Pro­ject man­age­ment ex­pert Mike Hard­wick takes a look at some of the pit­falls that are all-too-easy to fall into – and how you can avoid them

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Pro­ject man­age­ment ex­pert Mike Hard­wick shares how you can avoid mak­ing these com­mon con­struc­tion mishaps

There’s a lot to think about when you em­bark on a self build or ma­jor ren­o­va­tion pro­ject. It’s only nat­u­ral that you won’t think of ev­ery­thing that could hap­pen along the way. Ev­ery scheme is unique, so without the gift of sec­ond sight, you sim­ply can’t know ex­actly what will crop up. But you can learn from the mis­takes oth­ers have made!

To help make your home build­ing jour­ney as smooth as pos­si­ble, I’ve jot­ted down some of the things peo­ple reg­u­larly for­get to sort out. The usual caveat ap­plies in that this isn’t an ex­haus­tive list – but hope­fully one or two of them might spark an ‘I never thought of that’ mo­ment and save you some time and ef­fort as you get your pro­ject un­der­way in 2019.

1 Clear all the plan­ning con­di­tions

When your con­sent ar­rives from the lo­cal plan­ning of­fice, there will al­most cer­tainly be re­stric­tions at­tached to it. All of these con­di­tions will need to be ad­dressed, but spe­cial at­ten­tion should al­ways be given to those that have been flagged up as need­ing to be dis­charged be­fore any de­vel­op­ment com­mences. These ones will usu­ally be to do with ap­prov­ing your choice of ex­ter­nal ma­te­ri­als (such as the ex­act bricks or win­dows you’ll be us­ing).

2 Al­low for hi­ber­nat­ing bats

If you have been asked to carry out an eco­log­i­cal sur­vey, it’s im­por­tant to get the tim­ing right – es­pe­cially when it comes to these crit­ters. Bats hi­ber­nate from Oc­to­ber to April, and dur­ing this pe­riod there’s no way to watch them fly­ing in and out of their roosts to ver­ify num­bers and species. Get it wrong and you’ll add six months to the plan­ning stage of your pro­ject.

3 Check whether there’s any­thing in the ground

Soil sur­veys and searches will usu­ally iden­tify the big stuff, but be aware that there can be mis­cel­la­neous pipes and ca­bles un­der the sur­face that don’t ap­pear on any plans. It’s be­cause of is­sues like this that self builders should al­ways set aside a de­cent con­tin­gency bud­get – typ­i­cally at least 10% on top of the to­tal con­struc­tion cost.

4 Let build­ing con­trol know you’re start­ing on site

You have a le­gal duty to alert build­ing con­trol 48 hours be­fore you com­mence any no­ti­fi­able work. It could be you, your con­trac­tor or your pro­ject man­ager who does this – but it needs to be done, so make sure some­body takes re­spon­si­bil­ity, oth­er­wise you may have to redo work.

5 Pro­vide the right equip­ment

Don’t as­sume that all your trades will ar­rive on site with ev­ery­thing they need. You should check in with con­trac­tors re­gard­ing what they will be bring­ing along them­selves and what they will ex­pect you to pro­vide. Ce­ment mix­ers, spot boards for mor­tar and rough ter­rain fork lift trucks are ex­am­ples of just a few of the things you might be ex­pected to source.

6 Be pre­pared for ad­verse weather

The ideal is to build in spring and sum­mer, when the skies are clear and un­likely to threaten progress. But in the real world, you might find your­self get­ting un­der­way in au­tumn and pos­si­bly over win­ter. Frost and ce­ment don’t go well to­gether, so pre­pare for cold snaps by pro­vid­ing rolls of hes­sian to pro­tect fresh mor­tar from un­ex­pected frost. And check in ad­vance where you can get your hands on a sub­mersible pump in case you need one to deal with heavy rain af­ter ex­ca­vat­ing your foun­da­tion trenches.

7 Pro­tect your stuff

A build­ing site, par­tic­u­larly in the early stages, will have lots of valu­able tools and ma­te­ri­als around – and this can prove ir­re­sistible to any ne’er do wells who spot it. Hire a se­cu­rity cabin to keep the ex­pen­sive stuff in overnight. An old ship­ping con­tainer can be a cost-ef­fec­tive op­tion if you want to avoid hire charges.

