Everything you need to know about building a house from someone who’s never done it before

So now I am in charge of building this house what is the plan?

Well…..It may be because I am totally naive and know absolutely nothing about building houses but it seems to me that the process of building the house comes in three simple sections.

screenshot2019-01-31at12.36.50How hard can it be…?

Firstly the ground works, foundations, drainage and pipes and stuff.

Secondly: the frame. We are getting this made by Scotframe. It will have doors, windows, internal walls staircase, insulation and all, all prepared in the factory. It gets erected on site to wind and watertight in four days (FOUR DAYS?!) It then just needs the cladding and slates on.

Lastly: By then you’ve basically got something that looks like a house on the outside and you need all the stuff done on the inside: heating, wires, flooring, bathrooms, kitchen.

Does that sound right to you? It sounds simple enough doesn’t it?

Look I have organised loads of stuff in my life. Once, when my youngest was a baby I arranged for some fallen trees on Arran to be transported back to Glasgow, made into a boat by the amazing Galgael and then sailed back to Arran where it circumnavigated the island stopping at four ports on the way to different festivities and events. I keep the family logistics running, I run the Naseby Park Cherry Blossom Festival, at work I organize everything all the time. When I have a few moments free I invent new things to organize to fill the time like complex multi-day walks following a massive birthday celebration or a business doing ceilidhs to disco music.

I think I should be OK with building this house. I hope …. Watch this space.


Going it alone

So now I am in charge of getting this house built. I suppose I always was, but I felt rather removed from the action. I can’t say I feel like that now.

We put out tenders in April to six builders, five were local and one a project manager based some distance from Cuil Bay. By the closing date we only had one quote back, which came from the distant project manager, was double the money we have and 30% higher than even the, already utterly unaffordable, estimate of the quantity surveyor. The architect suggested this was a quote from someone who didn’t so much want the work, as showing interest to keep their names on the architect’s list.

Over the past year, every estimate of costs we’ve had has been terrifyingly high, but each time this happened and I squeaked with alarm, the architects soothingly said ‘let’s wait until we get quotes in’. However now we were at the end of the process and we didn’t even have any quotes in.

I had been warned by my sawmill friend from Morven that the building market was buoyant and we might struggle to find builders with only sending the tender out in April. And he was right.

The other concern was that by going with the architect as project managers I was losing the control and the involvement in the build myself. The very reason for wanting to build a house in the first place. The architects, used to managing big social housing developments or other big schemes had a very paperwork and process-heavy system involving a QS who keeps tabs on costs at every stage and the architects to ensure every detail is delivered according to spec. I had been happy to take this route being completely new to this building thing and in the hope that the QS would help keep costs under control.

However there is the addition of costs doing it this way, that I had convinced myself would pay for itself in the end. The QS would be paid a percentage of the build costs.

It did fleetingly cross my mind that paying a QS a percentage of the build costs is rather a perverse incentive: If they do their job the very best in keeping the costs down they will get paid less than if they slack off and I have to pay more for the house. But I shrugged this off – we’re all professionals.

Anyway it wasn’t that which made me decide to go it alone, it was that we were getting absolutely nowhere with getting anyone to build my house. It looked like local builders had enough work to take the jobs they wanted and the extra hassel of dealing with QS and piles of paperwork and bills of quantities and forms to fill in when they usual deal directly with the client meant that I wasn’t going to get it built anytime soon.

This house needs a different approach and it looks like that approach is me….. Me with a busy job and a demanding family and with my naisant company calling ceilidhs to disco music.

This should be interesting.