css7

Self-Build Newbie

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I’m just starting to dip my toe in the water with the idea of self-build, so apologies if I ask any stupid questions.

 

My partner and I spotted a plot which interests us, and it is being sold with detailed planning permission and services on site. Having taken a look at the local planning portal, we are happy with the property that is proposed. Do we need an architect if the plans are already in place?

 

We would be looking to have as hands-off an experience as possible, as we've no experience in this area (as if my questions don't give that away) but I’m apprehensive about what this may cost. What is the best way of discovering what the likely total cost would be for the project? Would the above plans be enough to obtain quotes now, prior to offering on the plot? And is this a reasonable approach?

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Posted (edited)

Welcome @css7. If you are happy with the plans, you will not need an architect - you will potentially need other professional bodies later, depending on how you progress the build (eg, packaged build, main contractor etc) but you should be able to get indicative prices by giving the plans to builders.

 

Before you get to that, work out the area of the house and, with your hands-off desire, use a figure of £1500 per m2 as a very rough estimated build. If you post the plans here, others will be able to validate that to some extent (eg, square/box houses are typically cheaper to build than those with more complex angles). And, the final finish you chose can easily add or subtract £200 per m2.

Edited by AliMcLeod

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14 minutes ago, css7 said:

We would be looking to have as hands-off an experience as possible, as we've no experience in this area

 

Welcome! 

 

We all start out like that but at the end of the process you'll be an expert whether you like it or not - hopefully for the better but sometimes for worse.

 

Here's the thing - you're committing to spend many hundred of thousands of pounds on a complicated (but not incomprehensible) project that you will quite literally have to live with. Many people only have the opportunity do this once, maybe twice in their lives. It's not like buying a ready built house or car.

 

Do you really want to hand all of the decision making and cost to a third party, who's motivations (making a living, profit, etc) will be different from yours?

 

Your contractors will never live in the house, need to pay for its construction (indeed they profit from it) or ever pay its running bills or try and sell it in the future so however professional they are (and some are more than others) they just don't have the same motivation or skin in the game as you do. The less honourable trade-people (and you will get them) will twig early on that you're not engaged and will take you for a ride.

 

So, you don't need to pick up so much as a broom to be involved in your build but if you're determined to stay 'hands off' then you introduce a lot of risk into the project. 

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52 minutes ago, css7 said:

[...] 

My partner and I spotted a plot which interests us, and it is being sold with detailed planning permission and services on site. Having taken a look at the local planning portal, we are happy with the property that is proposed. Do we need an architect if the plans are already in place?

[...]

 

Welcome. 

Our experience of the early phase of the process was that our opinion of what we wanted changed - almost by the month. As our opinions became more and more informed, so our ideas adapted to encompass those ideas. A bit like the way that wine consumption over time tends to change  your palate: you start to prefer drier wines - sweet white is fine, but a dry crisp white is better with fish.

 

Your hands-off approach is highly likely to change once you've been hit in the bank balance once or twice. (That is if you realise you've been had)

 

The best thing to do is to read the wailing and gnashing toothed stories here - and stories of the sheer delight on moving in. Self building doesn't discriminate by bank balance or personality or approach or intelligence or experience. It's uniformally challenging.  Your experience is highly likely to be something like the one described by the commentariat  here.

 

It's pure skiing in front of an avalanche.  ( @TerryE Jan 2019)

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, css7 said:

My partner and I spotted a plot which interests us, and it is being sold with detailed planning permission and services on site. Having taken a look at the local planning portal, we are happy with the property that is proposed. Do we need an architect if the plans are already in place?

 

 

I purchased a plot with detailed planning permission and like you I inherited a design that I was happy with. You will save a significant chunk of money by not going through a whole planning cycle with associated consultancy and architect fees. The onsite services are also worth something between £5000 and £10000 for a typical build though in an awkward case the figure can escalate to £15k or £20k.

 

2 hours ago, css7 said:

Do we need an architect if the plans are already in place?

