Team meeting imageEvery new-build needs a project manager. The role of a project manager when building a home is to take charge of the project from the very beginning to the very end and ensure that everything happens as planned and within budget. You can either take on this role yourself with your self-build, or hire a professional to take up the strain.

At the very start of a project the project manager must choose the right designer, architect and builder to work with. Communication is key to project managing, so it helps to get everyone who will be involved together at the start and discuss the expectations from the project and work out a communication strategy.

The project manager will arrange the financing of the build at the beginning of the project. Knowing when you will have cash available is critical to keeping the project running smoothly. It’s no good having the finance if it’s tied up in bonds or as equity when you need to pay suppliers. At this stage it’s also the project manager’s job to sort out the legal aspects associated with the build and to ensure that everything will be in-line with the guidelines set by the council.

Once the finance and budget have been put in place the project manager has to work closely with the architect or designer to finalise the design of the home. This is a crucial stage as every detail will have to looked at closely and costed to make sure that everything will come in on budget and on time. If the project manager has been hired by the client, then the client has to fully understand what the plans mean and how the home will look and feel.

Once the initial set up, planning and budgeting has been completed, the build can begin and the role of a project manager changes. Choosing and hiring the right contractors for the build at the right time and choosing the right suppliers is a major part of the job. Materials have to turn up on time, as do the tradesmen; the last thing you want are plasterers on site but with no walls ready for them! This involves a lot of background research to find reputable organisations and getting quotes.

As the build progresses the project manager has to be responsible for coordination and communication. No matter how well the planning went things will go wrong, get delayed and plans will need to be tweaked. The project manager must deal with all the mishaps and hiccups and keep the build running smoothly. For this the project manager must be highly organised and be aware of exactly what’s happening with the build and what implications any delays have on future plans and budgets. Any changes need to be communicated to all the relevant parties.

When sections of the build are completed the project manager is ultimately responsible for the quality of the work. The project manager’s role is to check for anything that falls below standard, or anything that hasn’t been completed to the correct specification, and arrange for it to be fixed while it still can. The project manager may have to get good at tough negotiating with contractors who provide a sub-standard service, or suppliers that don’t deliver the advertised goods.

Keeping track of the finance throughout the building process, paying suppliers and contractors on time and keeping up with the cash flow is the job of the project manager. Forgetting to pay a third party will lead to delays and extra costs and an unhappy workforce. Paperwork has to be managed effectively so no VAT is paid needlessly and warranties and guarantees are adhered to.

Towards the end of the build, the project manager must sign everything off, check that the build is in-line with all the regulations set out at the start and make sure that all the loose ends are tied up, including final payments and the financing.

Throughout this whole process the project manager must be organised, methodical and confident in the decision making process. It helps a lot if the project manager acts as a leader and is calm and approachable. If subcontractors don’t feel like they can voice any concerns with the project manager then the build could run into trouble. But as well as that the project manager must be a tough negotiator to keep costs low and quality high.

Builders such as K.J. Hill may be in a position to take on the role of project management as well as all the other building functions of groundworks, brick laying, services, floor screeding, roofing, dry lining/plastering, electrics, plumbing, decorating and so on.



budgetingBuilding your own home is both rewarding and stressful. The learning curve is steep as new challenges present themselves daily. Even seasoned professionals feel the pressure when building a home for their family.

Managing a budget when undertaking a self build is the most important factor in reducing the stress of the project and maximising your enjoyment. But it’s also one of the most difficult things to do. Many people get it wrong and end up with far more debt than they intended, or worse, having to give up. Make sure you don’t get caught out on your self-build and before you start, learn how to manage your budget.

Cash is king

However you are funding your build ensure you have enough cash to pay for materials, suppliers, tradesman and your living costs during the project. Different loan and mortgage suppliers will release the cash on different terms. Make sure the cash will be available at the right stages and not tied up in bonds or equity. Be very clear about your cash flow before you start anything else. Don’t rely on being able to re-mortgage a house, or extend a loan, as the economic downturn has made acquiring extra cash much more difficult than it used to be.

Spend more to spend less

Always receive at least 3 quotes from suppliers and tradesmen before you decide on what to buy, but don’t always go for the cheapest. Whether you’re sourcing materials or deciding on a builder, architect or designer, choose and pay for quality. If you go for the cheapest then the chances are that you will have to redo things and this is where budgets can spiral out of control. Take the time to do research on who you are going to use.

Use reputable suppliers

You will need goods to turn up on time in order to stick to your budget. If your windows turn up four weeks late, then that’s four extra weeks without a weather-tight house and four extra weeks of paying project managers and builders, as well as having to juggle other trades people such as plasterers.

Have a contingency fund

With the best will in the world a project as large as building a home is going to hit obstacles. You can plan as much as you like, but it could snow in May, your head builder could come down with food poisoning at the worst possible moment and your bespoke staircase company could go into liquidation. Things happen. Rather than plan everything tightly and efficiently, plan for life to get in the way. At every stage of the build allow extra time and extra money. It’s the only way not to get caught out. If you finish early and with extra money you won’t complain.

Stick to your plan

You have had an image of your ideal home floating around in your head since childhood. You’ve lived in many properties you’ve disliked and dreamt of perfection. You know where you want the sockets situated, you know what brand of thermostat you like and you know what splash of colour you’ll have on your new bedspread. Don’t start your build until you have finalised all your plans and make sure final means final. You can always redecorate in a couple of years if you wish, but for the initial home build if you go off on a whim you will blow your budget. It’s not just the extra cost of materials, but the extra time for builders, the extra work for contractors and the architect may have to redraw plans. Changing your mind costs a surprising amount of money.

Decide on the best use of your time

It may save you about 20% of the cost of a build if you project manage yourself, but is this the best use of your time? Project management is a full time and stressful job. You could well be better handing over to a professional and continuing with your job. Trying to juggle a full time job and project managing is a huge undertaking. If your work suffers then so could your money, not all bosses will be forgiving if your performance takes a downturn. This won’t mean that you’re not involved in the build, but it may place less pressure on you and your family. If you have the time then, of course, project managing is a rewarding experience, but don’t undertake it unless you can commit 100%.

If you have a project manager or managing builders like K.J. Hill, they should be able to advise you what may go wrong at each stage of the build, e.g. planning, architects drawings, groundworks/foundations, services, floor screeding, electrics, bricklaying/blockwork, roofing, plumbing, partitioning, dry lining, plastering, decorating/painting etc. This will enable you and them to plan for contingencies so that they may be managed at minimal cost.