25 Feb 2019

10 steps to a bespoke oak-framed home

Here is a step-by-step self-builder’s timeline for building an oak-framed house so you know what to expect throughout the journey.

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01. View a plot

A self-build is a big decision with many considerations to be made along the way. The timeline begins with finding your ideal plot of land. You can find multiple plots available for purchase by looking in local estate agents, papers and on websites, alternatively you can seek help from online services such as ‘BuildStore PlotSearch’. With over 8000 genuine building plots available, and planning permission guaranteed, it won’t take you long to find a plot of land for your oak frame project.

02. Discuss your plot with a designer

Your project begins with an initial desktop appraisal by an architectural designer. At this point, if a site visit is required, your designer will visit the plot and assess the opportunities it presents, including its key views and unique aspects. This is also a chance for you to discuss your ideas, aspirations and budget in person.

03. Purchase your plot

When purchasing a plot it’s important that you have a clear budget in mind, not only for the land but also the completed build including professional services and materials. This should involve gaining an understanding of local planning policy, nearby precedents of new builds and any protected areas the site lies within. To aid this process many councils offer a pre-application advice service which can provide very useful written feedback on your proposal.

04. Appoint an architect/designer, concept scheme

Having appraised your site, and considered your wish list, your designer will put together a design quote and contract, laying out the services on offer. Typically, this includes design development, reasonable design drafts and a formal set of submission drawings to support a planning application. In tricky contexts, a planning consultant may be recommended to help.

05. Design development and planning permission

Once a design quote has been agreed and formalised, your designer will begin developing ideas for your bespoke home. Testing and the development of ideas can be done in both 2D and 3D modelling software transforming the initial concept sketches into a fully fleshed out design. After your design is agreed, your drawing package will be prepared and submitted to your local planning authority for approval. It takes a minimum of eight weeks for permission to be granted. Depending on your plot and procurement, your designer may suggest alternative types of planning application, including an early pre-application stage, if necessary, to provide the best opportunity to gain permission. Your planning strategy will typically be agreed with you accordingly. A separate fee is payable to the local planning authority for each application. This should be advised in your design contract.

06. Detailed design; oak frame design and Building Regulations

When planning is approved, the next step is to ‘work up’ your Building Regulations package. It is worth noting that Building Regulations consent focuses on matters such as the safety and structural issues associated with buildings. Your designer will further develop your approved planning drawings into a comprehensive set of detailed drawings for submission to either the local council building control department or a private inspector. Following submission, the inspector will review your drawings for compliance and will issue their consent, often with certain conditions. This ‘plan check’ is coupled with a series of site visits at key stages of construction to ensure the building is being constructed in accordance with the consented plans. These are coordinated by your principal contractor. The next stage of your oak frame project is to be handed over to a frame design team, who will transform the initial concept frame prepared by your architectural designer into a fully realised, detailed and jointed frame, considering the size of each timber, and how they are connected together.

07. Apply for services

It’s important to give due consideration to the services for your plot before work starts on site. For instance, the cost of connecting them may inform your heating strategy, which needs to be outlined at the Building Regulations stage (such as LPG, heat exchanges/ air or ground source heat pumps, or biomass boilers for off grid sites). As well as deliberation surrounding all-important services for your site, much consideration also needs to be given to foul and surface water drainage, as well as connections for broadband and electricity.

08. Specification and tender documents

A specification is a written document, which can be read in conjunction with your drawings and any schedules by your principal contractor or supplier’s building company. It describes the building fabric, materials, standards and workmanship required in constructing the building project. They are particularly useful for tendering a project, ensuring that all the builders are quoting for the same standard of fit and finish. A specification covers aspects of a project that are difficult to convey through drawings alone. Your chosen architectural and frame design company will be able to supply you with a full National Building Specification (NBS), typically for an additional cost. That said, a full written specification is not always necessary.

09. Appoint your builder

Depending on the level of involvement you want in your project can help to determine the builder you choose. For example, a full ‘turnkey service’ can take the stress out of your build as you appoint a design and build expert to project manage from start to finish. However, you may want to project manage the build yourself, coordinating your structural frame, pre-insulated wall and roof panels with one team, while using a separate local builder that you know to do the rest. When you have chosen the route you want to go down, it is important that you get references from your shortlist of builders and choose a company that you feel you can work with and will realise your dream. There are also CDM 2015 Regulations to adhere to throughout.

10. Begin your build

Typically, your principal contractor will prepare the site, undertake any demolition and complete any services and drainage work below ground. Simultaneously, your designer will prepare a detailed 3D model, followed by your oak frame and enclosing panels being manufactured. Normally your site crew will be on site for four to six weeks, leaving you with a complete shell, including the oak frame, external walls, first-floor deck and roof structure, allowing the next trades to move in swiftly to complete your dream home.

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