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Site Insurance - The first or final hurdle?!


mike2016

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So the site is almost ready to start, my house is sold, moving out this weekend. Got the last tree stump ground out so there's nothing blocking the foundations. But the reason we write some of these blogs is to vent frustrations and in my case today it's about insurance. 

My site has Made Ground. I went through the trouble of getting a ground analysis with dynamic probing and there is good load bearing at 2.2 meters but it's poor above that. I switched Structural Engineers and Tanners in Cork did a great job looking into piling and groundscrews before settling on groundscrews. Anyway, I have a design, someone lined up to build etc but before I sold I wanted to get my self build insurance in line. I had focused on scaffolding issues as I may need to put scaffolding on a public footpath at one point or in the neighbours side passage so I was making sure this could be accommodated. In my ignorance, a lot of which I'm going to experience during this project, I didn't think for a second that piling / groundscrews would be an issue for an insurance company. 

So today I got the big NO from the insurer so I'm ringing around trying to check if there are ANY underwriters willing to take this on. Time to start posting questions in forums etc! 

I'm based in the Republic of Ireland just so you are aware. Anything non standard is very hard to get covered at the best of times! 

Will I be able to build, I'll find out in the next few days! Contracts are signed, I'm moving out, new house prices are crazy, maybe time to move to Thailand or the Philippines? What can I say?! 

12 Comments


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Is this liability insurance for a self build site you can't get?  Or a structural warranty for the building?

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It's liability insurance i need. You can't get latent defects insurance for one off builds any more in ROI which is sad. 

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"I didn't think for a second that piling / groundscrews would be an issue for an insurance company" 

 

Tanners should have provided sufficient information to show that their design was valid for 50 years as they should know this is the basic for lending criteria and insurance. That means that all the parts and contractors guarentees / warranty's need to be good for at least that time or someone has to cover it in one way or another.

 

They know your brief and should be sufficiently experienced to design for best value and anticipate things like insurance premiums, buildability and overall cost of their design.

 

As an SE you have a vicarious responsibilty to highlight to your Client the knock on effects.. it is just not good enough to say well my SE design won't fall down.

 

If you wish post you plans, underbuilding spec, ground report and screw pile specification as interested in your design proposal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I could take out site insurance  (not mention groundscrews etc) and go with it but if the house was burned down and the underwriter sees the reinstatement cost I could imagine them walking away worst case. Home insurance companies don't seem to care about the house unless its anything more bespoke than timber frame with block/brick outer leaf over here. Might ring one or two to double check but getting the project finished, I need some insurance cover up to that point. 

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I'd look at piling rather than ground screws. I may be out of date but  last time I looked into screws, the reps were greatly overstating their abilities.

 

My favourite is ground improvement, using gravel piles. It is the least intrusive. It has a high setup cost though so may not be economic.

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36K (piling) vs 21K (Groundscrews) but all the policies I've checked so far rule out piling completely or any excavations below 3 meters. 

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28 minutes ago, mike2016 said:

36K (piling) vs 21K (Groundscrews) but all the policies I've checked so far rule out piling completely or any excavations below 3 meters. 

Piling contractor will carry their own insurance for their works and they will be off site before you start doing anything else so no need for you to cover that part of the build, or are you saying the insurance companies will not cover a build with piled founds?

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My take is that they won't cover a build that uses piled foundations or equivalent. 1 response was "Sorry, I don’t think this is one for us due to the made ground and raft design." 

I've taken a shot a Plum underwriters who do more bespoke designs and Aviva who DO cover piling in the UK but I believe won't in ROI even though it's the same insurer! 

One broker suggested a Contracts work policy for the project itself and signing as a co-insured along with a builder, or just get a main contractor to deliver the whole thing but there are costs and other risks trying to navigate these approaches. Basically as soon as any ground risk is mentioned brokers are walking away....

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Might be as well to dig to the good material.  2.2m isn't silly as long as the width is kept tight and stability of the trench ensured.

 

Another possibility is concrete pads down to the solid, and concrete beams spanning between. 

Then beam and block or planks for the ground floor.

Ie design out any made ground risk.

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That's what's been done - out design is good and there are other approaches but it's still made ground, anything other than perfect virgin soil and the underwriters are running a mile after lots of silly site building decisions over here  (ROI) years ago. If I was a builder I could proceed but as a lay person using direct labour as it's cheaper that's a no go for insurance. I doubt I can afford a main contractor even for builders finish. Best sell the site I'm thinking and close up shop. 

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So, I've gotten a quote and double checked it covers timber frame with an outer block/brick leaf. It does exclude subsidence but at least allows me to build. 

One aspect is that there's an option for non-negligent cover -  for damage to the house next door by collapse, subsidence, vibration, removal of support and lowering of ground water. I'd need to reapply for this cover - and as subsidence is already excluded, they may or may not cover for any of this. 

Is it worth doing the rounds on this or should I just pull the trigger on the current plan and go build? 

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