Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the frequently asked questions and our answers. If you have a question which isn’t answered here, please don’t hesitate to get in touch:
For decades the British have bought new homes as standard speculatively built products from national and regional house builders. In most cases you have to take what the builder offers, meaning there is always compromise. Add to this the high value of land and developers’ obligations to their shareholders and the buyer has generally got a pretty poor deal.
Self-build is a credible and viable alternative. Although a self-build project may appear a major undertaking, with the right planning, help and support it can be enjoyable and very satisfying.
Whilst some knowledge of, or other connection with, the construction industry may be an advantage, there are plenty of examples of people doing it with no previous experience – so don’t be deterred.
It could be said the term self-build is a bit of a misnomer. Essentially, a self-builder is defined as someone who builds a house on land which is already in their ownership. In reality, there are not many self-builders who actually build the house themselves. Some project manage their build and employ a builder or individual trades to undertake the work. Others simply pass the whole project over to a builder.
What Are The Benefits?
- It usually works out cheaper – saving typically 20-40%.
- You get what you want – location, layout, appearance.
- Your know the building inside-out and are sure it has been well built.
There are many forms of construction which the self builder may adopt but by far the easiest and most common is timber frame.
What Are The Reasons?
- It is simple and relatively risk free.
- It is fairly simple to get a home built this way.
- It is usually one of the fastest ways of getting a home built.
- Some kit homes are quite modestly priced.
Both UK and Scottish Governments are actively seeking growth in the self build sector and a number of initiatives of a practical and financial nature have been launched in recent times. For further information go to our Links page. Here you’ll also find independent advice on how to go about finding a plot, arranging finance and so on.
Although Thermohaus® was only established in 2018; between the directors and its preferred manufacturer, Norscot Joinery, there is over 100 years combined experience of providing timber frame kit homes to self-builders.
Thermohaus® represents the culmination of all this knowledge and experience which, in turn, has resulted in the creation of a design concept which provides exceptional value for money.
Thermohaus® is founded on the principals of ‘Keep It Simple, Make It Better’ and ‘Fabric First’. As a consequence, there are no built-in redundancies or legacy defects and owners enjoy very low maintenance and energy running costs.
In combination, the features and benefits of the Thermohaus® design concept and enhanced specification mean our kit homes, in standard form, are superior to anything our UK rivals offer. And, compared to Continental European and North American imports, offer significantly better value for money. Features and benefits include:
- Compact designs which aim to minimise circulation space in favour of good sized rooms, putting the space where you actually need it.
- Higher levels of insulation in floors, walls and roofs creating a very energy efficient building envelope, minimising heating costs and improving occupier comfort.
- Integrated mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system design ensuring maximum efficiency combined with minimum outlay and ease of installation, reducing overall build costs.
- Single skin wall construction, greatly reducing foundation costs. Although conventional cavity wall construction can be employed, if preferred.
- Open metal web floor joists providing clear spans (for open plan living) and easy installation and routing of wires, pipes and ducts – no drilling through joists required and no risk of weakening the structure as a consequence.
- Totally flexible internal layout of accommodation modules means you can have what you want, where you want it.
- For two storey modules, an easy going (14 rise) dog-leg staircase, with no tapered steps, makes moving from one floor to another as safe as possible. And, makes moving furniture and installing a chair lift (if required) much simpler.
- Oak doors throughout, adding style and appeal to the interior environment.
- Dual finish (inside and out), low maintenance and recyclable energy efficient uPVC windows and doors, with a wide choice of colours, adding further style and appeal. All openable windows provide an emergency escape route and are cleanable from the inside to provide greater safety. Timber and aluminium clad timber windows and doors available.
- Composite, high security, front entrance door with decorative glass and matching sidelights for added appeal and a stylish welcome for visitors. Wide choice of door styles and glass patterns available to add to the uniqueness of your home.
How Much Does It Cost To Build A Thermohaus® Home?
