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The Stages Of A Self Build

There are several stages to building your Home.  Each stage should be divided into scheduled phases in order for the project to run smoothly.

Below is a guide of how your build could be managed from finding land through to completion:

Site Preparation & Setup

1. Risk Assessment – this should be carried out first before entering the site and carry on as a working document adapted to suit throughout as the build progresses.

Risk Assesment.jpg

2. Site Entry - Determine a safe and easily accessible point of entry to the site, if it is to be the permanent entrance, check with the local authorities that access here is allowed.  Once the entrance is determined, create a lockable gate that is not easily scalable along with appropriate health and safety warnings.

3. Security - Enclose the entire building site with safety fencing to prevent unlawful access to cover yourself from theft as well as injury or death of trespassers. If you are to live on the site during construction, suitably place your caravan outside the construction zone.

4. Services – Have as many services connected to your site as soon as possible.  Running water and electricity are the most important initially temporary meters will be fitted by the providers (a generator may be required initially if the site does not yet have access to electricity. The local water supplier will fit a stopcock on the boundary or elsewhere within your site if a borehole is dug.  Then a water standpipe can be connected up. The electricity provider will fit a temporary main fused consumer unit. Fowl water drainage should only be considered at this stage if is to be connected to the main sewer network, as costs can be saved using at least some of the trenches dug for running in a water supply.  This isn’t always possible but should be considered.  And underground services should remain uncovered in case the building inspector wishes to see them so you also need to consider this and the fact that damage could occur to them before this happens.

5. Initial groundwork.

a. Clearing the site

i. Pre-arrange to have a skip delivered then pre-clear a flat level and firm area of ground close to the entrance for it to be placed.  If the ground is soft, boggy, muddy and or rain is expected, it may be wise to lay aggregates or similar such as pre made access tracks or field mats at this stage in the entrance and where the skip is to be placed to prevent the truck getting stuck and blocking access, particularly once it’s loaded up.  This is also a good idea for anywhere on the site that requires vehicular or plant access.

ii. Strimming, cutting down trees etc should be done prior to any work commencing however it will grow back very quickly so ideally should be done no more than 3 days before.

iii. Waste removal – To save valuable space in the skip, and prevent them taking up site space, large tree branches etc could be sold or given away by pre-advertising on social media etc. for collection at the end of the day the work is planned. Alternatively you may be able to burn green waste which has been cut down on site following local guidelines with regards to bonfires.  Obviously consider surrounding properties and the environment here although moving such items in a heavy skip may well do more harm to the environmentt.

iv. Smaller waste such as brambles, fine branches and grass cuttings can be stacked in a free area of the site for compost – shredders can be hired to break them down or small ones can be purchased for around £100


6. Facilities & Storage - At this stage, it may be worth having the necasarry facilities delivered to site making sure to pre level/prepare the location they will be sitting:  Facilities to consider should be;

a. A porta-loo if you do not have access to other toilet facilities.

b. A site office and/or tea break room along with a First Aid Station – this should be clearly marked and any visitors on site should be made aware of its location.  An accident book should be provided and it is advisable that a qualified first aider should be present on site at all times if there are more than 5 or more contractors working. Ideally there would be one on site at all times.

c. Storage - 

  • . Aggregates – Sand, gravel etc. should be stored ideally in a way that it is easy to shovel into a cement mixer.  It’s hard to shovel from the 1 tonne delivery bags.  A better way is to have it delivered loose but it is important that it is not contaminated by being poured onto the ground.  This can be achieved by purchasing some cheap shuttering ply and some timber to create a 3 walled storage area for each aggregate type to be poured separately next to each other.  This should be in a location that is easily accessible by the delivery truck, not in the way of other site vehicles yet as close as possible to where it is required without being a hindrance during the other building tasks.

