For many, the decision to build their own home is one that has taken a lot of care and a lot of consideration. Now that the decision has been taken the process of converting the ideas into reality has to begin.
If this is a first time venture into self building there will be much to learn, and many questions to be asked.
. . . and much much more besides.
Buildbase have developed a specialist service to provide the self build market with a total materials supply solution for your project. Making the correct choice of materials supplier is critical and Buildbase have many years of experience in the self build sector.
You may already be well on the way with the planning and design of your house or you may still be researching the project. Whatever stage you have reached, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss specification, pricing and supply of materials for your new home. As a Buildbase self build customer you will be allocated a personal branch contact who will be available to offer advice on product selection, prices, delivery and any other issues related to your building project.
By clicking on the tabs above you can find answers to many of the common questions asked by first time self builders. We cover the basic requirements for planning your project, we highlight the different approvals and planning you will need, and we take you through the various construction stages with useful links to information sources about materials and methods.
Buildbase are committed to providing excellent customer service and we are confident we can supply all the materials you may need including any specialist or purpose made products. Our huge buying potential ensures we always offer competitive pricing, which combined with our extensive branch network together with experienced, knowledgeable staff means we can work with you to assist the successful construction of your new home.
Buildbase have developed a specialist service to provide the self build market with a total materials supply solution for your project. Making the correct choice of materials supplier is critical and Buildbase have many years of experience in the self build sector, we're able to provide the self build market with a total materials supply solution for any project, large or small.
You may already be well on the way with the planning and design of your house or you may still be researching the project. Whatever stage you've reached, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss specification, pricing and supply of materials for your new home.
As a Buildbase self build customer you will be allocated a personal branch contact who will be available to offer help and advice on product selection, prices, delivery and any other issues related to your building project.
We know it can be a right old hassle doing a self build project or home improvement. From juggling the budget, knowing where to get all the building products you need at the best possible trade price, to getting a bit of expert advice. That’s why we’ve introduced our Self Builder & Home Improver Account.
Buildbase, Hirebase and Electricbase offer everything you need for your home build. With your new Self Builder & Home Improver Account you’ll be welcomed into all of our businesses in all of our branches.
We’re experts in everything we do. You can always rely on us to deliver a service you can trust, whether that’s a delivery you need or availability you’d expect, you can count on us.
Your Self Builder & Home Improver Account also gets you a generous £20,000* credit limit with 30 days to pay.
Just take a look at the terms and conditions, fill in the application form and you’re away!
We're your local merchant with branches nationwide. Wherever you're doing your building work, we're just round the corner.
The whole process of planning for the construction of a house is necessarily a complex and detailed task. The better the planning, the more likely you are to bring your project through to a successful completion and to complete in line with your budgeting.
The points and guidelines given below summarise some of the more common items for planning consideration - you will need to add in additional elements to suit you own individual project and circumstances.
Finance - Work out how the project is to be paid for. If you need to raise mortgage finance make sure this is in place with agreed terms for interim payments based on defined progress stages. Remember you will need to fund the purchases of materials and services between the payment stages, so you will need to cost and plan carefully. Then set your budgets for each part of the project.
Locate a suitable plot of land and, if not already available, obtain outline planning permission before committing to the purchase of the land.
Decide on the type of building you wish to construct - this will need to be based upon many factors such as your needs, personal requirements and ideals, the type of plot and other construction in the area, any local building covenants or design restrictions, etc. At all times remember to keep your budget very much in mind.
Find a suitable draughtman or architect to turn your sketches and rough plans into proper working drawings. Do remember to tell them what your budgets are so that they can work within your guidelines.
Lodge the plans with your local authority planning department to obtain detailed planning permission and building regulations approvals. Your local authority will make charges for these services as they will initially need to send out an inspector to view the plot, in order to assess the suitability, and to publicise details of your application so that objections can be lodged if anyone has cause to complain. The details of the planning charges, and the separate building inspection charges, can be obtained from your local council.
Select a builders merchant who will offer you the support and expertise you will require, from quantity estimating, to local deliveries, to personal care, and arrange to open an account.
Get yourself registered for V.A.T. if you are not already registered - you will be able to reclaim most of the V.A.T. paid on your building materials at the end of the project.
Decide what parts of the project you will handle yourself and what parts you will sub-contract to others - find appropriate sub-contractors and obtain cost quotations and estimates for everything - remember that budget!
Arrange suitable insurance for public liability and for your building materials, etc. Also your mortgage provider may require buildings cover. Consult an insurance broker, or contact a specialist insurance company. Consider registering with an organisation like the NHBC as they can offer much practical help with your project - see http://www.nhbcbuilder.co.uk/ for details.
Advise your planning office when you are ready to commence the building work
The list below is a typical example of the stages needed for a project planner - it is very useful to have something of this type where you can mark off progress on each stage showing what needs to happen, the date when it should be done, and when it was actually done. It is useful too to make a list of the different materials that will be needed for each stage, and to plan the buying of these on a 'just in time' basis to help your cash flow management.
*Items like electrics, plumbing, and carpentry will need to be handled in stages, thus initial fix will normally cover the basic provisions of piping, cabling, woodwork, etc., in the correct locations. At the second fix stage these items will be finalised and connected as appropriate.
Many factors will influence your decisions about what is the ideal property to build. Amongst these are the building plot and its topography, the style of the surrounding properties, local planning requirements, your budget and also, very importantly, your specific day to day living requirements.
The shape and slopes of the building plot can often be incorporated into novel designs and shapes of building which take advantage of the natural features. For example, steeply sloping land may well lend itself to incorporating garage space and utility basement areas under the main living area of the house.
Look critically at any existing natural plant growth and trees, and decide in advance what will be retained. If there is a stream running through or adjacent to the property, consider the possibility of flooding and ensure you build above flood levels. Check on any previous use of the land to ensure its suitability for building on. If your plot is in a mining area where subsidence could be a problem, make sure you have the appropriate surveys done first to ensure the stability of your land.
Think also about the orientation of your building relative to the best views and which rooms should overlook these, to the sun position in the morning, and in the late afternoon. Think too about the slope of the land and consider where water will drain to naturally - you may need to consider altering the land levels to ensure flow away from your building.
Take into account factors like where you might have vehicle and pedestrian access. Look also to see where existing mains services are located and consider how these will be routed into your property.
Look carefully at the style of surrounding properties, check also that there are no covenants affecting what you can and cannot do with your building. Check also with the planning authorities for area based design requirements - local building regulations can often restrict choices in the interest of retaining the character of an area. Make sure your planned style will fit in well with the locality.
One of the main reasons people end up building their own homes, apart from the financial benefits that can be achieved by doing this, is so that they can design the property to give a perfect match for their living requirements. This is fine but do remember to think ahead for the changes that time will bring.
For example, if you have young children, the rooms that may suit them today will need to be adaptable enough to still be right when they are teenagers. Think also about the adults in the house - will the layout, pitch of any stairs, door sizes, etc., still be suitable when reaching a more advanced age?
Think too about the possibility of resale - try to put yourself into the shoes of prospective purchasers; does your design and living space lend itself readily to different uses for other needs? Consider the advisability of incorporating features that will make the property suitable for the disabled - ramped access to entrances, wider than standard doors, turning space for a wheelchair in toilets, bathrooms and kitchens, position and height of power points and light switches - most of these are things that can easily be done at the build stage at negligible extra cost, but which can make the property much more flexible in its potential use.
At the end of the day much of your design will probably be dictated by the size of budget available - unusual roof lines, non-standard window shapes, and other special features can add considerably to your costs. The more use that can be made of 'standard' materials the better from a budgetary point of view.
Finding suitable land for building can be quite challenging, depending upon the area in which you are looking. The more fashionable and populated areas of the South and South East have a much smaller pool of available plots, and at much higher prices, than is the case in certain country areas and other parts of the UK.
There are many different ways of finding land. You can check out adverts in local newspapers, contact land and estate agents, refer to specialist magazines, research some of the many land finding sites on the internet, contact local councils for information on land releases and on planning permissions for plots, or utilise the services of specialist agencies. There are many ways of going about this task - most people tell us that finding the land is one of the more difficult steps in the whole process of self build, so when you have found your ideal plot you have already achieved a major step on the road to making your dream a reality.