This is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string! There are so many variables including:
- build approach – main contractor, project manage separate trades or DIY
- site accessibility – a confined / remote site may impact on the build process / time
- site gradient – a sloping site will require more under-building and make the build more difficult
- ground conditions – which will affect the foundation design
- size of house – the smaller, the greater the cost to build, per square metre
- internal fit out – extent of partitioning and number / type of doors
- number, size and specification of windows and doors
- choice of external wall and roof finishes
- choice of kitchen units and appliances
- choice of sanitary ware
This said, a reasonable guide price for building a typical Thermohaus home, which provides a much higher specification than most other kit homes, would be £1,500 – £1,800 per square metre of gross internal floor area (including the cost of the kit).
How Energy Efficient Are Thermohaus® Homes?
U-values are used to measure how effective elements of a buildings’s fabric are as insulators. That is, how effective they are at preventing heat from transmitting between the inside and the outside of a building.
The lower the U-value of an element of a building’s fabric, the more slowly heat is able to transmit through it, and so the better it performs as an insulator.
Very broadly, the better (i.e. lower) the U-value of a building’s fabric, the less energy is required to maintain comfortable conditions inside the building.
As energy prices increase and there is greater awareness of sustainability, performance measures such as U-values have become more important. Building regulations have required that lower and lower U-values are achieved.
This has required changes in the design of buildings, both in the use of materials (such as insulation), the make-up of the building elements (such as external walls) and the overall make up of a building’s fabric (such as the proportion of glazing).
Below we show the minimum requirements of the Building Regulations in England & Wales and the Building Standards in Scotland. We also show the comparison with our Thermohaus kit package. Our ‘KWall’, for example, provides significantly greater energy efficiency.
|U-values for building elements of the insulation envelope (W/m2K)|
|Element||England & Wales||Scotland||Thermohaus|
|Windows, Doors & Rooflights||2.00||1.60||Min. 1.40|
How Much Does It Cost To Run A Thermohaus® Home?
Thermohaus homes and highly insulated and airtight which means they require very little heating. We specify the heating and ventilation systems required for each home, ensuring they are both optimised and provide the ideal living environment. The running cost of a typical 3-bed Thermohaus home is approximately £300 per annum.
Why Timber Frame?
In recent years the house building community has become answerable to the Zero Carbon challenge.
No longer can we build homes that consume vast amounts of carbon in their construction but equally we can no longer afford to build poorly constructed homes.
Timber frame accounts for about 80% of the self-build market, delivering faster construction times and an effortless way to achieve energy efficient, sustainable homes.
All structural timbers are kiln dried to reduce moisture content, stress graded to meet engineering standards and pressure treated with preservative to protect against rot and fungal attack. This ensures structural stability and durability.
Throughout the UK you can see timber frame houses built hundreds of years ago which are still standing, albeit a bit squint!
By using timber within the fabric of your new home you can reduce energy consumption through improved thermal performance, air tightness and better insulation.
Timber frame has the lowest embodied Co2 of any commercially available building material, while delivering up to a 25% reduction in energy consumption. A typical timber frame home saves about 4 tonnes of Co2.
By using timber frame you can achieve a greater return on investment, whilst increasing your home’s appeal to design and environmentally conscious buyers in the future.
Timber frame brings plenty of practical advantages
- Quality assured off-site manufacture significantly simplifies construction, resulting in less on-site waste (as much as 20-40%, compared with other construction methods).
- Promotes greater efficiency and supply chain integration by combining component and material deliveries. Prefabricated components are also easy to transport and handle.
- Brings predictability and greater control to the construction process.
Meets and often exceeds all current Building Regulations.
Improves on-site construction health and safety. Off-site manufacture with automated machinery reduces accidents, as a controlled factory environment is a safer work space.
- Significantly faster construction period overall. Requires 20 per cent fewer on-site labour days. This means a faster return on investment, reduced disruption to local communities and tidier, safer sites.
- Wet trades are eliminated, so there’s no drying out time before work can continue on interior finishes.
- Construction can continue through cold and inclement weather – meaning shorter and more predictable build programmes.
- Particularly suited to sites with poor soil conditions (sites that favour lighter buildings), and sites with restricted access. Modular components are also easy to transport whilst prefabricated panels offer strict quality control and fewer post erection quality problems.
- Manufacture takes place in a quality controlled factory environment, resulting in less on-site defects.
- Provides excellent thermal efficiency, with lifetime savings in energy cost so an extremely environmentally friendly way to build. Timber is an organic, non-toxic and naturally renewable building material.
