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Hints and Tips

 

THERE ARE HINTS AND TIPS THROUGHOUT THE MISTERGREEN WEBSITE-THEY ARE HIGHLIGHTED AS "WATCHPOINTS", BUT HERE WE HAVE A MORE GENERAL SECTION                                          

 

HOMEOWNER HINTS-SOME GENERAL ADVICE ON DOMESTIC BUILDING PROJECTS

HOMEOWNER HINTS

1. GETTING  STARTED

You gotta have a dream.............

A good clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve is essential to any building project. A clear brief is essential.

The following questions need to be asked:

Whether to build?

First you must ask yourself: do we need to build? Can our requirements be met in another way? For example -could we move house? OR could we re-organise the space we already have

What to build?

Do we need an extra bedroom, or a study? Do we need a larger kitchen? Do we need a family room? Do we need to update our Victorian house to cope with modern life and bring it up to modern energy standards?
The most common alterations result form changing family circumstances- an additional bedroom

Budget?

Do we have a sum of money set aside? How much can we borrow?
TIP: this is a difficult hurdle to overcome early in a project and it is easy to go round and round in circles!  You don't know how much to budget, because you don't know how much the building work will cost. You don't know how much it will cost, because you don't know what you want! One way to set a budget is to look at the value of your house without the alterations and to look at e value of similar houses where the work as been done. Unless there is some overriding factor (such as the need to make a ‘granny flat'), it is rarely worth spending more than the added value. You could get professional help from an architect or surveyor at this stage to use their experience to judge how much you could get for your money. It is often really only cost effective to install energy saving measures when other works such as an extension are being carried out. New extensions often involve alterations to existing plumbing so it is an ideal opportunity to consider energy saving measures which go over and above the requirements of the Building Regulations. One way to judge how cost effective extra works are is to obtain prices for the basic scheme and then to list additional energy saving measures such as solar water heating, insulation to insides of external walls and draught stripping  as ‘extra over' prices.


What is important to us

Are we looking for as much space as we can get, or are we concerned about quality, sustainability and energy consumption  and how the work will fit in with the existing house?

TIP: a good extension or conversion will add value to a property; poorly executed building work could detract from the value. You could even find yourself having to spend money putting things right!

2. MAKING PLANS

For even the smallest building job, something has to be written down or drawn -or both.

You could employ a professional, an architect or surveyor, to oversee the whole project for you. Or you could buy just the services you need. Using an architect or surveyor to get the help you need does not have to be expensive and could save you money in the long run.

You could decide to go it alone, either by employing a builder to provide everything for you or, for the really adventurous, managing the project yourself.

If you employ a builder to do the work for you, use the guidance above to help you give him a clear brief. The builder's response to you brief should set out clearly in writing what he is going to provide you with and the price.

TIPS:

Loft conversions:

  • Make a big room rather than two small ones.
  • Make sure your builder gets as much headroom as possible.
  • Remember that if you make a bathroom it will have to connect to the existing drainage.
  • The new stair should look as though it was always there -match up the handrails and details. Builders seldom include for this and will buy in the cheapest stair they can get.
  • Extras: is the sanitary ware -the bath or shower, toilet and washbasin included. Is tiling included
  • Plumbing - is there enough capacity in the existing system. Will it work?

• Redecoration - allow at least for redecorating the whole of the staircase and landings.

 

Extensions:

  • Think about how it will look
  • Think about how it will work - imagine furniture layouts and radiator positions. Where will socket outlets go?
  • Extensions can range from a simple single storey room or conservatory to a complete remodelling. There are economies of scale. A small extension will cost more per square metre than a larger one.

• If you extend you could reduce the amount of natural light in the existing rooms or landings. Bring in more light with windows or roof glazing or a sun tube.

3. CONTRACTS

You should always have a written agreement. Verbal agreements can be very difficult to enforce.

A written agreement will form a contract between you and your builder

An agreement can be as simple as a written quotation  and a written acceptance, but at the very least, an agreement for building works should deal with four basic points:

WHO - the customer and the contractor

WHAT - What is to be done - a description of the work: the work should be described in the form of a specification or drawings or both. The contract should state who is going to provide these documents or drawings - the customer or the contractor. Who is to get planning consent or Building Regulations approval


 WHEN - When is it to be done - the contract should state the start and finish dates

HOW MUCH : How much will it cost - the contract should state the agreed price for the work including where appropriate VAT and how and when payments are to be made.

A contract should also state:

- Provisions for insurance
- What to do if there is a dispute
- Controlling time over-runs
Stage payments


Both the customer and the contractor should sign the contract AND ALSO any drawings or documents referred to in the contract. CONTRACT FOR SIMPLE DOMESTIC WORKS
(For a printable version of the contract  below send us an email in the ‘Contact us' area of our site)

 


AGREEMENT FOR MAINTENANCE, REPAIRS AND MINOR DOMESTIC BUILDING WORK

This agreement is between:

Householder........................................................................