Once you have found a likely piece of land you will need to do some research and check on a few key points:
The links below are given as a guide only. The inclusion of any link to any other organisation or service is purely as a guide to the type of information or services that are available, and does not imply any recommendation or approval by Buildbase of any product or service offered by such third parties. You are urged to thoroughly research any organisation, company, service or product before use or purchase.
Land Registry Online provides easy access to details of more than 20 million registered properties in England and Wales. Copies of title registers, title plans and documents held in electronic format can be downloaded in PDF format. The title register includes ownership details and, for most properties which have changed hands since April 2000, the property price information. You can also often get details of rights of way across land, and loans secured against the property - http://www.land-reg.co.uk/
The planning and control of the finance and cost aspects of your project are of fundamental importance. Construction of your own property will probably be the biggest single financial commitment that you will ever undertake. Budgets need to be carefully worked out, and they should include a contingency reserve for the extras that inevitably arise even on the best planned projects.
There are a wide variety of lenders prepared to offer mortgage funding for self build projects. We suggest you obtain a variety of quotations and see whose deal is most suitable for your project and your requirements. Check carefully about the availability of stage payments, and at what points these can be collected - this can be crucial for your cash flow. You must make certain that you have sufficient funding available to complete the stage requirements. Check what, if any, arrangement fees are charged,
Mortgage offers vary from company to company, with loans of around 80% of the land value, and over 90% of the completed property typically being available. There are stage payment schemes which work in arrears, typically in stages - after foundations, at roof plate level, after internal walls and plastering, and finally on completion. With this type of scheme you are only paying interest on the part of the mortgage you have actually used. There are also schemes which stage pay in advance by taking into account the land value and advancing against this - these can be handy if finding liquid funds to start the building project and move to first stage payment level is going to be a problem otherwise. With this type of scheme there may be a mortgage premium insurance charge, check what this may be before committing yourself.
There are many web sites with information and offers for self build mortgage finance - these should be treated with care, as many are just intermediary brokers who will be taking commissions on any business referred through them. We recommend you also obtain direct quotations from prime lenders like banks and building societies to ensure you get a good cross section of the market prices and offers to compare.
Remember to allow for the various legal and professional costs that you will incur. These can include:
Please note that the applicable rate of Stamp Duty Land Tax must be applied to the whole of the consideration paid to acquire the land and/or the buildings. For more details about the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) - click here.
As the buyer of the property, you are responsible for completing the land transaction return and paying the Stamp Duty Land Tax. However, in practice, your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will usually handle this for you and send it to HMRC on your behalf. You should check that all the information on the form is correct and complete before signing the declaration.
Mortgage lenders will conduct a survey and valuation of your land for their own records and, even though they charge you for this you will normally find that this valuation is not passed on to you. You may therefore also wish to have an independent valuation carried out by a professional surveyor for your own use and purposes. Mortgage lenders will normally also charge you for each re-inspection and valuation as the different stage payment points are reached. As there can be quite large variations between different lender's charges, you should seek information about these before deciding whose mortgage offer may be most suitable.
You should expect to pay fees for drawings and plans prepared by architects or other professionals. You will also have to pay the normal council charges for planning permission, and for building regulations approval and inspections. These costs can be obtained on request from the local council.
If you have purchased a plot of land which is not already connected for mains services like electricity, gas and water, you will need to budget for these to be provided. Depending on the distance to the nearest services these charges can be considerable, and we recommend you establish these early in your project planning by contacting the electricity, water and gas companies.
These bodies will have plans of where the nearest infrastructures exist and should be able to provide estimates. You may also wish to obtain some independent estimates to see whether connection costs would be lower if you provide most of the infrastructure work yourself. Costs for mains services connection can easily run into several thousands of pounds, and they can thus be an important element in your budget, especially if funds are limited.
It is important to ensure you are adequately insured. Self build insurance policies are available and can provide cover for:
As insurance costs can easily run to £1000 or more, on a typical project, it is well worth while quantifying these and obtaining quotations in advance.
Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is charged on land and property transactions in the UK. The tax is charged at different rates and has different thresholds for different types of property and different values of transaction.
The tax rate and payment threshold can vary according to whether the property is in residential or non-residential use, and whether it is a freehold or leasehold. SDLT relief is available for certain kinds of property or transaction.
The table below applies for all freehold residential purchases and transfers and the premium paid for a new lease or the assignment of an existing lease. (If the property will be used for both residential and non-residential purposes the rates differ - please see the section 'SDLT for non-residential or mixed use property').
If the transaction involves the purchase of a new lease with a substantial rent there may be an additional SDLT charge to that shown below, based on the rent. See the next section and further table 'SDLT on rent for new leasehold properties (residential)' for more detail.
Purchase price of residential property
£0 - £125,000
£125,001 - £250,000
£250,001 - £500,000
£500,001 - £1 million
Over £1 million to £2 million
Over £2 million - from March 2012
Over £2 million (purchased by certain persons including corporate bodies) - from March 2012
If the value is above the payment threshold, SDLT is charged at the appropriate rate on the whole of the amount paid. For example, a house bought for £130,000 is charged at 1 per cent, so £1,300 must be paid in SDLT. A house bought for £350,000 is charged at 3 per cent, so SDLT of £10,500 is payable.
From 22 March 2012 SDLT on residential properties over £2 million is charged at 7 per cent It does not apply to non-residential or mixed-use properties.
If you exchanged contracts before the higher rate came into force on 22 March 2012) the 5 per cent rate will apply. This only applies where the contract is unconditional and unaltered on or after 21 March 2012.
From 21 March 2012 SDLT is charged at 15 per cent on interests in residential dwellings costing more than £2 million purchased by certain non-natural persons. This broadly includes bodies corporate, for example companies, collective investment schemes and all partnerships with one or more members who are either a body corporate or a collective investment scheme. There are exclusions for companies acting in their capacity as trustees for a settlement and property developers who meet certain conditions.
If you exchanged contracts before the higher rate charge came into force on 21 March 2012, the 5 per cent rate will apply. This only applies where the contract is unconditional and unaltered on or after 21 March 2012.
If the property is in an area designated by the government as 'disadvantaged' a higher threshold of £150,000 applies for residential properties.
Disadvantaged areas - residential land or property SDLT rates and thresholds
Purchase price/lease premium or transfer value
Up to £150,000
Over £150,000 to £250,000
Over £250,000 to £500,000
Over £500,000 to £1 million
Over £1 million to £2 million
Over £2 million from 22 March 2012
Over £2 million (purchased by certain persons including corporate bodies) from 21 March 2012
Further information about SDLT on rent - new residential leasehold purchase and SDLT rates for non-residential or mixed use properties is available on the HM Revenue & Customs website at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/sdlt/intro/rates-thresholds.htm#1.
VAT costs are often a significant factor when deciding whether or not to undertake a self build project. The size of the potential reclaim can be really significant and we recommend that you read the appropriate notices on the Customs and Excise web site to make sure you understand exactly what can and cannot be claimed, and to establish that your project will qualify.
Generally speaking you should qualify for VAT refunds if you are constructing a 'dwelling' from scratch - there are provisions also for extensions and for re-builds of existing properties if demolished completely, or at least down to foundation level.
You cannot recover all of your VAT costs. If you construct a new eligible building you can only claim for the VAT on those ‘building materials’ incorporated in the building (or its site). For conversions, you can also claim for the VAT on conversion services supplied to you.
Some items on which you cannot reclaim VAT are:
It is important to keep accurate records as you go along with the project, keep all your invoices together and, we suggest, make a practice of listing every invoice in a book showing the purchase price and the VAT. You will need all this information at the end when it comes to lodging your VAT reclaim, and it is so much easier if this is collated as you go along.
There are various forms you will need to complete as part of your claim submission. You may find it easier to fill these in as your work progresses. We suggest, therefore, that you obtain a VAT claim pack when you start your work. The Claim Pack consisting of the following forms is available from HM Revenue & Customs National Advice Service (Tel: 0845 010 9000):
Please note: VAT can only be claimed once and anything you omit from your claim cannot be rectified later.