- Easier to achieve a high performance building fabric by maximising thermal performance and minimising air leakage. This approach is a low risk, cost-effective way to achieve sustainable homes.
Are There Any Issues With Timber Frame?
Not really. Most self-builders research the market place and make an informed decision on their preferred form of construction. However, some do not and can easily be influenced by uninformed hearsay. As a consequence a number of myths have arisen around timber frame construction.
Myth 1 – Timber frame homes are unstable.
This myth suggests timber frame homes are unable to stand up to high winds. Within the UK, the further north you are the more severe wind speed design criteria become, varying from 20 metres per second (m/s) in London to 29 m/s on the Isle of Lewis and Orkney Islands (see map). These maximum gust speeds are only likely to be exceeded once in 50 years. The annual mean wind speed across the north of Scotland, for example, is about 10 m/s. This approximates to 22 mph.
Thermohaus® homes are individually certified by an independent structural engineer and, in standard form, are suitable for any UK mainland or island location.
Timber frame construction affords some flexibility which makes it particularly suited to exposed locations where extreme wind forces may otherwise result in cracking. For this reason timber frame is the preferred form of construction in countries subjected to seismic activity.
Myth 2 – Timber frame homes are cold.
This myth arises due to the relative lack of solidity between a timber frame house and a masonry (brick / block) built house. Timber is a natural insulator and combined with the insulation materials fitted in the frames, timber frame homes offer greater thermal efficiency than the equivalent thickness of masonry built homes. Statutory requirements for ever more energy efficiency mean new homes have to be virtually airtight. This is far easier and cheaper to achieve in a timber frame home. Improved airtightness means homes are easier, cheaper and quicker to heat.
Thermohaus® homes feature our unique ‘KWall’ specification for the external walls which achieves an impressive U-value of 0.12 W/m2K. And, typical airtightness tests achieve an excellent air infiltration rate of less than 2 m3/h/m2.
Myth 3 – Timber frame homes pose a fire risk.
This myth is based on the perception that timber frame homes contain a lot more wood than masonry built homes. In general there is no difference in the timber content of floors, roofs, internal partitions, doors, kitchens, etc. in a timber frame built house compared to a masonry built house. The main difference occurs in the external wall construction. In a typical timber frame external wall, with a masonry outer leaf, the timber content is less than 9% by volume. Moreover, the timber is deeply embedded in the overall wall construction and protected by fire resistant materials such a plasterboard.
Myth 4 – Timber frame homes are noisy.
This myth is again based on the relative solidity of timber frame homes compared to masonry built homes. Although timber frame construction may appear more hollow, it is filled with insulating materials which not only provide better thermal performance but also better acoustic performance. ‘KWall’ goes further and provides an additional layer of acoustic insulation.
In external walls noise reduction depends on the quality of the windows and doors. In internal walls noise transfer between rooms is greatly reduced by the provision of sound deadening materials within the wall construction.
Myth 5 – Timber frame homes are prone to rot and/or fungal attack.
This myth is again based on the perception that timber frame homes contain a lot more wood than masonry built homes. As stated under Myth 3, the increase in timber content is actually less than 9% by volume and only in the external walls. All structural timbers are kiln dried to reduce moisture content, stress graded to meet engineering standards and pressure treated with preservative to protect against rot and fungal attack. This ensures structural stability and durability.
It should not go unnoticed that in some countries timber frame is the preferred form of house construction – Scotland – 80%; Australia – 90%+; Canada – 90%+; Japan – 45%; Norway – 90%+; Sweden – 90%+; USA – 90%+. It is estimated that across all the developed countries, timber frame accounts for around 70% of all housing stock, representing some 150 million homes.
If you have any other concerns about timber frame construction don’t hesitate to contact us.
Open or Closed / SIP Wall Panels?
Open wall panels require the insulation to be fitted on site but are easier to handle and can be readily adapted, if necessary.
Closed / SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) wall panels come in different forms but incorporate the insulation, saving time on site. However, closed panels come with an additional inner layer of OSB which can make them both heavier and more difficult to adapt on site. Also, you are reliant on the suppliers claim that there are no voids in the insulation.