  • Timber and sheet materials – these should be stacked as flat as possible in a dry location ideally allowing as much airflow around them as possible.  Sheet material is always best to be stacked flat but as this takes up more space, particularly when several types and thicknesses are involved, they are often stored on their edges.  The use of storage containers may be best suited for this however the lengths of these should be considered carefully depending what is to be stored in them. They tend to come in 10ft, 20ft and 40ft lengths.  If there is enough room on site for more than one and the budget allows, more than one may be more suitable to make access to the materials quicker and easier.  Ie 5.4m lengths of timber can be stored in a 20ft shipping container on racking sorted into the various widths/thicknesses, types etc.  whereas  8x4 sheets could be kept in a 10ft container.  Its worth noting that condensation does build up in storage containers so you may need to budget for runing cables to them and hiring or purchasing dehumidifiers.

  • Cement – plaster – these should be kept off the ground in a dry location – moisture in the air can set off the chemical reaction to set these so if possible, buy only what you need, when you need it to avoid them spoiling before use.  As mentioned above and more important for these, if stored in a storage container, consider the use of a dehumidifier. and keep wrapped in plastic if possible.

  • Flammable and hazardous substances should be secured in a lockable metal cabinets. each should be clearly labled as should the cabinet.  Care should be taken to avoid the storage of chemicals that could react violently together.

  • Other materials such as bricks, blocks, tiles etc should be stored safely and neatly in an easy accessible location that won’t interfere with the construction process yet are easily accessible when required.

7. Site safety – A site manager (if hired) will be in charge of health and safety of the site, however in the event of an accident, a self-builder can be liable if certain rules and regulations are not followed so it is worth familiarising yourself with these even if your project is fully managed.

8. Other temporary buildings

Some of the following can be incorporated in one unit and be bought or hired for your project.  some even contain heating, toilet/and or shower facilities:

a. If a site manager is hired, and the budget allows, it is advisable for them to have a site office;  it is somewhere for them to have meetings, plan the build, order materials and store information such project plans/drawings, health and safety records, risk assessments etc.

b. If there are several tradesmen working on site at any one time, and budgets allow, it may be an idea to have a temporary kitchen/tea room on site.  And maybe even a drying/changing room if conditions on site are wet and/or cold.  These can be hired – some come with toilet facilities

9. The buildings precise location can now be set out (usually by a surveyor) to the exact location outlined within the plans. It is normally pegged out with strings.

The Construction Process

Foundations/Ground works

The foundation type should have been determined way before this stage to suit the ground conditions (ideally determined by a comprehensive ground & soil survey)  This process can be one of the most costly of the whole build, particularly if a lot of earth needs to be excavated ie. for a raft foundation or if a basement is to be constructed.

If you are lucky enough to have the ideal soil type, you may be able to use poured concrete footings for your foundations, meaning you don't need to excavate as much soil or require a bricklayer to build all the way up to the damp proof course.  This can save time and also you can use the earth around the footings as its own shuttering which will save money on materials.

1. Footings - First of all, the footings/foundations need to be excavated.  This is the most important stage of your build so need to be correct to your plans and the soil conditions.  Foot plates or scaffold boards can be placed around the area the trench is to be dug to distribute the weight of the workers walking around the trenches when dug to prevent loose dirt falling in. 

Also, membrane can be used to cover the edges of the dirt to aid this.


An approved building inspector will need to check the foundations/footings have been adequately dug before foundations are poured.  Also, if your construction insurance requires it, a warrantee inspector may also be required to check and sign of at this stage too.  This can cost around £2000.

2.Pouring foundations - Once footing excavations are signed off;

a.Peg out within the trench with their tops level to the height which the footings should finish.

b.You can place in your layer of hard-core material & tamper it down (compress it)

c.Place in any reinforcement cages, bars or mesh required

d.Place adequate ducting through the foundation to allow services to enter the building.

e.Place compressible materials to outer edge if soil type is likely to expand and contract regularly. i.e. clay type soils.

f.Fill your foundations with Concrete to the peg heights and tamper down well.