Your Buildbase contact person will be happy to answer any queries you may have regarding VAT on your purchases.
Establishing accurate estimates of the quantities of materials that will be required to build your project is a fundamental part of the planning and budgeting process. You could do this yourself if you are experienced in building, probably using a commercial computer software to assist. Alternatively you could employ the services of a qualified professional Quantity Surveyor to provide this key information for you.
Most building contractors use quantity surveyors to accurately establish all the materials required, and to establish elements like depth of foundations required, volumes of earth to be excavated and moved, construction times, drainage materials and works, etc. It is based on the information from the quantity survey that the builder will prepare his tender for the works.
The Quantity Surveyor will identify and collate the costs involved in order to develop an overall budget for the project. A schedule of quantities will be prepared and you can use this to establish what your costs will be, and to control your purchasing as the project develops.
It is also worthwhile establishing the basic layouts and designs of your bathrooms and kitchens so that drainage, water and electrical requirements can be factored in at this stage. Your Buildbase centre will be pleased to assist with kitchen and bathroom layouts and costings.
If you will be employing contractors to build parts of your project a Quantity Surveyor can provide additional services to assist you to control resources to meet contract commitments by deciding how much of a job should be paid for at any stage.
With finance costs to consider there is no point in paying money before it is due. In the event of changes to plans as you go along, the Quantity Surveyor can also be called on, if required, to assess the cost effects and agree any variations with your contractors.
Most projects will require planning permission from the local authorities - details of their requirements can be obtained by contacting the local authority or visiting their website. A good starting point for information is the government Planning Portal site which contains a wealth of information about requirements plus links for all councils in England and Wales and provision for on-line applications.
The process begins with an individual householder or business or other organisation deciding to develop some land or a property. The first thing to do is check with the local planning authority that the development does require planning permission. The authority planning department will be able to point out if there are any obvious problems with the proposal, and perhaps suggest adjustments which could help to gain the permission.
If there is much detail to be looked into, it may be sensible to make an 'outline' application first. If that is approved a more detailed application, with full architect's drawings, can be put forward later.
The local planning authority will aim to determine a planning application within eight weeks of it being validated. However, they may request to extend this period. For example, this could occur if the issues involved are complex or a lot of people are affected by the proposed development.
When a refusal results, the applicant has the option of lodging an appeal. This will be heard and decided by a Planning Inspector. On rare occasions the original application will be 'called in' or the decision on appeal will be 'recovered' by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) (previously Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR)) for the Secretary of State's decision.
An appeal can also be lodged if the permission is granted subject to conditions to which the applicant objects or if the local planning authority fail to determine the application within the eight week period (or the agreed deadline if this period was extended)
Contact the planning department of your council. Tell the planning staff what you want to do and ask for their advice.
Your application must be accompanied by a plan of the site, details of any proposed works and the fee. At least three copies of the form and plans are required, although some councils may ask for more. You must also complete a certificate to confirm that you own the land or have notified all owners of the land.
The local council will be able to advise you about costs relative to your project - you can also establish these by using the cost calculator provided in the government Planning Portal web site.
Conservation Area Restrictions
If your property falls into a conservation area or, in the case of a renovation project on an old building which is listed, you are likely to find many restrictions on what you can do and the materials you can use. These restrictions will often add considerably to your costs, so it is important to take these into consideration right from the start of the project.
The DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) is responsible for Building Regulations, which exist principally to ensure the health and safety of people in and around buildings. The regulations apply to most new buildings and to many alterations of existing buildings in England and Wales whether domestic, commercial or industrial. Please note that Scotland has its own system of building regulations which are not covered here: links are available at the bottom of the page to the relevant sites.
Your project will almost certainly require Building Regulations approval before you can commence with construction.
Building Regulations cover the following areas of building work: (Click on Titles to download PDF copies of Regulations)
Most building projects have to comply with building regulations. For example, you will need to comply if you put up a new building, extend or significantly alter an existing one (eg converting a loft space into a living space). You may also need to comply if you want to install services or fittings in a building, such as replacement windows, toilets, sinks, or hot water cylinders, or if you change the use of a building, since the new use may mean it does not comply to the appropriate regulations.
If you are unsure whether the work you want to do needs to comply, contact the building regulations department of your local council. They will also be able to advise you about the requirements that apply to the work you want to carry out and what procedures you need to follow - Find your Local Council
If your project is subject to the building regulations you must, with some exceptions, use one of two types of building control services:
In either case, an inspector will check on the compliance of the work. A charge or fee is payable.
The primary responsibility for complying with the regulations belongs to the person carrying out the building work. So if you are carrying out the work personally the responsibility will be yours. If you are employing a builder the responsibility will usually be that firm’s – but you should confirm this position at the very beginning. If you are the owner of the building, it is ultimately you who may be served with an enforcement notice if the work does not comply with the regulations.
Complying with building regulations is a separate matter from getting planning permission for your work. In the same way, receiving any planning permission is not the same as taking action to ensure that it complies with building regulations. A free guide to regulations and the planning system is available via the link below.
Building Regulations: Explanatory Booklet (PDF 1191 Kb) may be downloaded from the Planning Portal Website.
The first step to take before starting the site clearing is to establish the exact position of the building from your site plan which will show all the plot measurements, positions for drainage, etc. Mark out areas which need to be levelled, lowered or raised to give you the correct floor heights for your building. The levels can be established by using a builder's level or theodolite - if you are not familiar with this process you may choose to have the levels established by a surveyor, particularly if there is a lot of earthmoving and re-shaping required.
You may need to hire specialist clearing and digging equipment and certainly, when it comes to earth moving and excavating for foundations, a mechanical digger can save much time and effort. Your local Buildbase or Hirebase depot will be able to advise and assist with your requirements if you are planning to handle this work yourself. Alternatively there are many specialist firms offering site clearance who will hire out equipment and experienced drivers to do this for you.
Next you will need to start clearing away trees, bushes and other obstructions. Only the trees and plants that are to be retained as part of your plan should remain on the property. If there are any well established trees planned for removal a check should first be made that there are no preservation orders in force on them. The Planning Service, an Agency within the Department of the Environment is responsible for enforcing Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) and more details can be found here: TPO Information.
Then you will need to level the plot in accordance with your survey markings. Once the plot is cleared and levelled, you can start the process of marking out for your building foundations. Typically you will stake the corners of the areas to be dug out for the foundations so the lines and areas are clearly visible. Make sure any existing underground services like electricity, water and gas supplies are clearly marked and identified so that these are not damaged when digging out.
Normally you will clear the ground about 2 - 3 feet beyond your marked points to allow room to work when pouring foundation footings, and when doing the block work, drainage preparation and damp proofing. The depth of the foundations required will be specified in your plans.
While you have digging equipment on site you should remember to provide for excavation of any land drains and soak aways that may be required, or swimming pools - it will be cheaper and easier to attend to these while the heavy equipment is on site. You may also consider digging out a disposal pit for later burial of surplus building refuse, this can be more cost effective than paying for skips and waste removal later.
Your planned driveway area should also be levelled and cleared of topsoil, and then covered with a few inches of scalpings to provide a firm base for access by delivery vehicles for building materials and supplies. Good topsoil moved during your site clearance should, if possible, be piled away from the building area for later use when you get to the landscaping stage of your project.
The type of foundation that will be required for your property will most usually be decided by the type of ground conditions that exist on site.
The most commonly used and basic foundation is the simple concrete strip, where concrete is poured into a trench of given size. The width and depth of foundations will depend on many factors including the number of stories, the floor construction (suspended wood or pre-cast concrete), whether a given wall is a gable end or not and, not least, the firmness of ground being built on and its susceptibility to frost. In areas with particularly poor subsoils, or on sites where landslip or subsidence may be a problem, a strip foundation may require steel reinforcement. BS8301 (Part 1:1995) is the code of practice for stability, site investigation, foundations and ground floor slabs for housing and contains calculation tables for foundation sizes based on all of the relevant criteria. See British Standards Online.
Other commonly used methods include piled foundations, where a precast concrete or metal pile is driven down into the soil until it reaches rock, or a solid load bearing soil which effectively stops the pile being driven significantly deeper. Reinforced beams are then laid on the piles to create a ring beam system on which the house can be constructed.