Thermohaus® ‘KWall’ external wall panels offer the best of both worlds. They comprise an engineered, factory built, timber framework clad on the outside with 9 mm Orientated Strand Board (OSB) and a reflective breather membrane. The timber framework is then factory fitted with both acoustic and thermal insulation and a waterproof cover. On site they are protected from the elements, easy to handle and readily adapted (if necessary). Also, because you can see it, you can be reassured that the insulation is properly fitted.
Can I Render Directly Onto Your Kit Panels?
Yes. We recommend the specialist application of ‘K Rend’ silicone render to a cement carrier board on battens, fixed direct to the external face of the panels.
By this process, there is no need for an outer skin (brick, block, etc.) to the kit. This has the added advantage of simplifying and reducing the cost of the foundations.
How Do I Find A Plot?
Depending on which part of the UK you wish to live in, finding a suitable building plot may become a challenge. If plots are scarce focus on finding the plot first, don’t even think about your house design. When you’ve found your plot then you can design the house to suit that plot. For more information on house design take a look at our Thermohaus® Design Guide.
Most people will want to live in a specific part of the country due, perhaps, to work commitments / travel to work considerations, family ties or simply because it’s somewhere they know and like. If this is you, your task is possibly easier than if you are willing to live anywhere. Albeit your options may be limited.
Before you start your plot search, consult the Local Development Plan(s), to establish the area(s) where a proposal to build a new house is likely to be acceptable. Having done this take a look around the area(s) to check it is somewhere you would wish to live.
Having decided on your preferred area to live in you can set about finding your plot.
There are obvious places to look such as local press, local websites, property websites, estate agents, auction houses, local authority and so on. There are also dedicated national plot websites such as Plotfinder and Plotsearch. But, one of the most successful and little used ways of finding a site is to use your own initiative.
There are landowners out there who may not be looking to sell land but if the idea is put to them may consider it. Think about driving around the area and if you see a spot you like, find out who owns the land and make a direct approach. The worst that can happen is they say ‘no’!
If this seems a bit scary, think about asking the local pub landlord if they know of anyone thinking about selling land or place a ‘Plot Wanted’ ad. in the local press, shop, post office, etc. You could also produce a simple leaflet and pop it through neighbouring letterboxes.
Searching Google Maps might reveal a hidden gem which is not obvious from a drive past. Large gardens may offer a back-land site. Also look for derelict buildings or buildings of low value to pull down and replace.
A search of the local planning register may give you an advantage. Most landowners looking to sell a potential building plot will seek Outline Planning Permission (Planning In Principle, in Scotland) first, in order to maximise its market value. The application will include the owner’s (or their agent’s) contact details and a simple enquiry will establish if the plot is for sale. If it is, you are then in pole position and may be able to strike a deal before it goes on the open market.
Whatever you do, do not purchase land without planning permission. It could be an expensive gamble!
What Is The Process For Buying Land?
Before offering to buy a plot you are advised to appoint a local surveyor to undertake a comprehensive assessment – see the Thermohaus Site Assessment Checklist (available in Downloads) to establish its suitability for your purposes.
Having found a plot and agreed the price you need to instruct a solicitor to act on your behalf to submit a suitable offer, subject to planning permission, to the vendor’s solicitor.
Do not be tempted to seek cheaper options. It is important you have an independent adviser who is not only expert in the relevant legislation but also bound to protect your best interests. NB Most solicitors in England and Wales will not have the expertise to act in Scotland and vice versa.
Plots are often offered with Outline Planning Permission (Planning In Principle in Scotland), but this only establishes the principle and will likely impose certain conditions. You still need to seek full (detailed) planning permission for the siting, design and servicing of the actual house you wish to build.
If the land is part of a larger holding you need to ensure you get a title plan showing the land in relationship to surrounding landmarks and boundary positions / dimensions. This is particularly important where there are no fences or other clear boundary features such as hedges and ditches.
What Are The Options For Funding A Self-Build?
Mortgages for self-build are a specialist product and many lenders do not offer them. However, the self-build mortgage market has expanded considerably in recent years and so long as your project is correctly planned and presented, you should have little difficulty in obtaining a mortgage.
The major difference between a self-build mortgage and a traditional mortgage is that with the self-build version you will receive your mortgage funds in several stages, as your house build progresses, rather than a single lump sum, when buying an existing house. Within this overall structure there are a number of variations.
