19 Feb 2014

Start as you mean to go on


Spring is traditionally the time when self-build projects come to life, so do your homework now to ensure that your build starts off on the right footing. In the first of his regular columns for i-build, Adrian Hateley from the National Self Build & Renovation Centre shares his advice for the integral infant months of your self-build.


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You’ve got your land, planning permission and have appointed contractors for your build and are now raring to go! Like so many others, you are looking forward to more favourable weather conditions, the daylight stretching out and seeing your self-build project come to life! But before you get carried away with how your new home will evolve, look and feel, you need to address probably one of the most important aspects of construction, namely site set-up.

Often over-looked or put down the list of priorities, making sure that your site is easily accessible, secure, meets the requirements of contractors and will meet the demands of the entire build project should be foremost in your considerations. This is the first topic I address when conducting the self-build tours here at the NSBRC and it is always one that generates a lot of interest and discussion!

Having previously run my own building company, I’m a great believer in starting off with a clean and tidy site as this makes for a clean and successful build. Even though you may look at starting your build in the Spring with an advantageous climate, that does not mean it will always be the case several months later!

Site access

Firstly, have you thought about providing adequate accessibility for the numerous contactor vehicles such as vans, artics and cement mixers? I strongly suggest that the first thing you do is to create hard-standing, or ideally a driveway, to ensure that lorries and contractor vehicles not only can access the plot with ease but any mud and dirt from the site is not transferred onto a carriageway – best to avoid being prosecuted for creating treacherous road conditions from muddy tyres! Also think about where you will position the plethora of skips that you will undoubtedly use – will this be on your plot or on a road?

On-site organisation

Before anything arrives on-site, it is advisable to have a site organisation plan, mapping out locality of foundations and footings, access points, site of storage container, toilets, dedicated mixing area, site office and equipment. This is not only beneficial as a reference guide but also gives contractors a clear indication of where equipment should be stored.

Unless you are employing a project manager, you will need to have a dedicated ‘Site Diary’: this is the first reference point for all site activity and needs to contain details about the day-to-day running of your project, contractors and materials delivery schedules, etc. It will prove invaluable if there are any discrepancies with materials or contractors!

Your site shopping list

Also on your ‘shopping list’ don’t forget you need to think about: power and water to the site, toilet provision, site safety and security, site insurance, contractor agreements and appropriate contingency plans - for instance there is currently a shortage in block and bricks so you may need to re-think build materials especially ICF or timber frame.

The National Self Build and Renovation Centre is the UK’s only permanent venue for independent building advice and support. As a non-profit, Community Interest Company, the centre’s mission is to facilitate the growth of the residential construction industry; improving the way we build houses in the UK and upgrading the current housing stock for the good of all.

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