A variation of this system is to use caissons where deep holes are drilled into the ground, down to load bearing levels, and then filled with concrete often with steel reinforcement. Mat or raft foundations are a system in which an entire building is placed on a large continuous footing in locations where the soil is weak and the bedrock is extremely deep. Sometimes this type of foundation is used in conjunction with caissons or piles.
When deciding on the type of foundation, particularly in the case where the building is on land that has previously been built on, or where mining or geological features could present a risk of subsidence or landslip, a full site survey will need to be conducted to establish the necessary requirements. in the case of 'brown field' sites the factors to be investigated will include items like existing underground sewers and drainage structures, presence of chemicals or residues that might affect the integrity of concrete, the load bearing ability of the ground, etc.
The correct type of foundation, and proper attention to its construction is essential - costs for rectification of any faults once the house is built can be very high indeed so it is worthwhile paying special attention to getting it right at the outset. It is also important to involve the Building Control Officer (BCO) at this point in the project as, even for a simple concrete strip, he or she will want the trench inspected prior to the pouring of the concrete. Not calling the BCO in at the right time could make life harder later since their surveyor's will be overseeing work at regular intervals, so this first site visit should be as much about the foundations of a good working relationship as about concrete. The Building Regulations Approval document will list the various stages which require inspection.
It is possible to get risk assessments for land from organisations such as the Landmark Environmental Group - Landmark is Britain's leading supplier of land and property search information, providing digital mapping, planning and environmental risk information. Some basic searches are free of charge, more specific and detailed information can be obtained for a small fee. Visit their website on http://www.landmarkinfo.co.uk/corp/index.jsp for more information.
Getting the concrete to the foundations is a consideration which may need some attention - you will probably be using a ready mixed concrete solution, and provision will need to be made for a firm access and standing area for a heavy vehicle as close as possible to the area where you want the concrete poured.
The easier you make this the better from a cost and labour point of view. If it is not possible to get the delivery close to the pouring site you may need to use a concrete pump to handle the delivery.
Forethought and the preparations you make to facilitate delivery and product handling on site will pay dividends as large quantities of materials will be needed as the project develops.
On a well thought out site the distance heavy items need to be moved, to the places where they are needed, is minimised - this saves both time and labour.
The requirements for sanitary drainage and pipework are outlined by the following standards and regulations:
The Building Regulations 1991
Approved document H - Drainage and waste disposal (1992 edition)
and an update to this covering newer items like low level flush toilet cisterns for example
Approved document H -Drainage and waste disposal (2002 edition)
All pipe and sanitary work is covered by British and European Standard BS EN 12056: 2000, Parts 1 to 5. This supersedes BS5572: 1994. More details about British Standards can be obtained by visiting the website at: http://www.bsi-global.com.
Buildbase offers a complete range of products from a variety of specialist manufacturers for all types of drainage requirements, including plastic and clay piping, bends, angles, inspection chambers, adapters for joining different types of piping, and much more.
Buildbase stocks Hunter Plastic's comprehensive range of plastic components, available in 110mm, 160mm, 200mm, 250mm and 315mm sizes, covering all domestic, commercial and industrial requirements for both foul water and surface water drainage up to main sewer.
The Hunter range offers the installer a choice of connectors to adapt to existing materials. Coupling to thick or thin wall vitrified clay pipes, glazed vitrified clay (GVC) or cast iron is made possible using the appropriate connector. To overcome the most difficult drainage connection, products are available manufactured in either PVC-U, polypropylene or flexible (EPDM) material. Connectors are also available to enable simple, speedy and cost-effective connection between Hunter inspection chamber bases and clayware pipework. The hunter range is available from all Buildbase centres - details of the full range can be seen at http://www.hunterplastics.co.uk.
If your property is not connected to the municipal sewage system you will need to consider installing your own treatment facilities. Buildbase offer a complete range of solutions from leading companies in the field such as Titan Pollution Control.
Many improvements have been made in recent years to traditional 'septic tanks', and modern systems are now easy to install. Complete waste treatment centres for both domestic grey water and sewage are also available and these are worth considering for environmental reasons.
Rainwater recycling systems are also becoming popular in the light of recurring water shortages in parts of the country, these too are available from Titan.
More details can be found at http://www.kingspanenv.com/.
Certain areas of the UK have been identified as being radon affected. Many councils now insist on the installation of anti-radon measures, even in areas where the problem is minimal. This usually involves the installation of a Radon Sump, which is a simple chamber 600mm x 600mm constructed beneath the floor slab. There are also preformed plastic chambers available for this purpose. The sump is is piped to a point outside the building using standard 110mm PVC-u piping, and this is usually done at the same time as the drainage and sewage works.
In some areas special radon resistant membranes are specified for additional protection. Special membranes, which also act as the damp proofing are available for this purpose.
Your council planning department and/or building inspectors will be able to advise you on any local building requirements for Radon. The protection measures are quite simple to install and many council websites contain basic information about this. As an example, a good general information guide has been published by the Vale of Glamorgan Council explaining how radon sumps are typically constructed and sited. This contains some useful illustrative sketches and it can be viewed by clicking here.
The installation of the damp proof course is a key stage of the building process, and one which really needs to be handled with care and attention to detail. Any faults with the installation, leading to damp ingress at a later stage, can be very expensive and difficult to fix. We recommend that only high quality damp proofing membranes that meet British Standards, and other building accreditations, should be used as it is simply not worth the risk of using lower grade product for this essential function.
Approved Document C of the Building Regulations 2000, published 28 April 2006, sets out the requirements for site preparation and resistance to contaminates and moisture - this can be seen on-line by clicking the link below. Various methods of damp proofing for different types of construction are illustrated and documented, and they provide a good general guide to understanding what will need doing for your project - Approved Document 'C'.
The Damp Proof Membrane (DPM) must be installed in conjunction with the Damp Proof Course (DPC) in the outer walls so as to form a continuous layer. Where it is necessary to join sheets of the DPM, first make sure that the surfaces to be joined are clean and free of moisture. Overlap the sheets by at least 4 to 6" (100 to 150mm) and use a double sided butyl tape or mastic strip compound to join the sheets together to form a continuous waterproof barrier. The exposed overlap joints can then be sealed using 4" (100mm) jointing tape. If any area of the DPM is damaged during installation this should be patched by overlaying a fresh piece of DPM to cover the damaged area and to overlap by at least 6" (150mm) in all directions. Once again use double-sided mastic strip, or butyl tape to create a waterproof barrier, and then seal down the edges with jointing tape.
The damp proof membrane should normally be covered with a layer of soft sand to act as a protection and to prevent damage when the concrete flooring or screed are installed.
Buildbase supply a complete range of damp proof course and damp proof membranes, including special membranes for use in areas with requirements for installation of Radon and other protective barriers.
One of the key factors in the appearance of the building will be defined by the choice of bricks, or other material to be used in the external construction of the walls. Internally the build is normally accomplished with the use of thermal or other blocks.
The choice is very wide with many different colours and textures available from a host of brick producers. Buildbase stocks and services the ranges of virtually every serious producer, both of machine made and handmade special bricks, and our depots are well equipped to help you with your selections and choices.
The Buildbase brick library is available so that you can see the effects of different types of brick and this, used in conjunction with the brick references that are available on many producer's websites, will help you to make the right choices. It is important to actually see samples of the bricks you will use to ensure the colour and texture are exactly what you want - remember that pictures in catalogues, or on web sites, may not necessarily be accurate for colour rendition.
Buildbase also offers a range of special brick shapes and fittings to make complex brickwork easier. Please enquire in branch for details and asssistance.
Many people view the Building Regulations specifications for insulation as a niggling set of rules that add extra cost and trouble to a project - but this is far from true. A correctly insulated home will be more comfortable to live in and, importantly in this age of ever increasing energy prices, less costly to heat. Although saving money is a powerful motivator, the need to conserve energy should be an equally important consideration.
Until relatively recently insulation found in the average home was minimal; a 100mm (4") depth of glass fibre blanket in the loft was the norm for many years and, prior to that, even just 25mm (1") was acceptable.
