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To watertight only, or go all the way?


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With interest rates rising and clouds of recession on the horizon I'm naturally reluctant to fix a price for the whole build in mega-inflationary times just before the money-go-round stops and we fall off an economic cliff.  Or maybe the forecasts are wrong and we don't have a recession, but they are the forecasts.

 

Anyhow, crystal ball to one side, and without having sight of the tender responses yet, but expecting some big inflation margin built-in, I am naturally attracted to having a main contractor to watertight as phase 1.  And then re-tender for phase 2 (or get the trades myself) when things become a little clearer and the crystal ball can go away and pricing will be more accurate.

 

My QS and Architect think I've totally lost my marbles to want to phase the build like this.  Have I?  Is it a recipe for disaster to tender for the Main Contractor to get up to watertight only?

 

(house is block cavity passive build)

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I think self builders often do it that way as there's more you can do yourself from this stage. However if you are inexperienced and don't have a black book of tradesmen, the inevitable delays can slow things down so much the savings can be eaten up by your rental costs. I have found it very time consuming and frustrating to do it this way, but I lost trust in my builder and so prefer being more comfortable being in control of the trades and could make some changes (that's the bit everyone hates because there can be a surprising number of knock on effects). It really depends on the builder and tradesmen concerned and your relationship with them. I would get prices for both approaches and see how you feel. 

 

If you can slum it in a static caravan and use savings rather than borrowings, you can manage some of the financial risk.

 

If you are seriously worried cost might go out of control, is there any way you could finish part of the house and live in it and manage the rest yourself as you can afford it?

Edited by Jilly
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Posted (edited)
25 minutes ago, Jilly said:

 

If you can slum it in a static caravan and have savings rather than borrowings, you can manage some of the financial risk.

 

Should have explained, personal circumstances are ok.  We rent a house round the corner from the site and have done so for many years so no rush to completeion of build.  Also I'm lucky enough to only work part time so I can be on site every day quite easily.

 

Its interesting what you say about control, and I think that's important.  When previously I had an MC (only one prev. build experience) I felt like I was standing in front of a train that was going full steam ahead to final destination and deaf to anything I had to say.  I ended up threatening to sue builder and architect to get them off site. Turned out I was vindicated, the architect was suspended a couple of months later for misconduct (signing off builders work not done) and had been under invetigation for a few years, all of which I knew nothing about, despite calling RIBA with concerns.  (ARB are conveniently seperate to RIBA who can claim ignorance of any misconduct... lesson here... if you have architect concerns contact ARB not RIBA)

 

I guess my previous experience of being ripped off by a crooked architect and builder has left me with trust issues to give an MC full control while I stand back, especially for passive build, right through to completion.  Once the contract is signed, it's out of my hands I guess.  brrrr.  I think I will need an easy termination clause 🤔

 

Edited by Mr Blobby
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Even if you brought in a main contractor to do everything 

It would still be faxed no one can give a fixed price at the moment 

Your QS and architect are probably a little out of touch 

You are right to faze the build 

If all goes well with you and your builder He will probably offer to quote for the  next faze 

 

I don’t think anyone knows what will happen Those predicting are the same experts that predicted we would enter a 1920s style recession after the lockdown 

 

One thing for sure The building trade is showing no signs of slowing down 

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Some thoughts having gone through similar thinking lately:

 

- you will pay for it one way or another, it's not really possible to fix costs right now, so I wouldn't bother to try beyond a certain point (we've agreed to fix costs but I'm on the hook for any material increases over 5%)

- the idea of cutting it in stages is something I looked at. It will add time delays inevitably, and it could leave you with some gaps in ownership/accountability (drains in the wrong place, etc etc)

- I certainly felt our QS and Architect were out of touch, and let them go also

 

Good luck !

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  • 1 month later...

