. Assume the worst
    Ensure that your contract includes processes to handle matters when things go wrong. Typically, these are risks such as the supplier going into bankruptcy or the project is not completed within a stated period of time.
Shell Package

If services are bundled together in a “package” with a single price, you will find it difficult to compare packages from different suppliers as there is very little consistency in package formats. As a result, it is near impossible to compare like-for-like.

You are likely to find a difference in scope of every package that you examine. One package might include the following:

  • securing planning permission and building regulations approval
  • Provision of utilities eg water, electricity, gas, telecomms, drainage
  • Provision of foundations
  • Fitting out
  • Landscaping eg access, paths, drive

More information on Shell Packages can be found in the article Whats in a Shell Package?, which is also accessible from the Resources tab in the main menu.

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