 

 

You will need technical diagrams, these often produced by an architectural technician though some seasoned self builders here create their own. The outline house shape that got approved by the planning department skates over a ton of details about how the house will be built.

 

Technical diagrams are required by Build Control before you start building, their creation will force you to make a lot a detailed decisions about build method. You won't get a reliable quote until these decisions have been made, a biggie is thermal performance which is really the construction tail that wags the whole self build dog.

 

From what you have said in your opening post I suspect you will end up with a hands-off timber frame build and the TF company will deliver a canned set of technical decisions.

 

Edited by epsilonGreedy
Correct AT job title.

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Posted (edited)
37 minutes ago, epsilonGreedy said:

You will need technical diagrams, these often produced by a Technical Architect though some seasoned self builders here create their own. The outline house shape that got approved by the planning department skates over a ton of details about how the house will be built.

 

Technical diagrams are required by Build Control before you start building, their creation will force you to make a lot a detailed decisions about build method. You won't get a reliable quote until these decisions have been made, a biggie is thermal performance which is really the construction tail that wags the whole self build dog.

 

 

I agree. I too took a "hands off" approach and used a TF company to draw up the plans which were sufficient for a tender process and then BC. Planing permission drawings, I would argue are simply not good enough for a forensic cost breakdown. 

Once you have detailed plans, suitable for a tender process, you could also send them off to any online estimators - I used two in our research stage and found them to be very useful and not far off the mark. 

Before all that though, look at Fleming Homes website - they have a calculator service which will give you a "ball park " figure if you were to go down a TF route.

 

Sorry, forgot to add. you may find my blog of some use - 

 

Edited by Redoctober
additional info.

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3 hours ago, css7 said:

I’m just starting to dip my toe in the water with the idea of self-build, so apologies if I ask any stupid questions.

 

My partner and I spotted a plot which interests us, and it is being sold with detailed planning permission and services on site. Having taken a look at the local planning portal, we are happy with the property that is proposed. Do we need an architect if the plans are already in place?

 

We would be looking to have as hands-off an experience as possible, as we've no experience in this area (as if my questions don't give that away) but I’m apprehensive about what this may cost. What is the best way of discovering what the likely total cost would be for the project? Would the above plans be enough to obtain quotes now, prior to offering on the plot? And is this a reasonable approach?

 

Welcome.

 

If you're really happy with the plans, then no need for an architect, although you may or may not need someone to convert the planning application plans into a set of drawings that can both meet the requirements of building control and enable a contractor to build the house to the required specification.  Drawings for building control approval and to allow a contractor to build the house can either be drawn up by an architectural technician, or often they may be produced by a timber frame company, or even one of the turn-key package building companies (if your budget goes that far).

 

Having services on site is a good start, but I'd advise not taking anything at face value and asking the utilities for prices to connect before committing to buy the plot.  Our plot was advertised as having services available, but the cheapest quotes we had for connection were over £23k for mains water, over £14k for mains drainage and about £3.5k for electricity.  We renegotiated the price of the plot based on these high services costs.

 

To get quotes you really need to be able to define the construction method that you prefer, or that is best suited to the location, together with lots of detail about what you expect from the house.  For example, a house built to just meet current building regulations may not be that great in terms of thermal efficiency or comfort, so you may wish to invest a small premium in the fabric of the house in order to have much reduced energy bills and a higher level of comfort.  There's also a substantial cost difference between different levels of internal fit out.  For example, we opted to have solid oak stairs, internal joinery etc, and the material cost alone for that was about three times the price of painted softwood, and had we used a joiner then I would guess the labour cost involved would probably have been about double, just because it's a fair bit of extra time to get the detail right.

 

I would suggest that you look to employ a good project manager to manage your project, get quotes, help you select contractors and generally advise you.  Pick one that is not associated with a particular company and interview a few before choosing one, as it will become a very personal relationship, and you need to be assured that you can work with this person for a year or so.  This is probably one of the hardest parts, I think.

