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Getting started

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As soon as you have got planning permission and building regulations approval you will probably want to organise some or most of the following:

quotes from builders

This involves the whole tendering process.

health and safety

If you are having construction work done on your own home, or on the home of a family member, as a domestic client you do not have to notify the work to Health and Safety Executive and you will not have duties under Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 – although those doing the work on your behalf (such as designers or contractors) will. If the work is part of a trade or business then you will need to notify them. See the HSE website for more info.

It definitely pays to operate a safe building site even in areas where you might not technically or legally be obliged to. The building industry in the UK has improved vastly in this respect over the last couple of decades and now ranks very well internationally in terms of safety. It is not only dangerous but also depressing for sub contractors and labourers to be expected to work under dangerous conditions and you can also take the moral high ground by working to a high standard. This gains respect and produces a better job.

public liability insurance

As soon as you become the owner of land or property you potentially become liable to claims from the public for accident, injury or death on the property. If there is any risk at all to the public, even if they are trespassing it makes sense to get cover. Try your own broker or go to one of the companies specialising in this such as Self Build Zone

structural warranty

You can take out insurance against structural defects and this will usually last for 10 years after the completion of the building. Companies like Premier Guarantee have special products for self builders

site security

As soon as you have purchased a site it is your responsibility to make it safe. Bear in mind that even if someone is trespassing on the land and injures themselves then you may be liable. If it is a totally safe flat area then you are in the same position as a farmer with a field but if there is anything that might pose a danger to (say) children playing then you need to fence it off and post warning signs. This will probably require 2m high steel site fencing or similar so that children cannot climb over it. Similar gates with padlocks will be needed and warning signs should be posted.

It is probably useful to plan any such fencing with a view to it continuing in use throughout the building process when all the area with building works on it will need protecting. It may also be worth thinking about future security issues at the same time. This will involve checking the cover available from insurance companies for theft and third party liability.


If you intend to demolish anything on site then you need to contact your local authority to get permission (with certain exceptions). Building Control will inform you of the proceedure and you may be able to fill out the forms on line.

You should also contact your local authority planning department to make sure that there are no restrictions such as you might find in a conservation area or with a listed building.

During demolitions there may be an opportunity to do three things

  • ascertain the state of the ground conditions beneath the demolished structure. This is important in two respects
    • you may come across previous works such as old cellars, drains, culverts, pits etc. which will affect the foundations you will need. At this point an engineer will probably be required to do a survey.
    • you may find contaminated land which will need remediation. This will show up as abnormal deposits of materials or chemicals or be indicated by old containers, pipes etc. associated with previous industrial works.
  • determine the load bearing capacity of the land which will indicate the size of foundations needed for the new work. If the land is disturbed or uncertain then an engineer will need to assess it.
  • reuse and recycle a good deal of the demolished materials.

See more on demolitions

access road and hardstanding

You will need hardstanding for your own vehicles and also for delivery vans and lorries, with an access road to it. It is also necessary to have flat firm areas onto which materials can be unloaded. One way of doing this is to clear the soil (and maybe sub soil) off the area which will eventually be used for permanent parking. Then you can lay about 150mm of recycled 38mm or 50mm crushed concrete aggregate or quarry bottoms (sometimes known as crusher run) on the area and roll it firm. This can then later become the base for the final surface finish.


Secure dry storage is important and if possible it should be situated close to the hardstanding so that materials can be easily protected. Some people buy old shipping containers and sell them on later. Another approach is to build your garage or outbuildings first and use them for storage and workshop/office.

office / rest room / temporary services

Somewhere that you can deal with paperwork and drawings, prepare and eat meals, and a toilet.

Electricity, water and possibly broadband can be provided on a temporary basis and the providers have their requirements in terms of cabinets you will need to keep the meters and connections dry, safe and secure.

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