In these days of escalating material and labour costs many people are starting to think about if they could carry out there own building work or at least manage others while they carry out the work for them.
This article has been written with the intention of helping the layman build or project manage there own house or an extension to there house which would enable them to make considerable savings on labour costs.
I am a time served bricklayer and have been in the building trade for thirty-one years. And I would like to share some hints and tips that will help you carry out a lot of your own building tasks and save you some substantial money.
I have written it out in the order and sequence that any new build carried out by yourself or a builder would be carried out, and if you stick to this sequence it would make things go a lot easier, this way you will be finishing one thing before starting something else.
Sorting out the official side of things.
You will need a good architect who will draw up a set of plans for you, and as you are the one paying for his fee you should insist that he makes all the measurements clear and precise so they can be easily followed, you should also ask him for a full specification so that later when you have to go to your builders merchant you will know exactly what materials you have to ask for and order.
You must take the plans to your local planning office and submit them so they can agree and hopefully give you permission to build, this process can take several weeks so stick with it and don’t get to despondent.
When you have received your planning permission you are nearly ready to get started.
You will then need to go to your local building control office and make the necessary arrangements for the building inspector to come out and inspect the various stages of your build, but they will explain that to you and it will be written on the appointment cards that they will give you which must be filled in and given to them so that they can firstly come and see what has been done and they will have the cards for there records, that is the official part of things taken care of so now its up to you to sort out how much of the work you want to tackle for yourself.
The correct sequence to follow.
The first things you will need to do are strip the building area of any vegetation and level the ground within that area.
It is always a good idea to look around the surrounding area to see if there is any services IE electric, gas water, telephone and be aware of where they are going so as to avoid hitting them when you are digging the foundations.
It would be best to get a professional to set out the level pegs and the dig and build profiles as these really need to be accurate and if you start right at the beginning then things should stay that way throughout the build.
Now to start the dig.
Most drawings and local authorities will state that the depth of the foundations should be one meter according to the ground conditions so if the ground is soft or made up ground then the inspector could well make you go deeper which would reflect in the price as you would need a lot more materials.
The drawings should tell you the width of the trench so if you decide to save money and dig it for yourself you will have all the details to hand, whichever way you decide to dig either using a machine or by hand remember that the building inspector will check to see that you are at the right depth and he will like to see that the sides of the trench are nice and square and the bottom is levelled up neatly, it is always advisable to be polite to the inspector as he will have the last say and if you have him on your side you will find he will be helpful and answer any questions that you may have.
If you are not afraid of hard work then you could mix the concrete for yourself and save more money, the mix should be 6 shovels of ballast and 1 cement unless stated differently on your drawing.
The minimum depth that the concrete should be is 300mm but personally I prefer to fill the footing up to just below ground level as that way if you get bad weather or the sides of the trench fall in then it is much easier to clean out and of course there is much less brickwork to do to get to the DPC level, so really the extra cost of the concrete to fill the footing is lost by the savings on the block work so the choice is yours really.
The next step is to build the brick or block work up to the DPC level and whether you attempt this yourself or use a bricklayer is up to you and how confident you are, once you get to the DPC level you will be ready to prepare and concrete your over site.
The over site will need to be filled with hardcore or similar and the depths and details will be on your drawing or specification even the quantities of the mix should be shown so once again this is a job that you can do for yourself, once this is completed you will be ready for the superstructure and you will have already saved a considerable amount of money.
The superstructure, or main build.
Being a bricklayer myself I am not to sure whether to advice you to have a go at this part of the build or not or to hire a tradesman to do it for you as you need to remember that the brickwork will always be seen and will need to be bonded correctly and built straight and upright and of course neat and clean.
If you do decide to have a go for yourself you will need to invest in some tools IE trowel, some line and pins, hammer and bolster, a spirit level, and of course a good book that explains the types of bonds and mortar mixes. Once you or whoever does the brickwork reaches the required height again this will be stated on the drawings then you are ready for the roof.
The wall plates and roof structure.
Again depending on the complexity of the roof you may need to use the services of a tradesman, but first you will need to bed the wall plates in position ready for the main roof.
If it is a flat roof then you should be able to tackle the work for yourself as the details should be given on the drawings or specification, now you can see why you need to get a good architect at the beginning so that your drawings are detailed so that you can follow them for yourself, so you will now be ready for the roof covering.
The roof covering. Flat or tiled.
If it is a flat roof then you will need a tradesman who has all the necessary hot pots and tools to carry out the work.
If tiles then maybe you could do this for yourself and there are good books out there that explain the procedure.
Internal works and finishing.
Now that your building is weather tight you can start to carry out the internal works. You will need a good plumber and a good electrician to come in and do there first fixing, once this is done then you can get on with the gyprocking of the ceilings and the plastering.
You can probably fix the ceilings for yourself but again as the plastering is seen and needs to be flat and smooth then you will need a tradesman to carry out this job. At this stage you can then get the plumber and electrician to do the second fixing and then that is there part of the work completed.
Second fix carpentry and decorating.
Obviously you will have to decide if you want to attempt to hang the doors and fix the skirting boards but once again you can find good books to explain how to do it. Once that is done you are ready for the finishing touches like decorating, fixing the outside guttering up and any paths or paving that might need doing.