Site Assessment

The Site Assessment stage deals with the questions you need to ask yourself before you buy the site, or plan to build on a site that has been gifted to you.

Will it cost you a fortune to bring services to the house? Will it even be possible to get planning permission, e.g. is it safe to access, is zoning in your favour? Will it be easy to build there or will it cost you a fortune to get things to site? Does it have everything you need to build the kind of home you want?


Check your sight lines, rights of way, restrictive covenants and potential need for new entrances.

Check if you will need to dig up the road and what’s involved if you do.

If you can’t connect to the mains, you need to get a percolation test and pick an on-site treatment system.

Connection fees for these can run high, so check in advance although exact connection costs may not be forthcoming until you’ve got planning permission.

Check zoning laws, including locals only rules, and other site specific issues.

Consider that this can be an easy way to get planning permission; plus knocking down to rebuild.

You need a weight-bearing laneway for lorries and other vehicles to get to site.


Pre Design

The Pre Design stage deals with the key decisions you have to make before you sit down to design the house and grounds.

These include working out what you like and what you will need exactly from the house. Then comes the search for the right design partner to guide you in making the house both Building Regulations compliant and efficient. Also what building methods to choose, how eco you want to go, and your budget limitations.

It sounds simple but figuring out what you actually need will actually take up a lot of time.

At the bare minimum, you need an architectural designer who will draw up your plans so that they are regulations compliant.

Take the time to scour every source of inspiration for your wish list; it will help with sourcing products later.

Deciding how to build the walls of your house.

Deciding how to build the foundations, floors and roof with knock on effect on design.

Weighing the pros and cons of hiring a main contractor versus hiring all the trades yourself.

Deciding how much to invest in eco design, and putting in place a clear strategy for energy efficiency.

Determining how much money you can borrow and what the budget will be.



The key to achieving a well built house and within budget is to take your time at the Design stage, which is the most critical to get right.

The Design stage starts with drawing up the floor plans (bird’s eye view of room layouts) and elevations (side view of the appearance of the house from the outside). You will then move on to the critical phase which is the specification. The more detail you provide in the construction drawings, the less room for error

Design decisions that will save you money.

The floor plans need to avoid wasted space and take into account all your needs.

Practical, safety and spatial considerations.

Setting up a plan for the patios and driveways, sheds and garages, plus planting schemes and pods.

Making a choice based on cost, design and energy performance.

Making a choice based on aesthetics, cost and installation.

Application process and increasing your changes of securing it.

Choosing between heat pumps, boilers and renewable systems.

Choosing between underfloor heating, radiators and the alternatives.

Choosing between mechanical and natural ventilation or the alternatives in between.

Design choices so that solar panels and rainwater harvesting are cost effective to install.

Getting detailed plans drawn up including all specifications and structural calculations.

Filing your first set of mandatory H&S documents.


Get Started on Site

Getting Started On Site has to do with the steps to take before you can get the building site up and running.

Before you can break ground, you need to go through a number of administrative and practical steps. You also need to appoint a main contractor or line up your tradesmen as well as mark out the site.

Filing the your plans for approval in NI, then Building Control notice of work starting.

Filing your second set of H&S documents.

Why you should get cover and how; checking for advisors’ professional indemnity cover.

Finding the right builder and setting up a contract.

Cash flow, identifying and hiring tradesmen, storage and security, and many more.

Marking out the house, construction drawings finalised with service locations, application for utilities.

Cost of living on site versus renting.


on Site

The big day is here! The time has finally come to break ground, or start digging. The work will happen in sequence and each step will require supervision.

Therefore you will need to have a plan in place for how the building works will be supervised, and of course a schedule and a means to keep track of costs. Any overruns (in time or money) will need to be balanced as the build progresses. The whole point of having planned your project at the early stages was to make this part of the build as hassle free as possible.

Setting up a clear schedule of who inspects what when.

Key stages of the process.

Ordering concrete, pipework, radon installation, drying times.

Groundsworks, drilling, plumbing connections.

Hedging and tree planting, prep for patios and driveways.

How to avoid thermal bridging and thermal looping; airtightness checks.

Plumbing an electrics, regulatory requirements.

Measurements, airtight membrane, air testing and visual checks.

Choice of roofer, process for installation, DIY components.

Kitchens, doors, skirting, staircase.

Running cables, vents, plumbing, home automation.

Final install for heating system, plastering.

Choice of recessed, ceiling hung, strip lighting, etc., with knock-on effects on first fix.

Choice of timber, tiles, etc., with knock-on effects on first fix.

Kitchen suppliers and their design input, knock-on effects on foundations and first fix.

Bathroom suppliers, choice of wall hung, knock-on effects on foundations and first fix.


Signing Off

You’re now ready to move in, but before you do you will need to get certificates of compliance and your last mortgage stage payment drawn down.

You will also want to address any snags, or small defects that need correcting, with your main contractor if you have appointed one. We also look at what you will need to eventually sell your house (conveyancing).

What is and isn’t included in snag lists; T&Cs of contract with builder.

Building control certificate, planning and building regulations certificate from third party certifiers.

What’s required for final drawdown.

Process of selling plus tax liabilities, stamp duty, need for energy rating.

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