In the last 20 years, with increased concern about the environment, much has been done to improve matters and the current Building Regulations stipulate many areas which must be insulated, and to what degree, in a new build. For example, the current specification for loft blanket insulation is for a 250mm (10") depth. Wall cavities too must now be insulated with rigid sheet insulation material.
Floors must include an insulation layer, usually in the form of a 50mm (2in) layer of flooring grade expanded polystyrene in a solid floor. A suspended wooden floor will have rigid insulation material mounted between the joists.
Apart from the building itself, the plumbing within should also be considered for insulating. Almost all modern hot water cylinders come with a pre-formed polyurethane foam jacket instead of requiring the, often badly fitting, lagging jackets that used to be commonplace. All pipework runs should be insulated to avoid unwanted heat loss into under-floor cavities, or the loft space, and to help prevent freezing in winter. Pipe insulation takes the form of extruded tubular foam with a central hole corresponding to the diameter of the pipe. The insulation can either be slid along the pipe before the joints are made or, as it is often pre-scored or pre-slit, can be slipped over the pipe afterwards. While some runs of central heating pipework can be left uninsulated if the heat loss will contribute to the warming of the house, heat loss in hot water supply pipes has the knock-on effect of wasting water when having to repeatedly flush out dead-legs of cold water and should be avoided.
Part L of the Building Regulations - Conservation of Fuel and Power, covers the subject in detail and should also be read in conjunction with Part F (Ventilation) as, although one of the main losses of domestic heat is due to draughts, one should not build a completely sealed box, but one that allows fresh air to circulate. To this end high efficiency heat exchangers are now built into "Heat-recovery ventilation" devices. These expel stale air from the building but not before they have removed any residual warmth and used to it heat fresh air drawn in from outside.
When reading Part L or any documentation concerning itself with insulation, one will come across references to U-values. A U-value is a measure of how much energy a given insulation material will transmit from one side to the other; in practical terms, how much heat the insulator will allow to be lost through it. The lower the value the better the insulation. Part L of the Building Regulations lays down exactly how much heat loss is allowed through the various external parts of a building so insulation material matching, or beating, these U-values must be used.
The walls of a property come in two types, loadbearing and non-loadbearing. While load bearing walls are constructed from either brick or block and then plastered, there are several common choices of construction for non-load bearing walls which are then finished in plasterboard (the drywall.)
Plasterboard comes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses, the most common being 4 'x 8' (1.2m x 2.4m) and ½" (12mm) thick as this neatly fits the average 8' (2.4m) ceiling height. The plasterboard is attached to the partition with either special drywall screws or galvanized nails. Once built they can be either be fully plastered with a skim coat or have the gaps between board and screw heads filled and then directly decorated.
Whichever system is employed, some knowledge is required of where certain fixtures are going so that extra reinforcement can be added to allow heavy items such as kitchen cupboards or bathroom basins to be properly supported.
Electrical wiring and plumbing pipe work will also be run through the wall during its construction and it is essential that everything will be in the right place when the room is finished as correcting even the smallest mistake afterwards, such as adding an extra light switch, is time consuming. Large mistakes can involve having to take down entire sections of plasterboard - a messy process if the board has already been plastered.
When building a stud wall that will be used as the wall of a shower cubicle special waterproof board should be used. Aquapanel is a glass mesh reinforced, cement based board that can withstand being immersed continually in water and therefore avoids the problem of having to rip down tiles to replace plasterboard should the shower develop a leak.
The most common type of internal wall is the wooden stud-partition. Here lengths of 3"x2" or 4"x2" (75x50mm or 100x50mm) are made into a frame which runs across floor, walls and ceiling. Studs are then attached between head (ceiling) and sill (floor) plates at regular intervals and noggins skew-nailed between them to stiffen them. Doorways are allowed for with cut outs in the sill plate and extra studs above the door. Extra noggins or sheets of wood can be attached between studs to allow for heavy fixtures.
The metal stud construction system uses the same basic idea as wood, but the material is plated steel sheet extruded into lengths of a C-profile shape which can be screwed together with self-tapping screws. It is available in lengths of 2.4m to 4.2m (8' to 14') and widths of 48, 60, 70 and 146mm. Again a frame is made around the walls, floor and ceiling and studs added, however there are no noggins between the studs with this system. For fixing heavy items special fixing channels are available. Once finished the partition is plasterboarded using only drywall screws; nails cannot be used.
Cellular core partitioning consists of two sheets of plasterboard with a honeycombed cardboard core, effectively forming an entire wall section in one part. As before an outline wooden frame of 2" PAR is created with locating blocks added where the edge of the partition meets the frame. The cellular core sheets are then slotted into place and screwed or nailed to fix them. Where partition sheets meet at a corner or T-joint, extra battening needs to be inserted into the sheets to allow a solid fixing between them.
There are two chief types of floor used in modern house building; solid and suspended wooden. In their simplest forms a solid floor is a concrete slab laid to the required depth, while a suspended floor consists of wooden joists slung between two opposing walls with chipboard sheeting or floorboards laid on top. The upper stories of a dwelling will almost always be of the suspended type with a solid ground floor.
Traditionally, in older properties, the ground floor would also be suspended to avoid the dual problems of damp and cold penetration. Modern damp proof courses and insulation materials avoid this. A solid floor also obviates the need for wood-rot preventing underfloor ventilation, so reducing heat loss, and being cheaper and simpler to construct.
A solid ground floor is actually made up from a number of different layers, rather than one single slab of concrete. First the ground is dug out and infilled with a compacted layer of hardcore, the rough surface of which is blinded with a thin layer of sand. The sand fills the gaps and, when rolled flat, gives a smooth surface on which to lay the damp-proof membrane (DPM.) The DPM must be joined in to the damp proof course of the walls to provide continuous, effective protection. and is followed by the concrete which is laid in a layer of between 100mm and 150mm (4" to 6") thick. Insulation is provided by a layer of flooring grade polystyrene or other proprietary material which is topped off with the final layer of sand and cement screed set to a thickness of 44mm (1¾") to give the floor a smooth finish ready to be covered.
Wooden joists used for flooring application are different from most other timber used in construction and must be cut from structurally graded softwood which will have been checked to ensure there are no flaws or weaknesses in them that could endanger the structural integrity of the finished floor. These joists will be individually stamped to prove their suitability for the application. They are 50mm (2") wide and available in a variety of thicknesses depending on the unsupported span of the floor; the longer the span the thicker the joist.
For conversions of existing buildings where top-floor room height may be at a premium, the depth of the joist may be adjusted according to the likely loading of an area and therefore allowing an extra inch or two of headroom. If the loading is likely to preclude such a reduction it may be necessary to use Rolled Steel Joists (RSJs) instead. Structural engineers will be able to provide accurate calculations as to how the end result can be achieved safely.
The ends of the joists are fitted into purpose made galvanised steel hangers which are built into the inner leaf of the cavity wall. This allows the hangers to be set as the wall is built but without the need to actually have the timbers put into position until much later. There are a variety of hangers available depending on the requirement, but the general principle is the same for most of them with the brackets placed squarely along the top of a course of bricks or blocks at regular intervals, usually 400mm (1' 4".)
Where cross joints need to be made between joists away from the wall hangers, for example around a fireplace or a staircase, galvanised framing anchors are used to avoid the need for complicated mortise and tenon joints. There are a wide range of these available which come in both left and right handed versions depending on the joint being made.
Suspended wooden floors are usually finished with a top layer of chipboard sheeting as it's cheap, quick to fit and, being man-made, will not shrink or cup. However, in recent years, the traditional floor board has made a resurgence with the increasing popularity of real wooden flooring. Made from softwood, they are usually 150mm x 25mm (6" x 1") in cross section and 2.4m to 4m (8' to 13') in length. They are simply nailed into place and can then be finished with varnish or woodstain. As an alternative to buying new it is also possible to obtain reclaimed floorboards to lend some immediate character to a new build.
Where suspended wooden floors are used for the lowest floor of a building, or over a garage, they must be insulated to meet current building regulations U-Values, currently 0.25, in order to prevent excessive heat loss through them. Sheets of slab insulation material cut to size and suspended between the joists is perhaps the easiest way of achieving this. For more information on this see the Insulation section.