3.Laying Foundations - the remaining brickwork and blockwork can now be carried out up to the damp proof course and any lintels allowing for exit drainage can be laid.

Air bricks or vents can be installed at this stage too as long as they are at least 75mm above the ground level, if not they can be put in above the damp proof course (at least 150mm above ground level).

4.The damp proof course (DPC) can now be laid in conjunction with any other damp proofing such as Radon Membrane

5.Cavities filled - Cavities can now be filled to ground level with concrete.

6.Inspection - Foundations will again need checking by building inspector and warrantee inspector if necessary, before you can continue with the brickwork or whichever method you are using for your walls.  It is therefore best to pre-arrange this in advance to prevent any delays for for the next stage ie. bricklayers or framers (although the inspectors will be required again to inspect the drainage, so try to have the following two parts of the superstructure done by the time the inspectors visit as this can save money.



1. Trenches - At this stage, if not already dug, the trenches to the services can be done and the services connected and run through the foundation ducting and capped off safely.  Also any drainage pipes etc can be ran through the ducts create for them.


2. Drain work - If not being connected to the main sewer, at this stage, a septic tank can be dug into the ground and connected.  Also a soak away along with any relevant ground water drains can be created for rainwater drainage (this can however cause potential hazards/obstacles for getting around the site, erecting scaffolding etc and pipework can easily be damaged accidentally before being filled in.   So as mentioned above, it is therefore advisable to have these first two stages completed by the time the cavities are filled and have the inspectors pre-booked to save time.

Any shared trenches for others services ideally should have them ran it at this stage so that the trenches can be back filled to protect them.  It is advisable that water & gas pipes as well as electrical armored cable is run through protective ducting which is then back filled over pea shingle initially then the original soil.  Please not that any joins in gas pipe or high voltage electricity will need carrying out by qualified and certificated tradespeople. floor and ceiling insulation and ventilation should ideally be fitted at this stage.

3. Beginning 1st FixFloor Joists - Once the inspectors give you the green light with your foundations and the drainage, the floor joints can be positioned and fitted, whichever type you go for; ie. timber based or beam and block. 

4. Flooring - For health and safety reasons and to speed up maneuvering around the build, now would be a  good time for the flooring to be put down.  This should ideally be as soon as possible after floor the joists are fitted, but at the absolute latest at the beginning of the "Completing 1st Fix" stage to follow (Please note; not the finished floor covering - if however this is to be seen/used as the final floor, it should be protected from unwanted damage from now onward).

5. Walls started above D.P.C - If Timber framed external walls are to be used, any brick/block work required above the D.P.C can now be completed up to the level of where the timber work starts (If an external meter box is required for gas, electric or water, this may be necessary to build in as the brickwork progresses. The service provider can then install their metres.)

6. Creating Openings - As the building progresses, if necessary any window or door frames (or templates to the correct sizes) should be used in the correct positions to build around.  *Take into consideration finished floor heights here, especially if under floor heating will be fitted.

7. Scaffolding - As the structure gains in height, the first lift of scaffolding will be required, take this in to consideration in advance so there are not any holdups.  It may be necessary to have the first lift raised before the second lift is erected, although many scaffold companies will fit scaffolding around the building to full finished height initially and not return until you are done with it.  In this case, it is only necessary to raise first lift if it is of health and safety concern. If bad weather is expected, it may be worth paying extra for whole roof scaffolding too with waterproofing.  This will allow work to progress in wet and cold weather more easily however be wary in hot summer times.


8. Chimneys & Lintels - As the walls progress upwards, chimneys along with their flue liners can begin also along with their lintels.  Lintels will also be required above windows and doorways for brick superstructure buildings.


9. Scafolding 2nd Lift - fitted as the build gets higher than ground floor windows tops (if not already done) - Pre arrange in advance to save holdups.


