Building Works Project Planner
This is a very useful project planner; please use it as a guide to help you understand the process and timeframe of a building project.
The first thing that happens is that you decide that you need to make some changes to your property, as it may not be working for you anymore.
- You may need more space.
- You may need to make better use of your existing space.
- You may have to adapt it for lifestyle changes.
- You may want to invest in your property to increase its value.
- You may want to update the property in order to sell it for a good price.
How do those changes get implemented?
How long will it take?
How much will it cost?
How do I find the right people to help me?
What do I do first?
Write down what it is you want to do. There could be a variety of things as you may not have made up your mind yet due to budget, feasibility, local authority restrictions. Put everything down that you would like to consider. For instance;
- I want to put a bedroom and ensuite bathroom in the loft.
- I want to put a swimming pool under my house
- I want to add 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom to my house
- I want to open up my living space, add a utility room and a boots room.
- I want to convert my garage into a bedroom
- I want to replace my house with 3 houses.
- I want to put a helicopter landing pad on the roof of my house.
Find out from your friends/family/social media, if anyone has done what you want to do. Ask them for advice on how to get started, who they used to help them, and whether they would recommend them, or steer well clear of them. Use online tools such as Pinterest or Houzz to start a scrap book of images and ideas that inspire you.
Owner. You, as the client, are in charge; you own the project; you make the final decisions; you make the payments. However, for your project to be a success, you will need experienced professionals to guide you. You therefore must choose your team carefully as you will rely on them for the success of your project. They should all have experience and carry the appropriate insurances.
Whether a small or a large project , you will need the following people in the team, to carry out the works;
Designer – This is the first person you need to employ.
This is someone with architectural experience that has carried out similar works. The more experience the better. They should carry Professional Indemnity Insurance as a minimum.
This person is vital for a smooth project so choose them carefully, and be clear to them on what it is you want them to do.
This person will outline the process, advise on cost, feasibility, timescales and all regulatory and legal requirements.
It is important to involve them as soon as possible to avoid any time delays, financial loss or unseen potential.
This person will need to fully understand your requirements; they will do this by listening to you and asking many questions so that the brief is agreed on.
You must fully trust this person, as they will be making changes to your property that will change the way you live your life.
Most of their work will be completed before the building starts, and may include providing services from other professionals such as building surveyors, party wall surveyors, energy assessors, interior designers, landscape specialists, arboriculturists (tree specialists), air quality assessors, and a variety of other specialists that the project may require.
Project Manager – For most projects the designer will be best suited to provide project management throughout the project. This ensures that the chosen design is implemented correctly throughout the building works. It will save you valuable time, make the project less stressful for you, and allow you to concentrate on other things.
Structural Engineer – This person will produce the structural design to enable the architectural design to stay upright. The designer usually will have worked with this person before, so ask them for recommendations as they should have a good understanding of each other. This will assure that the form and function is created in a successful and economic way.
Planning Officer – This person will be employed by the Local Authority and work within the Planning Department. You will not be able to choose this person, as they are allocated their cases dependent on workload, experience and availability. For this relationship to be a success you must provide them with comprehensive and accurate information. Most planning departments offer a Pre-Application service, which allows home owners to understand whether their proposal would be acceptable, or what changes would be required to make it acceptable, before submitting an actual planning application. The theory of this process is to prevent actual applications being refused, which avoids time wasting, as a planning application will take 8 weeks for a decision to be issued, whereas pre-application advice is available in a much shorter timeframe. The success of the pre-application service is dependent on the presentation of the proposal, which must acknowledge local planning policy, and of course the experience and competency of the allocated Planning Officer.
Building Inspector – This person is employed to ensure that the building works are carried out to meet building regulations. The service is provided for your safety and comfort. They will issue a completion certificate once the works are complete; this document will be required if you ever sell the property. You have the choice to instruct a Local Authority inspector or a private approved inspector. The chosen builder may have a preference as they could have a good relationship with one.
The Builder – This is the person that will be commissioned to carry out the physical changes to your property. If you have employed a project manager then they will deal with this person from day to day, ensuring that works are not delayed, materials and labour arrive on time and any issues are dealt with in a timely and economic manner. For smaller building works, and with a competent builder, it is usual for the client to deal directly with the builder. You will need to meet them regularly at a time convenient for both parties; this is usually outside of working hours to avoid delays on site. You will need to discuss the weekly plan of works, what materials are expected/need to be paid for, what design decisions are required (builders are great at construction, but usually will not provide design solutions; although they will always beg to differ) and how to avoid anything that is potentially going to delay the completion date or increase costs.
You must speak to recent previous customers of the chosen builder before deciding on one, it is good to view a project on site as well as a recently completed one.
Who you need to tell about your works – neighbours/courtesy and party wall
Neighbours – You should always discuss your proposed building works with your neighbours. Telling them that you are considering works before engaging the services of an architectural designer is always polite, and they will likely appreciate your openness and be less likely to become aggrieved if they become aware of your plans via the council or other sources.
It is very easy to forget about your neighbours and get caught up in the excitement of the works you want to do, you must always consider the affect it will have on them. They will have opportunity to object to the proposals, so involving them at an early stage will help to retain the good relationship you have.
Most people do not like building works going on near to their home, there is increased traffic, noisy deliveries, dust, noisy power tools and often a fear of services being interrupted. However, building works do go on and it is accepted that everyone may need to do this at some stage in their lives, so as long as the person carrying out the works is considerate then bad relationships with your neighbours can be avoided.
Your designer will advise you on designs that would comply with planning policy and not affect your neighbour.
You never know, if you are living away from the property while the works are taking place, having a friendly neighbour may be invaluable to you.
Your builder may need to access your neighbour’ property in order to carry out works.
Any damage to your neighbours property must be made good as soon as possible.
Keep your neighbour updated on start dates for the works and also during the works if any especially noisy works are due, or large deliveries that may affect parking. Immediate neighbours should be kept up to date with the building programme.
Party Walls – There are special rules that you have to adhere to if you are thinking of having work carried out that would affect a party wall, which is used by two or more property owners to separate buildings. The rules say that you must tell your neighbours about any work you intend to do that might affect a party wall, and also allows the neighbours to object within a specified time limit. The rules are in place to provide neighbours with a level of protection against potential damage to their home.
Any work that you are planning to have carried out on or near a party wall has to be discussed and agreed with your neighbour in writing at least two months before the building work is due to start. Neighbours are under an obligation not to be ‘deliberately obstructive’ and they cannot object to you carrying out the home improvements just because they don’t like you, or they have fallen out with you over something else.
For full details of your obligations with regard to works on or near a party wall, please refer to the Part Wall Act 1996 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/party-wall-etc-act-1996-guidance