Why Self Builds Take an Extra Year to be Truly Complete

Monday, November 21, 2016

When is a build complete? As is often the case in construction, this is a simple question with a very complicated answer. Or, more accurately, two complicated answers: the build is complete when the Practical Completion Certificate is issued, or the build is complete when the defects period is over.

The Practical Completion Certificate is issued when the build has been declared safe and complete by a buildings regulations officer, covering a number of elements from electrical and gas safety to structural integrity and the general risk of injury in the home. Once this is issued, the build is considered complete from a legal standing, and ownership of the build is transferred from the contractor to the owner.

Along with a Practical Completion Certificate, the owner also receives a house manual that explains how to use its various facilities and systems (which become more high tech by the day), drawings of the final build, various warranties, model numbers for any required replacements, health and safety certificates and so on. This document is invaluable to current and future owners who want to make the most of their home, so we work closely with the contractor to ensure it is detailed and easy to understand.

Issuing the Practical Completion Certificate also transfers liability. While the build is ongoing, the contractor has their own insurance in place should there be any accidents or damage on site, but the moment the Practical Completion Certificate is issued, liability is transferred to the owner. If you’re considering a build, make sure you have your insurance cover planned well in advance and ready to go in effect the moment ownership is transferred.

It’s crucial that any major issues with the build are corrected before this certificate is issued. If we or the client discover areas where the contractor hasn’t fulfilled what’s described in the design, we have the right to condemn works, which means that the contractor is obligated to correct them at no extra cost to the client. As this is a serious accusation, we use tools to objectively measure the end result to make sure it’s up to our standards, which is a tolerance of a 1 millimetre inaccuracy per 2 metres.

When we’re first deciding the timescale of a project, we build in a period of contingency to allow for unexpected developments, whether it’s because we need to condemn works, the client wants to change something or if there’s an unavoidable obstacle in the build such as bad weather. This contingency period means that our clients don’t have to choose between moving in on time and achieving the quality they expect and deserve.

But what about smaller issues? The homes we build aren’t pulled off a production line that creates identical results. Each is an enormous, bespoke, handcrafted undertaking with the involvement of hundreds of people by the time it is completed. That means that somewhere, something won’t be quite right.

Luckily for our clients, they don’t have to worry about such issues for the first year that they’ve moved in, which is known as the defects period. Whether big or small, any problems found during this settling in period are fixed at no extra cost.

Most of the time, these are small, easily correctable issues known in the industry as snagging. This includes things like a stiff light switch, a tap that’s not at full flow, a radiator that doesn’t heat up, a tile that’s askew or cracked, an oil stain on the floor, an odd patch of paintwork and so on.

Typically, we’ll find about four or five per room and many are the sort of minor details that are only noticed once you’re living in the house when the as yet untested facilities are put through their paces through all seasons.

Once the defects period is over, our official obligation to our clients is complete but that doesn’t mean our relationship is. Whether it’s because they’ve phased the work in multiple stages, they get the itch to make more improvements or they’re developing another home, we end up working with many of our clients for years on end as their circumstances change and their families grow.