10. Complete Walls - Including first fix internal stud work walls can carry on all the way up to the wall plate, incorporating any necessary work in order to;

  • Fix and secure 1st floor joists to any load bearing walls.

  • Create internal door openings - *again, consider finished floor heights including underfloor heating if necessary.


11. Wall plates - can be fitted in order with current regulations.


12. Building Inspection - At this stage your building inspector may or may not want to check your progress.


13. Begin Gable Walls (If your structure has them) - this ties in with the roof structure in the "Completing 1st fix" stage next

Completing 1st Fix

14. Roof Structure - Now the roof structure can begin, whichever method you have chosen.  Most commonly cut or trussed roofs or S.I.P(Structurally Insulated Paneled) roofs.


15. Complete Gable Walls - If there are gable walls, the brickwork or cladding can then continue up to the gables.  Gable ladders can then be fitted if required within your design (A 3rd lift of scaffolding may be necessary to safely aid with this - again, pre-book if necessary to save time).


16. Waterproofing roof - At this stage, the required roof coverings and waterproofing can be fitted, followed by the finished covering, facias, soffits, air vents etc.


17. Fitting external Doors and Windows - Before other internal works continue, its a good idea to fit these now to secure the building from unwanted access as well as protect the inside from the elements and wildlife.


18. Flooring - If not done during the previous stages, this should be done now.

19. Internal Services - This is now a good time to have services lines such as electrics, water, gas, oil etc throughout the  walls, ceilings and under floors etc ready for final connections.  Consideration should be taken here for where radiators, switches, sockets and other outlets should be placed and it can be an idea to pre-plan these stages with whomever is to fit the plaster boarding etc. so they can work with/around each other.  It is also important however to consider the fitting of any staircases and under stair cupboards etc as services may need to run behind or below its finished location and may need plastering in once fitted which could add cost if a carpenter has to chip newly done plaster away in order to fit the stairs.

If underfloor heating is to be fitted, you will need to consider where from and how it will be supplied - and therefore allow easy access for the fitting stage.  Ideally under floor heating should be laid as late on in the project as possible to prevent accidental damage by other trades walking over them etc.  It may be possible to plan it to be put in at this stage by holding off other trades until i is fitted, tested then safely covered up but there is still a risk that other trades could accidentally pierce or cut through it during their fitting tasks - bare this in mind.

20. Staircase(s) - If any staircases are required, they should be fitted now but protection should be put over them to prevent from accidental damage by other trades such as plumbers with water, plasterers with dust and wet plaster etc.

21. Wall Linings & Ceilings - Now is time to fit any dry lining/plasterboard and or timber cladding etc if required, ready for plastering or finishing.

22. Door Linings/frames - Start 2nd Fix - Internal door linings or frames should be fitted now in order for plasterers to skim to.

23. Plastering - plastering and or skim plastering can be done at this stage

24. Protection/Priming - any timber work that will be seen can be primed or sealed prior to final finish at this stage and if the final skim of plaster has been completed and is dry enough, a breathable new plaster primer can be applied for some protection.


25. Service Connections - Now any electrical switches, lights etc.  can be fitted as well as heating systems connected up ie. underfloor heating (if not already done so) or radiators heat exchangers and so on.  If Underfloor heating is done now, it is worth getting it covered with its final floor finish now.

2nd Fix

26. Doors - Time to fit internal doors, and architrave.  These can have their final finishes applied now.

27. Skirting - Skirting board and if required picture/and/or dado rails can now be fitted and have their final finishes applied.

28. Kitchen & Bathrooms - any units, worktops, sinks, taps, toilets, baths, showers etc can now be fitted.

29. External Services - If not already connected up, any remaining services can be connected up now.

30. Tiling & Flooring - at this stage, these could be done.

31. Painting & Decorating - Both Internally & Externally should be done now.  If you have to prioritise and weather allows, you should focus on external work while the scaffolding is there still.

32. Finals

33. External Work

34. Sign Off



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