I’m in a similar boat albeit I’ll get to weathertight by default because that’s the supply and erect deal I have with the timber kit supplier. They also offer a partial turnkey service that does the groundworks, founds, drainage and gets the roof and cladding on. I can then do separate trades or get a main contractor for the rest. The partial turnkey service is relatively flexible in that I can get someone else to do the groundworks and foundations and I’ve had a local guy estimate that to be about £35k including treatment plant. If that’s in the right ballpark then I’ll go that route. 
 

I’ve not had a quote for the partial turnkey service yet. It’s probably my favoured route if it isn’t ruinously expensive.

 

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On 16/06/2022 at 16:49, Mr Blobby said:

My QS and Architect think I've totally lost my marbles to want to phase the build like this.  Have I?  Is it a recipe for disaster to tender for the Main Contractor to get up to watertight only?

It puts you in in far more control of the spending, plus it will make costs more transparent. The professionals around you probably dislike that as it means their costs can be better scrutinised when the project becomes fragmented.

 

Get to weathertight, shell, roof, door and windows, and get a blower test done to prove integrity. Dust yourself down, inject some steroids directly into each testicle, and ( with all the spare time you have ) drive the project independently from there.

 

You may have a native for support to get you through the tough times…..but tbh, after you’re weathertight, it’s pretty much plain sailing. 

 

Time to use the ones you need for the jobs you need them for ONLY, then it’s time to cut out the dead wood.

 

“Make it so, No.2” 😎

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If you're part time I would manage the build myself, especially passive block build where the details are very important right from the off.  Specifically the continuity of insulation, mortar droppings on cavity ties, airtightness at first floor level, thermal bridging at thresholds and window openings. If you don't have an excellent contractor here you'll struggle to convey the message to the tradespeople and end up doubling your work to rectify it. Alternatively if you can find a supplier/builder who can guarantee passive standards in writing I'd happily use them to watertight. 

 

As you are part time I'd put a padlock on the gate of the site any day you're not there. The quality and care of the work can deteriorate rapidly if there's no site supervision present as most trades assume that speed trumps quality in my experience. Our build took 21 months and I'd estimate that there was about 20 man hours per week done. Easily covered in 2 days per week for 2 people. 

 

Get a reputation for paying promptly and well. 

 

Finally concentrate on doing the management not the jobbing where you can avoid it. You'll burn out otherwise. 

Good luck! 

 

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On 08/08/2022 at 11:29, Iceverge said:

If you're part time I would manage the build myself, especially passive block build where the details are very important right from the off.  Specifically the continuity of insulation, mortar droppings on cavity ties, airtightness at first floor level, thermal bridging at thresholds and window openings. If you don't have an excellent contractor here you'll struggle to convey the message to the tradespeople and end up doubling your work to rectify it. Alternatively if you can find a supplier/builder who can guarantee passive standards in writing I'd happily use them to watertight. 

 

As you are part time I'd put a padlock on the gate of the site any day you're not there. The quality and care of the work can deteriorate rapidly if there's no site supervision present as most trades assume that speed trumps quality in my experience. Our build took 21 months and I'd estimate that there was about 20 man hours per week done. Easily covered in 2 days per week for 2 people. 

 

Get a reputation for paying promptly and well. 

 

Finally concentrate on doing the management not the jobbing where you can avoid it. You'll burn out otherwise. 

Good luck! 

 

 

I couldn't agree more with what you say about keeping control and oversight on the build.  The alternative to 'hand posession' of the site over to a main contractor fills me with terror.

 

Our circumstances are very good to manage the build.  We are renting a house round the corner from the site, and my day job is only a few days a month so I can be on site every day no problem.  It just seems a no-brainer to build to watertight and oversee progress, as you say, trusting airtightness and clean cavities to a main contracter trying to maximise profits leaves me very uneasy.

 

What I'm really naffed off about is that the plans were all approved last summer and I had hoped to be building this summer.  Everything, including finance was in place to start this summer.

