How to project manage your self build

10 January 2019 | 0 Comments

Realise your dream home and prepare for every eventuality with these top tips for a smooth-running build site

Building your own property is an exciting prospect, but one that requires precision project management.

READ MORE: How to build your own house: a self build beginner's guide

From budgeting and build schedules to calling in the professionals, here's how to oversee your project and make sure your self build is a shining success.

Get organised

Organisation is key when it comes to running a successful project, and when you’re embarking on a mammoth task like building your own home it’s essential that you keep track of everything.

You need to find a system that works for you – making concise to-do lists is a great place to start. An organiser app for your phone such as Trello or Evernote means that you can keep your list at the end of your fingertips wherever you are.

However, some people prefer a traditional excel spreadsheet or a good old-fashioned notebook and pen.

Whichever method you choose, keeping a detailed schedule of the works you have going on is a must if you want to bring your project in on time and on budget.

Make sure you plan months ahead and mark key dates for when contractors will be on site and when materials will arrive.

Hire a builder

Before you hire tradespeople for your project, you need to make sure they’re the right fit for you and the type of house you’re looking to build.

If you're looking to build a home with an unconventional structural system like straw bale, do they have the specialist knowledge and experience required?

It’s important to do your research and ask to see examples of their previous work before you bring them on board. Recommendations from friends and family can offer assurances of quality or you can ask to speak with previous homeowners they’ve worked with.

When it comes to pricing up your project, make sure you get quotes from tradespeople in writing, otherwise the price may be liable to change.

“Find and contact local tradesmen during the planning process and get them organised ready to start when you need them,” advises Michael Holmes, property expert for The Homebuilding & Renovating Show.

In the run-up to your build, stay in regular communication with your contractors and share your works schedule with them.

If they encounter delays – perhaps their previous project overruns or material delivery dates are postponed – you need to know as soon as possible as this will have a knock-on effect on the rest of your timetable.

Once your project is up and running it’s important to keep the site clean and tidy and make it a safe environment for your tradespeople. A messy or uncomfortable workspace can lead to tensions which can threaten to derail or delay your project. Check out these golden rules for getting the best from your builders.

Building materials

From the outset, it’s important to find out exactly what your trades will provide as part of their quote.

Most package home companies and some builders will include materials in their price, but many contractors will expect you to have purchased these yourself, ready for when they need to begin their work.

Hiring a quantity surveyor could be a good first step, as they will be able to tell you the amount and cost of the building materials that you need. You can find qualified surveyors in your area here.

Alternatively, a builders’ merchant can offer a handy one-stop shop for all your building needs. National stores such as Travis Perkins and Jewson even have a helpful estimation service for self builders – simply present them with your plans and they’ll be able to price up the project and supply you with the materials you need.

If you choose to source your own building materials independently, be aware of the time and research this will require – it really is a full-time job.

Remember to ensure the products you purchase meet UK building regulations and if you’re thinking of buying online, always request samples prior to purchasing.

Regardless of who procures your project’s building materials, you need to make sure your plot has adequate access for delivery lorries and cranes. If there’s not enough space to manoeuvre materials onto site you could run up costly delays.

Set a realistic budget

It’s easy to let your self build budget spiral out of control – there are plenty of horror stories of people who've overspent by tens of thousands. This doesn’t have to be the case if you’re realistic and set the right budget from the very beginning. Still trying to arrange funding? Check out these 5 ways to finance your self build.

Start off by keeping track of your expenses and the dates payments are due in a spreadsheet. Make sure you budget for the unexpected. You should have a contingency sum of around 15-20% of your total budget to cover you, should disaster strike.

How to project manage your self build: setting a budget WAYHOME studio / Shutterstock

You could suffer from supplier delays, bad weather, structural problems or even ground issues, so it’s vital that you’re ready for any unexpected extra costs.

Before you start the building process, you'll need to decide what sort of finish you’re going for. The difference between the cheapest and most expensive materials can be huge and you may have to make a few sacrifices to bring your home in on budget.

For example, it’s wiser to spend more money on the structure of your home, rather than a kitchen or bathroom suite that can be easily updated in the future.

When it comes to self builds, remember that labour is zero-rated, along with most building materials too. To reclaim VAT costs, you can pick up form VAT 431NB from your local Tax Office or download it here. Be sure to fill out the application carefully as this can only be submitted once, and as reclaims can amount to tens of thousands of pounds, it really pays to put the time in here.

The claim must be made within three months of the build being completed.

Follow planning and building regulations

Building a new home requires consent from the local planning authority, also known as planning permission.

You should apply for planning consent in England via the Planning Portal as early as possible, and you can even apply for permission on a piece of land before purchasing. The local council will then inspect your home at the end of the project to ensure the conditions have been met.

You’ll also need building regulations approval, details of which can be read in full on the Communities and Local Government website.

Approval is granted by a building control inspector, who will carry out periodic site inspections to ensure regulations are being met.

You can either opt for a building control inspector from your local authority or an inspector from a government-approved building inspection company.

Get self build insurance

No matter how organised and efficient you are things can still go wrong, so you need to arrange adequate protection to safeguard your project.

Before your build begins you should purchase site insurance, which will cover risks including theft, fire and injury to workers.

Make sure you take out a structural warranty at the start of your self build too. The warranty provider will inspect your home throughout its construction to ensure regulations are met, and this will then cover the structure for 10 years if something goes wrong.

It’s a good idea to take out warranties at the beginning of build works as you could end up paying five times more if you purchase after completion, as the provider won’t have been able to monitor the property’s construction.

Keep the neighbours onside

Contentious planning applications can sour relationships between you and your neighbours before the build has even begun, so it’s important to begin discussing your plans with surrounding homeowners as soon as possible.

Depending on how close your neighbours are, you may even have to involve them in the building process, thanks to the Party Wall Act. This is a set of ground rules laying out the responsibilities on both sides of the fence which also puts forward steps for resolving any disputes.

How to project manage your self build: Get the neighbours onside 1000 Words / Shutterstock

To prevent any animosity, regularly update your neighbours on the progress of your build and be sure to give them ample warning before any loud construction stages or large deliveries.

Hire a professional

If you have a full-time job or other commitments, it might not be possible for you to take on the project management of your build yourself. However, there are plenty of professional routes out there that can ensure your site runs smoothly.

“For the overwhelming majority of individuals building their own home, the actual level of physical involvement on site is not much to non-existent. Self building encompasses a whole range of different approaches,” says Michael Holmes, property expert for The Homebuilding & Renovating Show.

One option is to go with a main contractor, who will run the site and organise all the subcontractors. However, this avenue will still require some homeowner involvement and you’ll be expected to be on site frequently and reachable by phone.

If you’re time-poor and would prefer a more hands-off approach, it might be worth hiring a professional project manager to oversee the entirety of your build. This is a far less stressful road to your dream home but expect a hefty price tag. Visit the Association of Project Managers to find qualified professionals near you.

Package home companies will typically offer a range of project management options too, depending on how much of the build you’re willing to undertake. It’s a route that requires a substantial upfront payment, however, this will usually include site management.

Whichever fits you best, it's important to settle on one route from the outset as this can have a big impact on your budget.

Browse the self build A-Z: 

Featured image: Phovoir / Shutterstock


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