 

Finally I would suggest having a really good look at the plans and checking every aspect, like where the light comes into rooms, where you think you might put furniture, where you are going to store things etc, as it's relatively easy to change the plans now, and much, much harder to do later.  We went through around 6 iterations of designs before deciding on the final one, and for each of those I made a scale model so my wife was better able to visualise what the spaces looked like.  We even went so far as to simulate the light coming in through the windows throughout the day, using a torch, to get a better feel for how each room would look.

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I was surprised when the architect (who did a really great design for our house) wanted £15k for BC drawings and discharge of conditions.

 

Our timber frame company did the detailed drawings as part of their package (once we'd committed) and we did the conditions ourselves based on Jeremy's worked example,

 

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4 minutes ago, Bitpipe said:

Our timber frame company did the detailed drawings as part of their package (once we'd committed)

 

Same here. Timber frame company did all of the drawings, appointed a SE etc. as part of the package. Saved a lot of hassle and was bundled up in the frame invoicing so I got the VAT back on the whole thing too. 

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7 minutes ago, newhome said:

 

Same here. Timber frame company did all of the drawings, appointed a SE etc. as part of the package. Saved a lot of hassle and was bundled up in the frame invoicing so I got the VAT back on the whole thing too. 

 

VAT saving is a really good point, never considered that!

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6 minutes ago, Bitpipe said:

 

VAT saving is a really good point, never considered that!

 

I certainly never even thought about this at the time we instructed the TF supplier, but on reflection it was another advantage of the TF company having taken this on. 

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Posted (edited)

You need to simplify your subcontractor scopes and interfaces.  Like many others who posted:

  • We went to a custom TF company who contracted to do the slab and timberframe.
  • We had one main contractor (not prime-contractor) who did all of the ground-works, erected the outer stone skin and did the slate roof.
  • We selected the specialist window and door supplier
  • Our main contractor recommended his preferred tradesmen so we knew that we could have some confidence in their work because he is a perfectionist.  We followed his recommendation re the electrician, tiler, plasterer and scaffolder, but decided to do the plumbing, carpentry and decoration and other internals ourselves.

I didn't use an architect or PM, but I have good visualisation skills, some project management experience, am highly IT literate and having retired early had the time and effort available to take on a  lot of the work and quality assurance ourselves.  If you like the submitted design then an architect is probably optional for you, IMO,

 

However, if you feel that you don't have the time and skills to do the overall management, then yes I would suggest that a PM is essential and the PM's abilities will be a key success factor.  So I would suggest that you consider the broad characteristics of the house that you want: on the spectrum minimum Breg compliance to passive house, etc. and select your PM with care: he or she should have experience in the type of house that you want (e.g. if you want a low energy house then the PM should have experience of building low energy houses).  I strongly suggest that you ask for customer testimonials; visit the builds and talk to those customers.  A good PM will make all of the difference.  Be willing to have an informed discussion with the PM about construction techniques, subcontractor selection, etc. and be guided by the PM, but not enthralled.  IMO, you have to stay ahead of the curve and be an informed client yourself.

 

My last comment is always trust but verify, and be willing to act quickly if an issue occurs.  Don't leave it just to the PM but be willing to work in a partnership.  For example, if you are using a TF + floating raft build, then I strongly suggest that you take time off work and be onsite during the slab prep and pour, and TF erection.  Don't be afraid to do constructive but independent quality checks yourself.  This forum is a resource to allow to have an idea of what, where and when. 

 

A small example: one member here had a PM who did an overall good job and chose the subs.  the PM gave the ground-floor tiling job to his nephew who made a total hash of it.  When the member came to have a look at progress, he found the floors uneven, trip edges everywhere and the tile spacing terrible.  A whole floor and many £Ks of tiles just unacceptable; all to be taken up, dumped and the floor reground and relevelled to start again.  Finding one room unacceptable and having to undo this is bad enough, but the entire ground-floor?  Trust but verify, and do it early in the case of an unknown tradesman.

 

 

Edited by TerryE
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