 

The root cause for this delay goes back to the spring when the M and E consultants issued a draft tender document full of errors.  They then issued their 'final' tender document at the end of April that was rubbish so I told my architect that the tender should be issued without delay and without the M and E so that things could move forward to try and rescue a summer build.  This would in effect have been to tender to watertight.  My architect came back to say he had discussed this with the QS (not me) and they had decided this was not in my best interests (conveniently it would be in their interests as it would trigger their tender payment milestones).  They wanted the tender to go out with incorrect specification.  I still can't see the benefit of that approach because the tender specification cannot form the basis of any meaningful contract but would instead leave me captive to the main contractor in negotating out the errors in a time-consuming and costly change control process.  Which would have triggered another 'negotiation' payment milestone for my QS.  Win win for him, lose lose for me.

 

With no faith in the tender process I lost interest some time ago in what my QS and architect were doing and got down the site to sort out the disconnections and demolition of the old house, much to their dissaproval.

 

As expected the cheapest tender came back for 705k with overstated M and E costs, but in reality, even if it came back at 300k, the specification was wrong and I would have spent the winter refining detials and paying professional fees for wasting my time.

 

Building to watertight is what we are going to do, and what we should have started this spring.  It is just a crying shame that my professional advisers refused to discuss options and persuaded me not to do this.  The reality is that it was in their best interests, not mine, to issue a full (incorrect) tender in one go with the minimum effort to hit their payment milestones but sabotage my summer build in the process. 

 

A few weeks ago I emailed my architect to explain how I would have been much better off if I had tendered to watertight earlier.   Architect does not agree.  He says the tenders should always go out with maximum detail, even if its incorrect.  I can't quite figure that out.  When I told him I had the finance in place to bulild this summer and that was my primary requirement, something I had told him many times at the start oif the year, his response was that to build to watertight is a self build.  His firm doesn't do self-builds.  His clients aren't self-builders, and 'we don't work with self builders'.  When I asked why, he said that self builders consume more of his time.  I thought this a dangerous position to take because it is prioritising his own interests over his clients.  I wasn't surprised when he recently called me back to say he didn't mean what he said about not working with self builders and that he would continue to support me. 

 

Where I am now is that I'm talking to builders who are very interested in building to watertight.  I still haven't had any numbers back though and the clock is ticking for this summer.

 

I guess I'm left with two questions.  Do I postpone the build to May 23?  And do I get rid of my architect at this late stage?  We've always got on OK and I always pay his bills promptly but I think he was manipulated by the QS and is unable to recognise conflicts of interest.  This has the effect of undermining trust.  How easy is it to change architect?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Mr Blobby
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705k!?

 

That suggests that the build is either very very large or has some very expensive or bespoke finishes. 

 

If you are planning on something pushing the boundaries to such an extent as a self builder I would consider revising the house to something more manageable unless you have a background in project management, construction and a deep expertise of all fiddly details. 

 

Our house was 1/3 of your budget and I had researched it to death. Probably 4 years worth. It was still a huge undertaking and that was with the main contractor organising all the trades. (Sometimes a good thing, sometimes not). 

 

Also if you are pushing the budget now I would consider revising the design. The main reason for me to consider self managing would be to control the quality and enjoy the process. You may or may not save money depending on how much your time is worth. 

 

We paid a builder about €220k from a mortgage of €300k but in the end we spent every penny on all the other stuff. That was our 3rd set of planning permission trying to get it "right". 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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49 minutes ago, Iceverge said:

705k!?

 

That suggests that the build is either very very large or has some very expensive or bespoke finishes. 

 

Not very large or bespoke at all, and in Northern Ireland! 

 

House is 2 storey 270 m2 total area. 4 bedrooms. 3 bathrooms in total.  Warm roof standing seam alu on top.  Insulated foundation.  Hollowcore first floor.  Concrete stairs.  Basic block shape and simple cut roof.  Site is flat and acessible. 