8 Tell your neigh­bours what you’re plan­ning to do

You’re tak­ing on a pro­ject that will make you part of the com­mu­nity – and it will af­fect those around you (see my col­umn on page 11 for an ex­am­ple of what I mean). So ex­plain to your neigh­bours what you’re plan­ning, when work will be tak­ing place, how long you ex­pect it to go on for and – im­por­tantly – who they can con­tact if there’s a prob­lem at any time, whether day or night.

9 Work out where the es­sen­tial ser­vices will come from

One of the big un­planned costs can be con­nec­tion to the es­sen­tial util­i­ties. Never as­sume that you can tap into elec­tric­ity, wa­ter and mains drainage just be­cause next door has them. You need to speak to ser­vice sup­pli­ers early on (ide­ally be­fore you of­fer on a plot) to de­ter­mine how you can ac­cess util­i­ties, how long the process will take and how much con­nec­tions are likely to cost.

10 Make your site safe

Build­ing sites can be dan­ger­ous places, so it’s im­por­tant to safe­guard your­self and oth­ers. Pro­tec­tive cloth­ing is very cheap and is the last line of de­fence in prevent­ing in­jury or worse. You can buy a hard hat, steel toe-capped wellies, gog­gles, ear de­fend­ers and a hi-vis vest for just £32 all-in from Screw­fix. So buy a set for the sake of your own safety, and in­sist that oth­ers (op­er­a­tives and vis­i­tors) wear the right pro­tec­tive cloth­ing on site, too.

11 Or­der enough ma­te­ri­als

You might think that you’ll save money by or­der­ing just enough bricks or tiles to meet the ex­act m2 re­quire­ments of your pro­ject – but you’d be wrong. This is a false econ­omy. There will al­ways be cuts to make and break­ages on site, and pur­chas­ing an­other pal­let load at this point will cost you a bomb in terms of the trans­port charges. Al­ways over-or­der on bricks and tiles by at least 10% (or 15% for re­claimed items).

12 Sub­mit CIL Form 6 be­fore work gets started

This is an im­por­tant one. If your self build pro­ject qual­i­fies for an ex­emp­tion from the Com­mu­nity In­fra­struc­ture Levy (CIL) de­vel­op­ment tax, there are four steps to take. At the plan­ning stages, you first have to as­sume li­a­bil­ity and then sub­mit Part 1 of Form 7 to claim your ex­emp­tion. The next step is the one that many peo­ple for­get: be­fore you start work on site, you must no­tify your lo­cal au­thor­ity by sub­mit­ting Form 6 (No­ti­fi­ca­tion of the Com­mence­ment of Work). If you don’t, the full CIL charge will be­come due. When you’ve fin­ished the scheme, you must sub­mit Part 2 of Form 7 within six months of com­ple­tion.

13 Fu­ture proof your pro­ject

If you’re self build­ing, you have a great op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a home that can be as tai­lored to your life­style now as it is in 10 years’ time. A good ex­am­ple is the roof space. If there’s po­ten­tial to ex­pand into this at some fu­ture date, then think about where the stairs could go to make this hap­pen. You will need 2m of head­room above the pitch line of the stairs (1.9m is ac­cept­able in some in­stances but will feel a bit cramped).

14 Put in enough power sock­ets

It’s pretty cheap to put in a dou­ble power socket dur­ing first fix work, but it’s ex­pen­sive and dis­rup­tive to retro­fit one af­ter com­ple­tion. Think hard about where they should go and if in doubt, put one in.

15 Get power out­side

Think about what elec­tri­cal fix­tures and fit­tings you’re go­ing to have out­side, and lay ar­moured ca­bles to feed them. Garages, sheds, elec­tric gates, ponds, pa­tios and gar­den light­ing are com­mon ex­am­ples. Again, it’s rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive to put these in at the early stages but a real pain if you sub­se­quently need to dig up newly laid drives and path­ways to in­stall power.

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