Buildbase supply JJI silent floor joists from James Jones - these offer a number of advantages compared with traditional joists and are certainly worth considering for a new build. No squeaky floors, ever!
James Jones & Sons Ltd manufactures structurally engineered timber joists - the JJI-Joist - combining high-grade softwood with an engineered composite panel. These are standard building components used in commercial and residential construction as load bearing or non load bearing members for roofs, walls and floors.
JJI-Joists are available in a range of sizes familiar to the UK Construction Industry. Depths range from 145mm to 450mm and widths from 45mm to 97mm.
Due to the unique form of the JJI-Joist British Board of Agrément Approval, it is possible to design and produce large volumes of non-standard JJI-Joists to allow for particular span and depth situations that cannot be covered by the standard range.
The manufacturer has a special interactive section on their website where you can cross-refer your span and load conditions and receive a list of joists suitable for the application. Please click on the link to access this feature - Specify my JJI-Joist.
After the choice of brick and tile style, the next most important features that decides the look of a house are the doors and windows. Both are available in a wide range of styles and designs allowing you to tailor the final design of your house to your exact requirements but there is also a varied choice of material to choose from. There are three main materials for both doors and windows and one extra choice just for doors. The main three are:
Softwood is the most common material for window frames in new builds as it has the benefits of cheapness while maintaining a traditional look. Although many householders will relate the misery associated with old softwood windows rotting away, the modern versions are pressure treated with preservative and often sport a long warranty against rot.
uPVC is mostly associated with replacement windows, rather than new builds, but has many followers based on the low maintenance requirements compared to traditional softwood windows making them a fit and forget solution. uPVC windows and doors will not warp in damp conditions but they can expand in very hot weather causing the occasional jam although they will return to normal when the weather cools. The only downside compared to their wooden counterparts is that the frames are often larger which can look slightly odd on smaller windows and in some door designs. Finally, uPVC does not need to be white - many companies now offer their range with wood effect finishes that can look very effective.
Hardwood doors and windows are highly prized as they maintain a solid charm while being able to show off the beauty of the natural wood they are made from. Traditionally very expensive, prices are becoming more affordable and are well worth considering.
The extra choice for doors is steel or fibreglass construction. Broadly manufactured the same way, the inner and outer skins of the door are made from either steel or fibreglass formed into a traditional multi-panel design. The two layers then sandwich a layer of expanded foam insulation material which, overall, forms a sturdy, rot free door. As with uPVC these are almost maintenance free and are often chosen in preference as uPVC doors can also look a little utilitarian from the inside as the hinges are almost always on show rather than hidden away in the frame.
Buildbase offers a great choice of both doors and windows and can supply virtually any type or style of door or window as required.
Garage doors are available in fibreglass, metal and wood construction in a wide variety of styles and sizes to suit every application.
One ever popular feature of many individually built modern houses is the use of large areas of glass to form either all or part of an external wall to bring in more natural light and increase the sense of openness of a property. Although highly stylish and desirable one note of caution should be sounded. Even when double or triple glazed to the latest standards, and fitted snugly in their frame to prevent draughts, windows are still responsible for the greatest heat loss from a building. The larger the glazed area the greater the loss. Currently Pilkington-K glass claims the best insulating characteristics but even with its U-value of 1.9 it will lose over five times as much energy as a comparable section of insulated cavity wall.
While nobody is suggesting that all windows should be no larger than portholes, if large areas of external glazing are being planned consider whether it will still be possible to hang curtains as, although lightweight blinds are often installed in such situations, heavyweight curtains can act as a valuable secondary layer of insulation. If the glazed area is too large for hanging curtains to be practicable then this one feature could take a significant chunk of the annual running costs for heating.
Windows and doors fitted to new builds must meet the requirements of several sections of the Building Regulations, particularly:
Between them, these regulations cover such areas as escape requirements and the need for fire doors in certain locations; the need for toughened safety glass in certain circumstances; access arrangements for cleaning upstairs windows and the maximum heat transmission U-values allowed. For more information on U-values see the Insulation section. Since 2003, windows must have a certificate of compliance and this can either be obtained from Local Authority Building Control or by using a FENSA registered glazing contractor.
Buildbase offer a complete range of roofing products including Trussed Rafters, Tiles & Slates, Roofing battens & felts, Insulation, Ventilation, Fakro and Velux Windows, Rainwater goods and many more associated specialist products.
In order to allow adequate manufacturing and delivery time it makes sense to order your roof trusses once your build has reached first floor joist level, or window level if you are building a single story only. The trusses are always made to order specifically for each building in accordance with the architects plans, and they will need to be of appropriate structural strength and quality to ensure that they will do the job of supporting the roof in all conditions for decades to come.
The type of truss you require may already have been decided by your architect, if not please refer to our diagrams of common types of truss to establish which type will suit your particular design requirements. Special trusses for use where rooms are to be placed in the roof space are also available.
A wide variety of different roof truss designs are available to suit most requirements. When ordering please supply architects drawings and all relevant measurements, plus details of the type and weight of roof tiles. Your Buildbase contact will be pleased to discuss your requirements and to help with the ordering.
These recommendations originate from the collective experience of leading technical personnel in the wood truss industry but must, due to the nature of responsibilities involved, be considered only as a guide for the use of a qualified building designer, builder or erection contractor. Buildbase Limited expressly disclaims any responsibility for damages arising from the use, application, or reliance on the recommendations and information contained herein by building designers or by erection contractors.
Trusses must be in the vertical plane to take advantage of their superior ability to support loads. The truss erector or the builder must take the necessary precautions to ensure that erection procedures and handling methods do not damage the trusses and thus reduce their load carrying capacity.
ALL TRUSSES ARE LATERALLY UNSTABLE until properly braced. The longer the span the more care required. Adequate restraint is necessary at all stages of construction. Complete stability is not achieved until the bracing and decking is completely installed and properly fastened.
Erection, bracing, and procedures as well as the safety of the workers are the responsibility of the erector.
Problems may occur in attempts to realign trusses. Align each truss and place it permanently in position before it is connected to the bracing system. Once there is a load, even from the weight of the truss itself, large lateral forces are developed by attempts to realign the trusses. This may break the bracing system.
When properly aligned, each top chord should not vary more than 1/2 inch from a straight line.
The bracing system should provide support at spacings at no farther apart than the drawings show for the bridging. Without proper bracing trusses may not support even their own weight.
Collapse can easily occur without a bracing system that will prevent both horizontal sway or roll over. By rolling on their sides, where they have no strength, the trusses will break or pull the ends off the bearings.
DO NOT permit cutting, drilling or any procedure that may damage the chords or webs.
DO NOT remove webs (even temporarily).
DO NOT make field repairs to damaged trusses without the approval of the manufacturer.
DO NOT overload single or groups of trusses with plywood, roofing or other construction materials or tools.
DO NOT erect damaged trusses. Should a truss or group of trusses fall to the ground or be damaged in any way at all, do not proceed! The site engineer of note must certify that the trusses are satisfactory to erect. Notify the truss supplier immediately.
Buildbase have a comprehensive range of tiles from which to choose. You will need to decide whether the roof is something you will tackle yourself, or whether this is an area that calls for the services of a specialist. If you decide to sub-contract this work we recommend that you ensure the roofing contractor is a member of an appropriate trade body or federation, and that appropriate insurances and guarantees are available.
If necessary ask to see some examples of the contractors work on other properties so that you can satisfy yourself of their capability. Your Buildbase contact may be able to help you with names of contractors working in the local area.
Having decided on the choice of tiles for the project it can be a good idea to look at other properties in the area that have used the same type of roof tiles, as you can then assess how these look after weathering.
Current building regulations require appropriate ventilation of roof spaces to prevent condensation and damp affecting the structure or insulation within the roof space. This can be achieved in a number of different ways using special ventilation products that fit in the eaves, or in the roof ridge, or by using tile vents.