 

705k price is a joke.   The tender response, for example, wants £10k for running shielded cat6 from a patch panel to a few rooms.  The QS has refused to do any cost analysis, he simply says I should accept the lowest quote.  Which comes from a builder he introduced.  I don't think so!

 

49 minutes ago, Iceverge said:

 

The main reason for me to consider self managing would be to control the quality and enjoy the process. You may or may not save money depending on how much your time is worth. 

 

 

This.  I actually think I might enjoy it once the shell is up and watertight.  And I think I'll do a better job on details like airtightness than trusting it to a main contractor.

 

It will be interesting to see what the local builder comes back with to build to watertight compared to the big firms who responded to the tender.

 

Edited by Mr Blobby
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6 minutes ago, Mr Blobby said:

705k price is a joke.   The tender response, for example, wants £10k for running shielded cat6 from a patch panel to a few rooms

Sounds perfectly reasonable :D 

Just pay the man, he's got kids to feed !!!

PS, as a BH Buddy favour, i'll come over and do the CAT6 for £9k, that's a saving of a thousand pounds :D 

 

Seriously....how do these people get any work? That's crazy money for this build....

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I plan on doing all groundworks myself and getting a builder in to take us from foundations up to watertight. I'll then be tackling the majority of 1st fix myself, getting the pros in where needed (sparky, plasterer etc). 

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@Mr Blobby your instincts are right. If you treat a house build like a single big project, it'll cost big. And if there is any uncertainty, contractors will either run away of just make up big numbers, which is happened in your case. Your architect should have your best interests at the fore...

 

We did a few small contracts, one for ground works and drianage, and the main one for all the structural elements. We then sourced all other trades, windows, doors etc ourselves. I think we've saved £100k. But still not finished.... But you have full control and insight in to everything that happens. You'll get things wrong, do them in the wrong order and get let down time and time again. But you'll get there. We've come in just a smidge over £1k/m2, but by the time we get the landscaping done, it'll add another chunk and bring that up a bit 

 

Welcome to call round again anytime for a chat.

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20 minutes ago, jayc89 said:

I plan on doing all groundworks myself and getting a builder in to take us from foundations up to watertight. I'll then be tackling the majority of 1st fix myself, getting the pros in where needed (sparky, plasterer etc). 

Just right.  Me too.  Just wish I figured this out in February instead of listening to my professional advisors and missing the summer buld window.

 

7 minutes ago, Conor said:

@Mr Blobby your instincts are right. If you treat a house build like a single big project, it'll cost big. And if there is any uncertainty, contractors will either run away of just make up big numbers, which is happened in your case. Your architect should have your best interests at the fore...

 

We did a few small contracts, one for ground works and drianage, and the main one for all the structural elements. We then sourced all other trades, windows, doors etc ourselves. I think we've saved £100k. But still not finished.... But you have full control and insight in to everything that happens. You'll get things wrong, do them in the wrong order and get let down time and time again. But you'll get there. We've come in just a smidge over £1k/m2, but by the time we get the landscaping done, it'll add another chunk and bring that up a bit 

 

Welcome to call round again anytime for a chat.

 

Thank you @Conor, I'll need all the help I can get once things get started. 

 

The immediate question is whether to kick this into next year to build over summer '23.

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25 minutes ago, Kelvin said:

Some people must pay it though. Which is mental. 

And my QS hasn't commented on this lunacy except to say I should just pay it.  What a massive waste of time and money he has been.

 

 

Edited by Mr Blobby
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Easy for him to spend your money. 
 

I gave up with my QS once he started saying he’d charge me £775 to visit my plot. He lives an hour away at the very most. To get him to do just the order of cost was going to cost £1600 and I already have many of the quotes for the bigger items

Edited by Kelvin
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There's no reason to delay, you can still get lots done over the winter. If you break it in to different chunks, no reason why you can't get a ground works company in to sort the site levels and do the founds and services. Then bit the ground running in the spring with brick/block work.

 

Another factor is your finances, with high rates and uncertainty, you should factor in these increasing costs to the project 

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