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Choosing a builder and other useful information

Once you have Building Regulation permission, the success of your building project will largely depend on the quality of your builder, whether you have a suitable contract, and whether or not you have independent supervision of the work.

Roofing wok - steel ridge beamed roof

Choosing your builder

Combating rogue builders and achieving satisfactory completion

Choosing your builder is probably the most important decision you will make when you are carrying out building work. Everyone has heard of the horror stories about ‘cowboy builders’. A good builder will be familiar with the standards required and will arrange for your work to be inspected at the appropriate stages by Building Control. Problems can always arise and a good builder will resolve these in a professional manner with you and your Building Control Surveyor. This should result in a smooth process and a completed project to your satisfaction.

One of the best methods of choosing a builder is to get a recommendation from someone you trust. There is also an award winning website Trustmark that is supported by the Government.

Householders spend hundreds of millions of pounds on home improvements or repairs each year. The office of fair-trading has produced a guide to planning and managing work on your home entitled ‘Home Improvements’. Their general suggestions and others to which South Derbyshire Building Control Service would endorse are highlighted below:

  1. Make a plan of the work you want done. Don’t be pressured into unnecessary work or work you cannot afford. For all but the simplest of jobs professional advice may well be needed.
  2. Get the necessary consents or agreements from your local authority and insurance company. Discuss your plans with neighbours particularly if there are issues covered by the Part Wall Act 1996. Note: the local authority does not enforce this legislation.
  3. Seek at least three quotations based on a detailed specification and compare price, condition and reputation for reliability and good workmanship. Many good builders are very busy so consider being patient rather than choosing someone who can start tomorrow. Request references e.g. - are they happy for you to see their previous work.
  4. Obtain a written contract covering details of your agreement, notably the work to be done, price, start and completion dates, stage payments and retention periods and the position on delays where time is of the essence. You can download a free plain English contract from FMB Find a Builder
  5. Find out if there is a worthwhile guarantee available giving cover against a contractor ceasing to trade, Insurance backed schemes may be particularly appropriate.
  6. Avoid deposits and advance payments. Use stage payments as a means of keeping the work progressing. Use any retained payment to ensure that a defect discovered after completion is put right.
  7. Check if the builder is happy to agree to the final payment after your Building Control Surveyor has carried out a completion inspection and is in a position to issue the completion certificate.
  8. Be as clear as possible about the way you will deal with disputes.
  9. Make sure that you play fair with the builder. Pay bills for good work promptly. There is no sense in creating unnecessary problems and bad feeling.

Replacing windows and doors

The building regulations apply when replacing windows and doors in an existing building. It is to ensure a reduction in heat loss and CO2 emissions and also to make sure that new windows do not hinder the means of escape in case of fire.

If the company you are using to replace your doors and windows is ‘FENSA Registered’ you do not need to submit a Building Regulation application as the installers ‘self-certify’ the work and issue a Completion Certificate when the work is finished.

Public sewers

The consent of Severn Trent Water needs to be obtained if you are proposing to build over / close to a public sewer. Information on the position of public sewers can be obtained from Severn Trent Water who will also provide information on the procedures for obtaining agreement to build over the sewer. If you are building over or close to a public sewer, you can not put in a building notice, you must put in a full plans application.

Private sewers

You will need to check your deeds for any restrictions that may apply to building over common drains or private sewers. You may also need to notify other users and owners of private sewers of your intention to obtain their consent. Access should be maintained.

Boundaries

If you intend to build your extension up to the boundary of your property you should be aware of the following:

  • Know where your boundary is – check deeds and speak to neighbours to get their agreement as to where the boundary is BEFORE you plan your extension.

The council does not keep records which show ownership of boundaries.

The Party Wall etc Act 1996: explanatory booklet

Trees

Care should be taken when working close to trees not only to protect the trees and minimise damage to them but also to ensure that proper and adequate account is taken in the protection of old and new foundations of buildings in the vicinity. Because of the effect of moisture being removed from the soil by trees, foundations may need to be deeper depending on the type of soil, tree and its distance from the building.

Garden Walls

Generally, the Building Regulations do not apply to freestanding garden walls although if a retaining wall is within four metres (12 feet) of the highway and higher than 1.37 metres (4’6”) then details would need to be approved by the Planning and Highways Departments.

Contact details

South Derbyshire District Council
Building Control Services
Civic Offices
Civic Way
Swadlincote
Derbyshire
DE11 0AH

Tel: 01283 228757
Fax: 01283 595850
Online: contact form
email: building.control@south-derbys.gov.uk

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