The 3 most common site horror stories and how to avoid them

In honour of Halloween week we wanted to talk about when things go wrong; and things going wrong on your renovation project during the build - what is more horrific then that?

Between myself [Leoni], Oguz & Ryan we have seen over 100 projects go to site during our professional careers so far; and with that we wanted to discuss the 3 main things that we have seen go gone, and how you can avoid these costly and timely events happening on your project.

1.) No Contract in place….

The key benefit of having a contract in place is that it sets out the duties and obligations that have been agreed and provides protection for all parties should there be a failure to deliver the required obligations. Critical items forming get basis of the contract are items such as the approved set of drawings and scope of works to be carried out, the contract sum based on the drawings and scope of works, the length of the construction programme, start and end dates, retention percentage to be retained, rectification periods and liquidated damages.

Should you have no contract in place when your project goes to site, you may stumble across a number of problems. The agreed contract sum may increase if there is no agreed scope of works, making the cost of your project increase whilst on site. The project may take much longer to completion, as there is no agreed construction programme or penalties in place for the overrun of the programme. Without a contract it is unlikely that retention will be retained for each payment making it much more difficult getting a contractor back to site for the defects and rectification period.

These are only a few of the issues that may arise. The subject of a contract is a full blog post in itself. If you would like to know more about contracts, please get in touch as we will create a contracts blog post or answer any queries you may have.

2. Existing unsafe structure discovered on site…

Ok so this one isn’t really one you can avoid, because you don’t know what’s going on under the floorboards or behind the plasterboard until it’s opened up. However there are two key things you can do to attempt to get a step ahead of the game if unsafe structure is at play.

Firstly have a contingency pot in place before works begin. A contingency is an allowance of allocated money for the purposes to be used if any unknown risks associated with your project appear during the construction.

This would typically be an additional 10% of the construction cost. You don’t need to tell your builder you have this contingency, they may see it as ‘extra’ money to be spent and that’s not it purpose. It’s purpose is to ensure, if anything unforeseen comes up, you can afford to safely sort it out and finish your project. It’s essentially your safety net.

Secondly, if your property has been extended before you bought the property then ask the previous owners / estate agents for a copy of the previous drawings. Contact your local authority and ask for a copy of the building control drawings. This will allow you to see all the construction details submitted along with the structural engineers details and calculations. If there are no building control records, then it is likely the works were done illegally, without approval and there is a chance it probably wasn’t constructed correctly.

The most common unsafe structural issues we have found on sites are existing loft conversions beams bearing directly onto non load bearing walls and unspecified timber padstones used. This isn’t safe construction.

So unsafe existing structure is unavoidable and if something is uncovered on your site by your builder; here are our quick steps on what to do:

1.) Stop all works on site. The health and safety of your contractors is your priority, make sure if something unsafe is discovered, that the site is closed until it’s made safe again.

2.) Contact your architect and structural engineer immediately. Send over initial photos of what has been found and arrange for them to come to site and inspect. You will need the structural engineer to specify the new structure and solutions and the architect to ensure the design intent isn’t affected.

3.) Ensure the contractor has added any temporary structural measures to support the structure (if possible) i.e acro props may be used to support loads above. If the contractor and structural engineer have agreed the temporary measures are safe, then works on site may resume.

4.) Follow the lead and advice of your architect and structural engineer and work as a team with the contractor to get the project back on track.

3. Mains Drain discovered on site….

Most mains drains and sewers are usually picked up during the site survey. The usual giveaway is man hole covers found in the front or back garden, which can be inspected to confirm what type of drain is below ground. If a mains sewer is found to be found running along an area where there is proposed extension/foundation works, a Build Over Notice will be required.

A Build Over Notice will require a structural engineer to specify a foundation detail, highlighting how the proposed foundation will bridge over the drain below ground and how the drain run will be protected. This information will be submitted to the your local water board for approval.

If an unknown drain or sewer is uncovered on site, this can delay the progression. A period of time will be required by the structural engineer to provide the required detailing. Upon submission of the information to the local water board, the approval process typically takes three weeks.

Ways to try and avoid delays with unknown mains drains and sewers it to contact your local water to board, to see if they have any record of them for your property. If any of your neighbours have extended their property, it will be beneficial speaking with them to see if they had to submit a Build Over Notice to the local water board. So go out there and get neighbourly, it could help save you time and money on your own project!

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