1. Make your home ‘change-ready’
There’s no point doing any building work until you know your home can take it. Get bowed floorboards, gaping cracks, damp etc checked by specialists – or employ a chartered surveyor to write a building report (www.rics.org).
2. Decide what you want
This could mean taking magazine cuttings or speaking to friends/neighbours who’ve undertaken similar projects. Any changes you make during a build can cost time and money.
3. Get a couple of estimates
This will give you a rough idea of cost before you ask for quotes. Ask each builder the difference in price if they complete the whole job or if you project-manage it. They will also be able to tell you whether the job requires detailed architect’s plans.
4. Budget, budget, budget
As well as the cost of the work, factor in rent if you have to move out temporarily, professional fees and any new furniture you’ll want. Then add at least 10 per cent to cover unanticipated costs.
5. Get permission
A planning officer at your local authority will be able to tell you if you need permission, building regulations approval or listed building consent. If you’re building near the boundary you should also check whether the Party Wall Act will affect your work. Also ask your solicitor to check your title deeds/lease for any restrictions.
6. Decide whether to project manage yourself
Managing a project – calling in the individual trades and paying them when required – can save between five and 15 per cent. But beware: you’ll need to be on site daily, be able to interpret plans/drawings, and know your legal responsibilities for things like health and safety. Appointing a contractor to manage the whole project takes the hard work and risk out of it, especially if you have a fixed-price contract so they’re financially responsible for any unforeseen work.
7. Find tradespeople
Word of mouth is best but failing that every industry has a professional body with a website listing qualified tradespeople – there’s the Federation of Master Builders (fmb.org.uk), the Association of Plumbers and Heating Contractors (aphc.co.uk) and the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (niceic.com). Alternatively websites such as ratedpeople.com and trustatrader.com review tradespeople local to you.
8. Quote me happy
Always get three quotes and ask for references from previous clients. Once you accept a quote it’s binding and cannot be changed. Agree at the start you will retain five per cent of the total bill and hold that money for six months after completion. After that time, at their cost not yours, they’re still obliged to fix any problems.
Grand Designs Live: Two for £20* ticket offer
We’ve teamed up with Grand Designs Live to offer two tickets for just £20*. Whether you want to begin a brand new build, or you’re looking for the perfect finishing touch, visit Grand Designs Live and get inspired. To book yours, visitstandard.co.uk/offers.