A self-build mortgage may cover the purchase of the building plot (depending on the lender). For the build itself, the mortgage will be paid to you in 4-6 instalments upon completion of agreed stages of the build (e.g. completion of the foundations). There are two main types of stage payment mortgage – arrears and advance, the difference between them being in the timing of the payments.
With an Arrears Mortgage you will receive the instalments after each stage is completed. This is safer for the lender but may cause you cash flow difficulties unless you have sufficient funds of your own.
With an Advance Mortgage you receive your instalments before each stage is started. Due to the added risk to the lender, this type of mortgage is usually more expensive.
Most lenders offer an Arrears Mortgage although an increasing number now offer the Advance Mortgage. If you have sufficient personal funds and/or a very understanding builder, you will generally find it cheaper to go for the Arrears Mortgage as it should be cheaper.
How Much Can I Borrow?
The amount you can borrow for your self-build will vary from lender to lender. Some will only allow you to borrow for the build itself, others will offer a mortgage on both the land and the build. At the time of writing (2018) it is possible to borrow up to 95% of the value of the land and 90% of the value of the completed house from some lenders. But, many will not lend more than 75-80%. If you borrow a high percentage, it is likely you will have to pay a higher interest rate.
If building in Scotland there is a Scottish Self-Build Loan Fund which lends up to £175,000, subject to there being a conventional mortgage offer in place, to allow the loan to be repaid on completion of the build. Further information is available on our Downloads page.
Mortgage Requirements and Restrictions
Every lender will impose some restrictions on the mortgage. These may include:
- Low Loan To Value (LTV) i.e. the amount they are prepared to lend in relation to the market value of the completed house. LTVs of 80% are the norm but tend to vary between 75% and 85%. This means the level of ‘deposit’ (own cash) required is generally higher than required for a conventional mortgage.
- Maximum amount of loan.
- Sufficient income for two mortgages if you intend to keep your existing mortgage during the build. Otherwise, you will have to sell your current home first.
- Insistence that all building work is undertaken by professional main contractor.
- Restriction on the types of the materials you can use in your build so that your house is easy to re-sell.
- Insistence that the house is detached and for owner occupation.
- Insistence that the planning consent for the land has a minimum amount of time remaining, for example two years.
- Insistence that appropriate insurance is in place during the building work itself and that an appropriate warranty is obtained at the end of the build.
There are over 30 providers of self-build mortgages in the UK. There are also specialist brokers such as BuildLoan and BuildStore. Some of these providers only deal with the self-build market, but many are high street lenders. A few of the providers only deal with a niche of the self-build market, such as Eco-build.
Types of Mortgage
Remember even with Self-Build mortgages you are not necessarily limited to the conventional variable rate mortgage. It should be possible to locate fixed rate, tracker and self-certification mortgages.
Other funding options
Not everyone wants, or needs a mortgage. You may be able to fund your build in other, cheaper ways. For example, if you already own a house with substantial equity, it may be cheaper to re-mortgage your house with a larger loan and use this to fund your self-build. A re-mortgage on an existing property should always work out cheaper than a self-build mortgage. You may also wish to consider selling your existing property and moving into rented accommodation or a caravan on site.
How Easy Is It To Get Planning Permission?
It’s all a matter of design and place.
We are based in the Scottish Highlands and see ourselves as guardians of one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. You need to understand and respect the environment you plan to build in.
The Highland Council produced a ‘Guide To Housing In The Countryside’ (available in Downloads). Since most self-builders want to live in the countryside, and a lot of the information contained in the guide is generic, it’s a useful read.
It is advisable to consult the Local Development Plan (LDP) which your local authority will have drawn up. This should be available to view on their website. The LDP will set out the planning policy for building homes in your area and may provide useful design guidance.
We also recommend you consult Planning Department staff to make sure they are happy with what you are proposing.
Bottom line, follow the advice and guidance you’re given and obtaining planning permission should be relatively painless. Fight against it and you’ll have a battle on your hands!
What Is The Planning Process?
When building a new house there are two primary statutory (legal) consents you need to obtain before starting any work on site – planning permission and building regulation approval.