Buildbase currently stock and service tiles from the following producers:
Although a simple part of the construction process, the electrical system is one that needs to be got right at the design and layout stage as changes later, when the house is finished, are costly and disrupting. It's important to avoid trying to economise when laying out socket positions and lighting points as the material cost of additional sockets or lighting pendants is very low, especially when the cabling is going past the location anyway. Even if adding a few meters of cabling is required, the extra cost is negligible.
Looking further ahead, running cable for possible extensions or features in future will cost little now but can save a lot of channelling and replastering later should the work be done. Also, when planning the electrics remember to give consideration to the height and positioning of switches and powerpoints so that they will, if possible, be accessible for someone in a wheelchair.
Apart from ring mains and lighting circuits, other cabling that should be considered at this stage is:
When laying out, ensure that each room has an adequate amount of sockets both in places that require them, for example kitchen worktops and the TV area of a sitting room, and also in places where they may not be immediately needed but would be useful if you rearrange the furniture. This allows the maximum flexibility and the least chance of having to damage expensive wall finishes in future. Consider making all socket positions double gang as there is little cost increase compared to a single gang. This can help prevent having to use plug in multi-way adapters later.
Beyond the positioning of sockets, it is also worth considering the wiring layout. Houses will often simply have one ring circuit dedicated to each floors' sockets but there are worthwhile variations to be made where kitchens are concerned. It's a sensible idea to give a kitchen, and/or utility room, a dedicated ring circuit as it is here that the highest power devices are to be found.
Washing machines, kettles and anything with a heating element will draw the largest currents - so it is worth ensuring that the supply circuit will be well able to cope. This avoids the problem of the largest load being at a disadvantageous point on another ring circuit. Bathrooms too, where power showers are planned will need separate ring circuits.
For lighting layouts beyond the single, central pendant and especially in larger rooms, consider putting in multiple switched circuits. This allows great flexibility in illumination, rather than an all or nothing approach, and can dramatically enhance the range of moods of the room, from bright task lighting to subdued and relaxed. Wall lights and picture lights are often only used in living rooms but there is no reason not to incorporate them into the design of almost any room as well as hallways and landings. Lights that can be dimmed will again add to the flexibility, as can multi-way switching so that lighting can be controlled from any doorway into a room and either end, or middle, of a hallway.
A recent feature in modern houses is the use of downlighters; small halogen lamps with a tightly directed spread of light output allowing great control of a rooms' illumination. Whilst highly effective and pleasingly aesthetic, one should be careful about designing large areas that use nothing else as each bulb has a relatively high power consumption and a more limited life than standard light bulbs giving a greater overall running cost.
Where areas are going to be illuminated for long periods, especially in the winter months, such as hallways and landings consider the use of light fittings that use energy saving light bulbs as this can make a worthwhile financial saving. On the other hand, avoid energy saving lighting in bathrooms and en-suites where the warm up lag can be irritating and the instant illumination of incandescent bulbs can be preferable. Cupboards and alcoves can also benefit from being illuminated so allow for such areas to be given their own light; when they are in use and full of clutter, this makes rooting through them much easier!
Sufficient outside lighting is a great benefit for both the householder and for visitors. Apart from the usual lamp by the front door, consider illuminating driveways, side paths and patio areas with either switched or automatic lights for added convenience, security and safety.
In order to comply with regulations and to ensure safety, all electrical installation work should be done by suitably qualified tradesmen.
Traditionally houses were all plumbed in the same way: Straight lengths of copper pipe were bent into shape with pipe-bending springs, and then connected together with soldered copper fittings or brass compression fittings.
For a long time nothing changed, but in recent years a new concept has grown up, with increased use of plastic plumbing fittings. Although plastic in plumbing is nothing new, it tended to be used as uPVC waste fittings, where there is no significant water pressure, or in polyethylene supply pipe which is relatively thick walled and inflexible making it unsuitable for indoor use.
That has all changed with the availability of rigid cross-linked polyethylene (PE-X) pipe which is capable of withstanding the high pressure of mains supplied water, while still being flexible. Its availability in lengths of up to 150 metres obviates the need for joints every two or three meters, allowing long runs to be made quickly and easily. To complement the plastic pipe, plastic connectors were introduced which are not only compatible with copper pipe but are push-fit - no tools are required to make the joint and they are easily demountable, some makes by hand, some requiring a release tool. Although building tends to be a conservative industry, plastic fittings and pipework can now be found in new dwellings built by many of the major construction companies.
Plastic plumbing can be used for both hot and cold water supplies, and for central heating systems. There are only four caveats for this type of pipework:
The most commonly installed central heating system in the UK today consists of a gas or oil fired boiler used to heat water which is pumped via a network of pipes to double-skinned, pressed-metal panel radiators in each room of the building. Such systems have proven to be reliable, efficient and relatively easy to retro-fit to existing buildings. In recent years the alternative system of underfloor heating has emerged, primarily aimed at new builds . With the increasing availability of plastic plumbing, efficient insulation and multi-zone controllers, underfloor heating has become a viable and affordable means of heating your home and can offer the advantage of far more even heating throughout a room than is possible with radiators.
Underfloor heating can be fitted to any type of floor, either buried in the screed of a solid floor or held against the wood of a suspended floor. In both cases a layer of insulation is immediately below the pipe work to ensure the heat is directed into the living area and not wasted.
The pipes run to a multi-valve manifold which, in conjunction with electronic room stats, convert the entire heated area into separately controllable zones. This allows greater flexibility for the user and aids efficiency as unused rooms can be easily switched out of the system..
As with the choice of central heating system you choose there are decisions to be made about the boiler that will run it. Any boiler will support any type of wet heating system, but how it provides domestic hot water (DHW) will determine the type required. The decision is either instantaneous (or combi), or stored. The stored system is the most familiar with the boiler used to heat the water in a lagged copper cylinder which is then drawn off as required. Both the pressure of the DHW and the replenishment of the tank is provided from a large cold water tank in the loft that feeds the cylinder. The boiler does not heat the water directly in this system, instead relying on a coiled heating element in the tank which keeps the anti-corrosion treated heating water separate from the stored hot water.
With an instantaneous system the boiler is used to heat the DHW on demand by use of flow switches to detect when a hot tap is running and large, efficient heat exchangers to warm the water. The main selling point of such systems is the potentially huge savings that can be made against a system that heats water that may not be used. Such a system also does away with the need for space for the cylinder and the loft header tank, and provides the hot water at mains pressure. However, while these advantages may seem to ring the death knell for any other type of system, it must be remembered that the amount of hot water that the boiler can provide at any given time is limited and is inversely proportional to the incoming water temperature; the greater the temperature rise needed the more the boiler has to reduce the flow. If the system is to be installed in a house with many bathrooms, or with one of the modern showering systems that require large flow rates of hot water, then a combi boiler may not be able to cope adequately.
As already mentioned, one of the advantages of a combi system is mains pressure hot water which, traditionally, has not been available with a stored DHW system. In the traditional system, also known as a gravity system, the water pressure available is provided entirely by the height difference between the loft tank and the tap, and is seldom very high. A typical 5 metre head provides a pressure of 0.5 bar (7.4psi), while the incoming mains pressure can be up to 10bar (147psi). Although good flow rates can be more important than high pressure, modern mixer taps and high flow shower units which are often designed for Europe where combi systems are the norm, often require matched pressures to function properly. To this end it is now possible to have an unvented cylinder. This is effectively a reinforced hot water cylinder capable of withstanding several bars water pressure. The plumbing for these types of cylinder will be more complicated than a traditional cylinder as there have to be pressure release valves, an expansion vessel and a pressure regulating valve - but one tank can provide for any number of showers and taps at flow rates restricted only by the pipework and the incoming water flow. If you opt for an unvented cylinder it must comply with both Water Regulations and Building Regulations.
Since unvented cylinders must be fitted with several safety devices, lists of competent fitters are registered with the Institute of Plumbing, the Construction Industry Training Board or the Association of Installers of Unvented Hot Water Systems (Scotland and Northern Ireland.) These systems should be regularly serviced to ensure they remain in good working order.
