Are you considering having building work done to your property? With cowboy builders becoming more and more common, it’s vital that you choose a reputable contractor to carry out your home improvements. Be aware of cowboy builders and learn how to avoid them today by following LABC’s advice – they know what they’re talking about!
Contact your local authority building control team:
It’s Building Control’s responsibility to make sure that buildings are safe for people to use and live in. They do this through ensuring that any new building work that’s carried out complies with the current standards of the Building Regulations. Before any work even starts, they’ll check over your plans and carry out the necessary site inspections. It’s a general rule that most extensions and alterations will need a building regulations application. It’s important to remember that planning permission and building control may be needed for some extensions. You should also be aware that there are special rules for properties within a conservation area or for those buildings that are ‘listed’.
You can contact your local authority building control team at: https://www.labc.co.uk/our-services/find-nearest-local-council-building-control-department
The first step
In order to get the ball rolling, you’ll need to actually design your project. Ideally you’ll do this with the help of an experienced professional, such as an architect, surveyor or engineer. Normally, they’ll submit the building regulations application on your behalf which makes things easier.
There are two ways to make an application – a Full Plans or a Building Notice submission. In general for extensions we would recommend the Full Plans route for your own peace of mind.
The Full Plans route
A Building Control Surveyor will check your plans when submitted to confirm they meet with the current building regulations. If there are any issues, then either you or your agent will be advised of what work is needed to iron them out so that they comply with regulations.
Once you start work on site, the surveyor will call to inspect the work as it progresses to check that things are going smoothly. However, it is you/your builder’s responsibility to ensure that the local authority is called out for inspection at any critical stages of the process. This will generally be explained fully once your application has been approved.
The final inspection of the work is very important and should be carried out before your builder leaves site. You’ll receive a completion certificate, which is the document needed to confirm that the work was inspected to guarantee that it met building regulations. It’s worth noting that this document will be needed if you should decide to sell or remortgage your property in the future.
The 10 DOs and DON’Ts of planning your project
- DO make sure that you get at least three written, itemised quotes for the building work that’s going to be carried out. Prices can vary enormously, so don’t automatically go for the cheapest quote. At the same time, ensure your quotes are “like for like” i.e. one quote might allow for all of the fixtures and fittings to a new bathroom whilst another might require a nominal sum for the initial work but then might require you to pay extra for the finishing touches. Check with your professional adviser as they’re likely to be able to help with this.
- DO use a reputable builder – it’s preferably to choose one based on recommendation. You’ll be able to look at the work they’ve done and check that the work was done to the existing customer’s satisfaction. Ask the customer questions such as: would they would use him again, was he tidy and punctual, did he meet agreed deadlines etc. Ask the potential builders themselves about their expertise in your type of building project and ask them: how they would want to be paid, will they give you itemised invoices and can they give you a final completion date. If in doubt, use an audited, competent builder like those found through the FMB.
- DO spend a lot of time planning and designing your project before the work even begins. This way you’ll be able to make changes early rather than later, otherwise you’re at risk of having your completion date pushed back which could mean your costs get bumped up. If you’re stuck for ideas, why not have a browse through our blog? We have tonnes of them!
- DO make sure that your plans have been drawn up by an experienced professional. Make sure that they’ve been submitted to building control along with the application form and the appropriate fee. Do this well in advance of your on site start date so that everything can be checked and an approval can be issued. Just so you know- the approval from building regulations is valid for three years- providing you start work before this time, you can continue through to completion without a time limit.
- DO get the full set of contact details from your builder and verify them. Be suspicious of any builder who is: wary of sharing their business paperwork, who only has a mobile phone number or if they deal solely in cash.
- DO ensure that before any work actually begins, you and your builder have agreed together on who will be responsible for contacting building control in order to arrange site inspections. Make sure to follow up with a call before work starts on site and then again at the regular statutory inspection stages. (These include when work starts, drainage, foundations, damp proofing, steelwork and roof construction, as well as the final inspection.)
- DO think about using a written contract if your project is on a large scale or if it’s particularly complicated. Your architect should be able to help with this and it’s also worth knowing that there’s a number of simple homeowner building contracts available to buy online.
- DO consider an insurance-backed warranty if you’re carrying out a large project. If the need arises, you’ll have the reassurance that there will already be funds in place. Even the best firm can run into trouble through no fault of their own! Check if your work involves work to a party wall- it might be the case that you’ll have to liaise with your neighbour or serve a Party Wall Notice on them. This needs to happen a month or two before you start work.
- DON’T just assume that if your builder tells you no local authority consent is needed, that this is actually the case. Be responsible and check with Planning and Building Control yourself. At the same time, consider water and sewerage authorities’ consents. If you’re going to make any alterations to your approved plans then it’s vital that you check with the Planning and Building Control departments first. You’ll also need to give details of the alterations, as well as an agreed timescale and any additional costs with your builder in advance.
- DON’T arrange to pay large sums of money in advance for work. It is better to make payments as you go as different parts of the work get completed. This way you can make sure that you’re satisfied with the builder’s work. Your final payment should only be paid after your completion certificate has been issued.
LABC are here to help
Hopefully we’ve helped to give you some peace of mind. Building projects can be complicated stuff, but our help should (fingers crossed!) have given you a bit of a confidence boost. The vast majority of contractors are reputable and reliable but it’s worth knowing your stuff- this way you’ll be able to make an informed decision about who you should employ to build your project.
Your local authority building control team is always happy to offer free pre-submission and on-going advice relating to the building regulations should you need it. However, don’t forget that while we are here to help, we are not a substitute for the professional design and construction and project management advice of your agent or architect.
A national network
- LABC is the UK’s leading national building control service and we’re committed to maintaining the highest standards possible.
- We have unrivalled experience of assisting in the design process and inspecting building work on site.
- LABC is a national network of over 3,000 professional surveyors (Building Control Surveyors) who have a well-deserved reputation for fairness and practicality.
- Our aim is to provide an impartial, reliable and professional building control service that ensures the health and safety of people within the built environment.