Both are governed by acts of Parliament and there are separate acts applicable to building in England & Wales and Scotland. They are administered by Local Authorities (Councils) or, in the case of national parks, by Park Authorities.
Unlike building regulations, planning permission can differ significantly from area to area due to differing local development plans and the significant degree of subjectivity involved in the process. For example permission may depend on an appropriate design, which is of course an area very much open to debate!
Therefore while National planning guidance will give you an indication of whether you need planning permission or not and which minor works you can carry out without permission, it is essential that you contact your local planning authority as early in the process as possible to obtain local guidance and advice.
There are two categories of planning permission:
- Outline Planning Permission (England & Wales)
Outline Planning Permission (OPP) establishes the principle of developing the site e.g. for a 3-bed detached single storey house with garage. The actual site layout, house design, dimensions, materials and access can be decided at a later date. If a plot is granted OPP, you will still need to make an application for Full Planning Permission (FPP) at a later date. OPP status is usually valid for three years at which point a re-application will be required. In Scotland this is known as Planning In Principle (PIP) but the process is essentially the same.
- Full (Detailed) Planning Permission
Full (Detailed) Planning Permission (FPP) establishes the detail of what is to be built including floor layouts (plans), appearance (elevations), dimensions and building materials. As soon as FPP is granted building work may commence, subject to all other consents being in place. Sometimes conditions of approval will be attached and these must be complied with during the project. FPP is valid for three years.
The actual process may vary from one Local Authority (LA) to another, but in general the process is as follows:
The LA receives your planning application and checks it is correct. If mistakes are found, the application is usually returned.
When the application has been verified (and the appropriate fee paid) it will be entered on a statutory register. At this point an 8 week period begins in which the application should be considered and a decision notice issued.
The application will be allocated a planning officer who will either determine it under delegated powers or, for ‘contentious’ applications, refer it to the LA’s planning committee comprising local councillors.
Initially, there is a period of public consultation regarding the application. The extent of this will depend on the site location and the impact of the development but it will always include local neighbours. This process normally lasts 3 weeks.
When the LA has received all the necessary responses, the planning officer will assess the proposal against the LA’s planning policies. The planning officer will then make a decision regarding the application or provide a recommendation to the planning committee.
If there is a problem with your application, the planning officer may contact you in an attempt resolve it. More likely it will simply be refused. You will then need to re-submit an amended proposal or appeal the decision.
Having received full (detailed) planning permission, you will then need to seek building regulation approval.
Building Regulations (England & Wales) / Standards (Scotland)
The building regulations / standards govern the technical aspects of your house. These cover structural, fire, health, safety, access and energy considerations.
In England & Wales they are governed by Approved Documents administered by either the LA’s Building Control (LABC) service or independent approved inspectors. In Scotland they are governed by a Domestic Technical Handbook administered by the LABC service.
Building Regulation Approval (England & Wales) Building Warrant (Scotland) is obtained by completing and submitting the appropriate application together with fee and all necessary drawings, certificates and other documents. The application will then be assessed for compliance with any clarification or additional information required being requested as necessary.
Once the Building Control Officer is satisfied with your plans you will receive Building Control Approval (or Warrant). This process usually takes approx. 6-8 weeks. Once the building work is completed, it is likely that the Building Control Officer will want to inspect the work to ensure that it complies with the approval granted. They will then issue the required Completion Certificate.
Do I Need To Employ An Architect?
No, our technical director Jonathan Miller has over 20 years experience as an architectural designer and will guide you through the whole process. Moreover, Jonathan’s services come free of charge!
We provide all necessary drawings, specification, SAP calculations and kit / truss structural certificates.
Unless you are local to us you will need to employ a local surveyor to provide us with site specific information such as dimensions, boundary details, ground levels and service arrangements.
As part of our service we will also seek planning consent and building regulation approval, on your behalf . You will only be required to pay the necessary statutory fees to the local authority.
What Insurance Cover Will I Need?
While you are actually constructing your house, you will probably need insurance in order to protect yourself and to meet the requirements of your mortgage lender. In particular, you are looking for insurance to protect yourself against the following claims:
Contractor and third party claims
To protect yourself against claims for injury or death of people working on your site or any other third party.
Employer’s liability insurance
To protect yourself against any claims in your role as a building employer.