Finally, and most obviously, there is the question of whether the boiler is oil, gas or solid fuel fired. This is often chiefly dictated by whether gas is available on site, or not, as the case may be and most people will tend to opt for connection to the gas supply if it is available as this obviates any need for dealing with fuel deliveries.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Any tradesman working on gas pipework or appliances on the consumer side of the meter must be individually Gas Safe registered.
Gas Safe Register replaced the CORGI gas register in Great Britain and the Isle of Man on 1 April 2009. Gas Safe registration ensures proper training in both the theoretical and practical aspects of gas-fitting. Although plumbing for gas is very similar to water - both use copper pipe and soldered fittings - the design of gas pipework is more technically involved than often realised; for example gas pipework must be sized according to the demand of the appliances fitted as well as the length of run involved so that there is less than a 1 millibar pressure loss between the gas meter and each appliance. The practical aspects cover installation safety - for example not running pipework unsheathed in a cavity wall - and the correct way to conduct pressure testing of the installation.
If mains gas is not available then one can choose to have the system powered by either Heating Oil, Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG.) or by solid fuel. Both oil and gas solutions will require storage tanks that are positioned so that they can be accessed and refilled by fuel tankers. The fuel companies will often specifying the furthest they are willing to trail their supply pipes and it is worth finding this out in advance when planning where to put your tank. If the tank has to be further than they will allow, then extra fixed pipework can be added to provide a remote filling point. The choice of oil, gas or solid fuel is a personal preference, usually based on the current and predicted prices of the commodity, and on the handling considerations. A side benefit of LPG on sites where mains gas in not available is that a suitable gas hob can be connected and used in the kitchen. Gas hobs are often preferred by cooks, to most electric hobs, as they heat faster and give quicker response times when turning down a pan that's boiling over.
Apart from any conditions of access to an oil tank, you are pretty well free to put one anywhere on your property. Normally oil tanks are simply tough single skinned polyurethane containers but if there is a danger that, if it were punctured, pollution of any nearby streams or waterways in its vicinity could occur then it must be 'bunded'. A bunded oil tank is, put simply, double skinned and your BCO can determine whether one is required or not. Many companies however will fit bunded tanks as standard as it also safeguards against general environmental damage and, with the seemingly ever increasing price of oil, financial loss in case of damage to the tank.
Buildbase supply the Titan range of Oil Storage tanks - details can be found at http://www.environmental-containers.com.
Since mid-2005 all new gas-fired boilers in the UK have had to reach certain standards in their levels of efficiency to meet regulations. They have to be SEBDUK A-rated and to reach this level have to be of a type known as 'condensing'. Normally the moisture generated by combustion in a boiler exits the flue as steam but with a condensing boiler even more energy is extracted from the combustion process, usually by means of a second heat exchanger, and this results in the moisture condensing inside the boiler which has then to be disposed of by means of a small pipe, usually draining to the outside world.
Oil fired boilers were exempt from this legislation until mid-2007 when similar rules were applied
Kitchen supply and fitting is a specialist area in which Buildbase has considerable experience. Many branches have a number of tiled showroom displays and some are recognised as the premier kitchen showrooms in their locality. Buildbase can offer the right kitchen solution, ranging from large volume contract supply to a hand-made kitchen incorporating the latest products available. With its trained kitchen staff, Buildbase is able to offer the complete service from design to quotation, delivery and fitting.
These days the kitchen has become the centre of family life in many homes, and is certainly one of the main features that will affect the saleability and price of a home. The kitchen should be large enough to accommodate a table that a family can sit around comfortably, planned with enough space for a wide range of cupboards and worktops with plenty of space to comfortably prepare a meal. As with bathrooms, kitchens have undergone radical changes in the last few years with a huge choice of tiles, countertops, cupboards and devices.
Kitchen units have evolved beyond a straight mixture of cupboards and drawers, and ranges almost always include wine racks, built-in chopping boards and pull out trays or ironing boards. The straightforward rotating carousel has been supplemented by clever pop-out wire framed shelving to prevent items being forgotten at the back, and integral wicker baskets for storing fresh fruit and vegetable. Integrated and semi-integrated appliances give a tidy finish, hiding the dishwasher, fridge, freezer and washing machine behind panels matching the rest of the doors. Small gas filled dampers now prevent cupboard doors slamming, and glass fronted doors and stylised countertop lighting can add a touch of elegance.
Until recently only the most expensive kitchens were anything other than laminate coated chipboard, but solid wood units and doors have become more affordable and more generally available. Worktops too come in a choice of materials, depending on budget, from laminated chipboard, to natural wood, through to expensive solid materials including marble and granite. Even taps have come a long way with quarter turn ceramic discs replacing rubber washers, pull out nozzles for washing large items and under-counter water filters feeding a specific drinking water tap.
Your local Buildbase showroom will be able to assist with planning and information on a wide range of kitchen and bathroom furnishings and equipment.
Many branches have a number of tiled showroom displays and some are recognised as the premier kitchen and bathroom showrooms in their locality. Buildbase can offer the right kitchen or bathroom solution, ranging from large volume contract supply to a hand-made kitchen or the most luxurious bathroom suite incorporating the latest products available. With its trained kitchen and bathroom staff, Buildbase is able to offer the complete service from design to quotation, delivery and fitting.
To find your nearest Kitchen Showroom branch please visit our showroom locator.
Of all the rooms in the home, the bathroom has perhaps evolved furthest. Its first incarnation after the tin-bath-in-the-kitchen was often, prosaically, a room with nothing more than a cast iron bath in it. As time progressed the bathroom incorporated a wash basin and later the WC. There was nothing warm or inviting about the room as the suite was always white with only a choice of black and/or white wall tiles. With an increased interest in interior design in the 1960s and 1970s there came a revolution against plain utilitarianism. Coloured suites and coloured tiles became de rigeur; a whole generation suddenly became aware of the colour of an avocado without ever having seen one.
Slowly showers and bidets became more commonplace and baths could have a whirlpool option, or be other than rectangular. Shower cubicles have since evolved further with multiple jet body massaging systems and even becoming domestic steam cabins. If a shower cubicle steam cabin sounds too small then, for the largest of houses, full wooden-cabinet, Finnish style saunas are available. The bathroom is often now a room in which to spend time and to enjoy relaxing in, so the transformation from practicality to indulgence is complete.
Modern bathrooms and en-suites are now individually designed to cover a wide range of tastes from recreating the 1930's modernist look with its sculpted chinaware, to 21st century ultra-modern with floating glass basins, stainless steel surrounds and accessories. To complement this is a huge range of ceramic wall and floor tiles in a multitude of designs and colours. Wall tiles no longer need to be a fixed 6" square either, with a wide range of sizes ranging from mosaics and 4" squares up to a vast 18" x 24", although tiles this big usually only suit large rooms.
To avoid fitting coloured suites that may date badly, but in order still to give the bathroom a warm and welcoming feel, many people choose a neutral white or cream suite and then accessorise it with coordinated coloured towels, curtains or blinds. This allows the decor to be changed simply without the need for a full room renovation.
Many branches have luxury showrooms and as your local specialists in the supply of Bathrooms & Showers are able to offer you a full range of Bathrooms suites from leading manufacturers.
To find your nearest Bathroom Showroom branch please visit our showroom locator.
The Safety Rules and Practice should be extended to all visitors, as well as to contractors working on the site.
An RCD is an electrical safety device specially designed to immediately switch the electricity off when electricity "leaking" to earth is detected at a level harmful to a person using electrical equipment. An RCD offers a high level of personal protection from electric shock.
Building sites are dangerous places if care is not taken. Your safety is important, please read and absorb the following guidelines.
Extract from the Government's Health & Safety pages at http://www.hse.gov.uk:
2.2 million people work in Britain’s construction industry, making it the country’s biggest industry. It is also one of the most dangerous. In the last 25 years, over 2,800 people have died from injuries they received as a result of construction work. Many more have been injured or made ill.
Between April 2004 and March 2005, 71 workers died and thousands were injured as a result of construction work. The main causes of the fatal accidents were:
HSE deals with all aspects of construction work in England, Scotland and Wales and we recommend you visit the HSE website to ensure you are fully conversant with the responsibilities you have under HSE legislation. There is a wealth of information available on the HSE website covering safe use of ladders, scaffolds, platforms, etc.