10 Things You Need to Know when Planning a Building Project
- Set your goal – This may seem obvious but take time to think what it is you want to achieve when you are planning to build; what things are important to you during the project; and with the finished building.
Make sure that you end up with exactly what you want by being clear with yourself and your contractor what it is you want to end up with, and what your motivation is for the build. If it is important to you that you have a low environmental impact, then tell your contractor this at the planning stage. If your budget is the deciding factor share that fact, and if you are flexible on budget but must have the most exacting finish then make that clear at the beginning.
It may be most important to you that you get the largest space available in your budget or that the planned works will make the most impact on the value of your house when they are completed, in which case make sure you have explored all the alternatives with your experts (architect, builder, designer etc) before you get plans drawn up.
- Do the research – There is plenty of information around to help you with ideas and design possibilities when you are planning. Visit home shows and talk to the professionals – you can often get initial consultations with designers, architects, planning consultants and other experts at the shows. Take time to ensure you have considered all the possibilities that your build could offer.
- Set a realistic budget – Make sure you consider the cost of the materials you want to use, and the skill level that your build will demand to get the finish you want. If you need to rein in your outlay, consider how you can get similar effects with cheaper raw products or by using something mass-produced rather than bespoke where it will not be so obvious.
- Allow for contingencies – Allow an extra 10% on top of your budget to cover any unforeseen costs in your build. It is almost impossible to price up everything you might need to consider in advance, so avoid a situation where you can’t finish the job to your satisfaction by allowing yourself some financial wriggle-room. You don’t necessarily have to spend this extra money, but it feels more comfortable having the option!
- Pricing the job – how do you know that your budget is going to be enough? Obviously you want to get more than one quote and from reputable companies – we have advice on how to do this in our ‘Find a Tradesman’ section of our website.
It is advisable to get three quotes, but it is even more important that you are comparing like-with-like quotes. Make sure the builders know your specifications before they give you a price. We suggest you consider having an independent review of the likely costs and timescale involved in your building project by utilising Pro Estimating Service which will break down the process and the costs involved, so you feel in control of your project and the costs involved. This will give you a stronger hand when you are negotiating with builders. Find out more about Pro Estimating Service in our product review.
There is also a video about Pro Estimating Services at the bottom of the page.
Bear in mind that if your quotes vary wildly in price then it is perfectly reasonable to ask your builders to explain why this might be.
- Make key decisions before you start – Changing the specifications during the build will change the price, and unfortunately this usually means it will add to the cost of the final build rather than reducing costs. Having said that if you suddenly realise that you want to make a fundamental change to the build you should raise it with your builder as soon as possible, and have a frank discussion about the impact on the time and cost implications so you can make an informed decision.
- Manage the project – Decide if you will appoint an architect, project manager or a main contractor to manage the build, or if you be fulfilling that role. If you are managing your own project with your partner then decide who should be the main contact for the contractors, to avoid confusion when they are asking for decisions.
- Use a contract – Use a contract for the basis of setting out your expectations with your contractor. Decide on targets, payment schedules and where areas of responsibility lay, and use the contract to confirm them in writing to everyone involved. You can download a free copy of our Desired Outcomes Building Contact from this page.
- Order on time – Make sure you know who is responsible for ordering what products and materials and make sure they are ordered on time to avoid workmen hanging around, or having to leave for their next project.
- Keep communicating during the build – Not making a decision on time can hold up the job, so make sure you have thought of everything you can before the build starts, and pass this information to your builder. For instance if you haven’t chosen the bathroom suite you want, it can hold up tiling, electrics and obviously plumbing.
Your builder will need to ask questions throughout the process so make it clear how and when you prefer to be contacted and then react in a timely manner to avoid delays.