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The process

Until you have experienced a building or refurbishment project, it can seem like a complex, daunting prospect. Grand Designs, Pinterest and Houzz can give you great ideas, but you need to know practically how to go about getting the work done. Below is a basic breakdown of the typical elements involved in a construction project.

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1. Design & planning

If your project needs a design and any form of planning permission from your local authority, you will need an architect. They can work with you to design what you want to achieve, gain planning approvals, work up the initial designs to a construction-ready level and help you appoint a building contractor.

2. Structural engineering

If your project includes any structural work, such as removing walls, making openings, building foundations and so on, you will need to instruct a structural engineer. They will produce drawings and calculations to ensure that the building works are structurally sound and compliant with current legislation. Contractors will need these details to be able to price the structural elements of your project.

3. Schedule of works

A schedule of works breaks down each element of the project – from demolition through to finishes. It sets out measured quantities and defined specifications for every stage, including labour and materials. Your architect or building contractor will be able to provide this. If you are getting quotes from different builders, this is the only way to get directly comparable quotes, as they will all be costing the same work.

4. Party Wall Agreements

This is a legal agreement required whenever any works come under the terms of the Party Wall Act. It is designed to protect the interests of neighbours when work carried out at a property may affect attached or closely neighbouring properties. It covers making good any damage caused and states that the works need to be carried out in a manner acceptable to all. Party Wall Surveyors act on behalf of each interested party to negotiate terms and reach written agreements.

5. Building Control

This is an independent service conducted by qualified inspectors to ensure that all works are carried out in accordance with the structural engineer’s designs, relevant building regulations and accepted methods of good practice. Independent inspectors, rather than local authority inspectors, tend to offer a more efficient service. At the end of the project a certificate of completion is issued, confirming that the works have been completed correctly. Buyers may insist on having this document if you decide to sell.