Site and Materials
To protect yourself against loss, theft or damage of building materials and your partially completed house.
To protect yourself against loss, theft or damage to equipment on site.
Your precise insurance requirements will depend on the level of your involvement in the project. For example, if the whole build is being undertaken by a single builder, it is unlikely that you will need to insure yourself as an employer. If however, you are managing the entire build and directly employing individual contractors it is likely you are acting as an employer. As every situation is different, it is essential you carefully specify your requirements to your insurer/broker.
Most self-builders take out an ‘All Risks’ policy with a specialist broker. There are a handful of specialist self-build insurance providers and you will find their details here.
How Do I Find A Builder?
The advice provided here is primarily aimed at self-builders looking to go down the full build route whereby a single building contractor undertakes all the work. This said, certain aspects apply equally to both self-managed and DIY self-build projects.
If you are building in an area which you know well, chances are you know of most of the local builders. This being the case it’s a simple matter of asking them for references from previous customers and ensuring they’ve had experience of undertaking similar projects.
If you are unfamiliar with the area in which you plan to build but have friends, family or work colleagues who are, it is likely someone will be able to give you a recommendation. Failing this you could ask the local council planning or building control office for a list of reputable builders.
By employing a local builder you benefit from their local knowledge. They will know about any local by-laws, be familiar with local ground conditions and have a good working relationship with local council officials and utility undertakings. All of which will ensure the project goes more smoothly.
There can be little doubt that local knowledge will serve you best.
Be wary of kit manufacturers offering a turnkey solution, unless you have deep pockets! The reason for this is simply a matter of cost and management – by the time they’ve added in travel and subsistence costs it would be very expensive and managing a project at arm’s length is rarely satisfactory. Frankly, any kit manufacturer (unless they are within say 50 miles of you) will struggle to provide this service cost effectively or efficiently. There are almost certainly going to be delays and co-ordination issues.
Erecting the kit and building a timber frame home should not offer any kind of a challenge to a local builder. We supply full working drawings and an erection manual which provide all necessary information. Exceptionally, we can provide a structural kit erection service (to wind and watertight stage) but, again, travel and subsistence costs weigh heavily into the overall cost of this service.
We recommend you employ a National House Building Council (NHBC) registered house builder. As the leading home warranty and insurance provider and standards-setter for UK house-building, NHBC’s ‘Buildmark’ covers around 80% of new homes built in the UK and currently protects over 1.6 million homes. And, you will need a ‘warranty’ for mortgage purposes.
To find an NHBC registered builder in your area check the NHBC Register.
If you plan to either undertake most of the work yourself or project manage a number of separate trades, the ‘Buildmark’ route will not be an option.
If you’re really stuck, there are various national and regional trade organisations which you could search including the Federation of Master Builders, Scottish Building Federation, Trustmark, Fairtrades and Checkatrade.
If building in any other way than through the NHBC you will need to appoint a suitable qualified, independent, building supervisor who will provide the Professional Consultants Certificate required by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. In this case any ‘warranty’ claims for defects would be made against the consultant’s professional indemnity insurance.
Failure to have any form of ‘warranty’, whether you need a mortgage or not, will make it difficult, if not impossible, to sell your home. And, none of us knows what the future holds!
Finally, make sure you obtain quotations from at least three builders and, once a contract has been signed, don’t make any changes. Changes will always cost you dear!
Do I Need To Use An NHBC Registered Builder?
No, you do not. We would recommend you do, if you are looking for a single contractor to undertake a full build service. As the leading home warranty and insurance provider and standards-setter for UK house-building, NHBC’s ‘Buildmark’ covers around 80% of new homes built in the UK and currently protects over 1.6 million homes. And, you will need a ‘warranty’ for mortgage purposes.
If you plan to either undertake most of the work yourself or project manage a number of separate trades, the ‘Buildmark’ route will not be an option.
By far the simplest route is to appoint a suitable qualified, independent, building supervisor who will provide the Professional Consultants Certificate required by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. If you go down this route, the builder does not need to be NHBC and any claims for defects would be made against the consultant’s professional indemnity insurance.
What Are My Options For A Structural Warranty?
