Most self-build ventures that come to grief start to do so long before the building work begins. It is in the earliest stages of planning a project that mistakes are usually made that can lead to an eventual failure.Many self-builders begin their projects without fully appreciating the various pitfalls they may encounter and frankly, they sometimes appear to be wearing distinctly rose colored glasses. The wrong site, lack of services, access problems, bad ground, Radon contamination… the list goes on and on. It is essential that any site is properly investigated before a decision to buy or build is taken. There aren’t many insurmountable problems in building, only very expensive ones! Commercial clients such as insurance companies or pension funds would no more begin a building project without a proper investigation of the site, the scheme and all its possible ramifications… than they would pay out on an insurance claim or pension, without first checking if it was valid!The finished article doesn’t have to be decided at this point ... but it should start the process of moving forward on the right track, so that the completed project will be what the client actually wants and just as importantly, can afford. The process of investigating feasibility is what any commercial client would expect from a good construction project manager, in order to gain the maximum value for money. In order to forward plan finances, it would be more sensible to establish what you are attempting to erect your building on in the first place. Are there any buried problems? Is the ground stable enough to carry the load, without having to pile foundations to the earth’s core? Is there a river running underground just below the surface? Any of these things could be the case and please… don’t expect the vendor of the land to be honest about any concealed problems, even if he does know about them.Any responsibility to check the site is yours so how should this be carried out. Feasibility is the name of the process and if it is undertaken with the same zeal as all the ‘sexy bits’ of the project, then it can be a real lifesaver, as nasty surprises could be waiting for any unwary self-builder. All it takes to do it is a general idea of the building design, the type of site desired and lots of research.Don’t be afraid to ask for advice. Start with the value of any completed project. Ask the local estate agents to give a valuation. Most will do this free although there are tools on the internet available to help with this. There is no point in erecting a fine and beautiful building, if it costs more to build than it would be worth at sale. As a rule of thumb, developers use a calculation like this:35% for the site itself.35% for the build cost.30% profit.If the building is for your own use then the profit is saved. However, it is no point in squandering that saving on expensive fittings or an expensive site if it then takes the costs over the top. It must also be remembered that developers are building a cheaper generic type of dwelling not a bespoke home, so your final build cost could well end up higher.Check out the underlying bedrock at the proposed site location, via the British Geological Survey add-on, to Google Earth. This will give the required basic information. Iit will still need some further research to ascertain whether the local subsoil is stable and if there are any other geological considerations such as clay soil and tree proximity. In addition, any information regarding local ground water conditions would be useful.
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