Address.............................................................................

And

Contractor..........................................................................

Address.............................................................................

The work:

Short description..................................................................

The work is described in the following documents signed by us and attached to this contract(delete or add documents as appropriate)

Quotation dated..............................................

Specification dated.........................................

Prepared by.................................................

Drawings numbered..............................................

Prepared by.......................................................

The Price:


The fixed price for the work described in para 2 above is...................Plus VAT
(if VAT applies to the work, the contractor will itemise this separately. Where there are varying rates applicable, these will be itemised separately Where VAT applies, the contractor will submit valid VAT invoices)

Time

The work will start on..................................

And be completed on................................. 

 

 

 

4. GETTING PERMISSION

Almost anything you do to your house which affects the appearance or structure will require consent.

Town Planning:

Planning consent is often required if you wish to alter the appearance or the use of your building - for example if you wish to extend it or to change the use, say, from a single family dwelling into flats.

 

In some cases, planning permission may not be required and your project may be carried out within your ‘permitted development rights'. The government's planning portal site explains the requirements (www.planningportal.gov.uk)


Decisions on planning applications for domestic alterations are usually dealt with by planning officers, but in some cases decisions are made by a committee of local councillors, based upon advice given to them by the planning officers.

TIP: discuss your proposals with the planning officers before submitting an application. It is usually a good idea to have some sketches or drawings to take to a meeting with a planning officer.

When you are ready to make an application, you will have to fill out the appropriate forms- available from the Council by post or sometimes on line - and pay a fee.

A planning application will usually take six to eight weeks to process- so you should allow for this when you are scheduling your work. A planning officer will be assigned to your case and will usually contact you to make a site visit. The Council may ask you to amend your proposals. This could extend the time taken to process the application and there is always the possibility that your application could be refused.

If your application is refused, you can lodge an appeal. Your Council will tell you how to appeal when they notify you of their refusal. Planning appeals are dealt with by a government agency called the Planning Inspectorate. Planning appeals can be a lengthy process and you may need to engage a planning consultant to help you..

TIP: It is better to try to resolve issues with the planners rather than getting a refusal UNLESS you feel that the Council is being unreasonable and that an independent inspector may agree with you rather than the Council. Even in a quite simple case the arguments can be quite complex an you should consider whether the cost of engaging a planning consultant is justified.

Buildings with historical or architectural interest are often ‘Listed' that is, put on a statutory list or register of buildings, which should be protected. This means that alterations - internal and external- require Listed Building Consent as well as planning consent.

Alternatively, a building could be ‘locally listed' or in a Conservation Area. If you live in a Conservation Area, you will usually have to apply for Conservation Area Consent for work which affects the exterior of your building.

TIP: a telephone call before you start to the planning department at the Council to find out if your building is in a Conservation Area is worthwhile. Ask if there are any particularly sensitive issues or if any design guidance is available.

 

Building Regulations

In addition to planning consent, you will need Building Regulations approval. These are standards set by parliament to ensure that buildings are soundly built and safe.
They cover: Fire Safety; damp proofing; thermal insulation;sound insulation;ventilation; hygene;drainage and waste disposal; stairs; conservation of fuel and power; disabled access; safety glazing.

The Building Regulations are administered by Building Control Officers usually employed by the local council.

There are two routes to getting Building Regulations approval: if your property is a single family house, you can use the Building Notice route. You or your builder simply complete a form, pay a fee and give the Council forty eight hours of your intention to start work. The forms are available from the Building Control Department of the Council and they will be able to advise on the appropriate fee.

The Building Control Officer will visit during the course of the works to inspect various stages as they are completed.

The Building Notice route is usually sufficient for small domestic works.

For more complex projects, or where the rules do not allow the simpler route, there is the Full Plans route. This involves the submission of detailed drawings and calculations, which are approved before the work starts.

TIP: you should allow five or six weeks in your programme for Full Plans approval. The plans and specifications required are much more detailed than for Town Planning Approval, so it is wise to get an indication of whether planning approval is going to be granted before commissioning detailed plans.

5. PARTY WALLS

If the work you propose involves work on a wall shared with another property, or building on a boundary or excavation near a neighbouring building, you must find out whether the work falls within the scope of the Party Wall etc Act 1996.

If it does, you will have to serve notice of your intentions on your neighbour. Notices have to be properly served and the procedure can be quite complicated. You may find yourself having to pay for a surveyor appointed by your neighbours and the costs can be difficult to control.

The Party Wall Act gives you the right to raise up a party wall or the cut into it to provide bearings for new beams, but only if the proper procedure is followed.

The government's planning portal site explains the requirements (http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/buildingregulations/buildingpolicyandlegislation/currentlegislation/partywallactsearch "party walls" and go to the "professional users" area to download an explanatory booklet)