Mortgage lenders generally require new homes to have a 10 year structural warranty. These warranties are essentially a 10 year insurance policy which covers the home owner against physical damage to the property caused by a defect which results from the builder failing to construct it to the required standards.
Most house builders are members of the National House-Building Council (NHBC) and offer their ‘Buildmark’ warranty. Although NHBC were the founding providers of such warranties a number of alternatives exist for self-builders who may not be employing an NHBC registered builder.
The Local Authority Building Control (LABC) service also offers a structural warranty.
Finally, there’s the ‘Architect’s Certificate’ more correctly known as the Professional Consultant’s Certificate. This option differs from the others in so far as cover is usually provided by the practitioners personal professional indemnity insurance. For further information visit the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) website.
Do You Have Any Show Homes To View?
No, we do not. To be candid, show homes only offer any value if it’s the house type you’re actually looking for. For the most part they are little more than an interior design exercise.
Of greater importance is the actual construction and the benefits that offers to the home owner in terms of cost and energy efficiency. The internal features can be whatever you want them to be.
Although Thermohaus® homes are based on a value engineered modular concept, we understand that a well designed home needs to be as individual as the owner. We, therefore, aim to be as flexible as possible to ensure your needs are met.
Our website includes a virtual tour through one of our Thermohaus® homes and will, hopefully, give you a sense of the environment we aim to achieve with our Thermohaus® homes.
Do You Offer A Turnkey Service?
No, we do not. The reason for this is simply a matter of cost and management – by the time we’ve added in travel and subsistence costs it would be very expensive and managing a project at arm’s length is rarely satisfactory. Frankly, any kit manufacturer (unless they are within say 50 miles of you) will struggle to provide this service cost effectively or efficiently. And, if they do, there are almost certainly going to be delays and co-ordination issues.
By far and away the best option is for you to appoint a trusted local builder to undertake the work, with the kit manufacturer simply supplying the kit. A local builder will know the ground conditions (necessary when designing foundations) in your area, avoiding any costly surprises. They will have a good working relationship with the local building control officers, ensuring your project runs smoothly. And, they will know the best sub-contractors to employ for specialist trades such as plumbing, heating and electrical works.
The kit erection should not offer any kind of a challenge to the builder. We supply full working drawings and an erection manual which provide all necessary information. Exceptionally, we can provide a structural kit erection service (to wind and watertight stage) but, again, travel and subsistence costs weigh heavily into the overall cost of this service.
Do You Offer A Kit Erection Service?
We do have an erection team but by the time we add in travel and subsistence costs our erection service is unlikely to be very competitive. So, we tend to confine this service to ‘local’ projects, within 50 miles of our base.
Travel and subsistence costs will also be an issue for any so called ‘specialist’ timber frame erection service, unless they are local to your project. In any event, in our opinion. this type of service is probably unnecessary and simply creates another team of workers to be managed.
Most kit erection services are limited to simply erecting the structural kit components to wind and watertight stage. This is because they can get in and out in one visit and not have multiple visits working around electrical and plumbing first fix.
Unless you are able / willing to do the internal fitting out (lay flooring; erect internal partitions; fit insulation, plasterboard and skirtings; fit internal window sill boards, door sets and architraves; (possibly) fit kitchen) yourself, you will be employing either a joiner or a builder who undertakes joinery work.
There is no reason why whoever is going to undertake the internal fitting out could not undertake the erection. We supply a comprehensive erection manual and for a competent joiner it should be quite straightforward. This way you save travel and subsistence costs which are arguably an unnecessary added expense.
What's Not Included In Your Kit Package?
The Thermohaus® kit package is one of the most comprehensive in the marketplace and essentially includes all joinery components and materials.
To be clear the following are not included in our timber frame kit packages:
- Foundations and walls to damp course level.
- Concrete floor slab and underfloor insulation.
- Kit erection (unless quoted separately).
- External cladding (unless stated in quote)
- Outer wall around kit (if applicable).
- Roof tiles/slates/sheeting and dry ridge/verge/flashings.
- Rainwater gutters and downpipes.
- Kitchen units and appliances.
- Sanitary ware and plumbing materials.
- Heating equipment and materials.
- Ventilation equipment and materials.
- Electrical equipment and materials.
- Smart home technology.
- Floor and wall tiling and the like.
- Painting & decorating materials.