project manager

self build timeline 2 copy…The site is now yours, but you still have seemingly endless amounts of paperwork to get through before you can even think about concrete.

Find insurance

The first step is to find insurance. This is vital in case things go wrong with the build or any workers injure themselves.

Find your team

Now is the time to find your key workers. Depending on your experience and how much involvement you’re going to have in the project you will want to find an architect or a designer and a project manager. If you wish, you can take on the role of project manager yourself. A project manager typically costs 7-15% of the overall build cost, so doing this yourself could save you money, but it could also cost you if it isn’t done well. Be warned, project management means being on site most days and always available if something crops up.

Employing a company such as KJ Hill to project manage your self-build means that you have an experienced professional taking care of everything for you. Working to tight deadlines and ensuring that tradesmen are on site at just the right time can save you the cost of paying for your project manager and more. If you choose to take on the role yourself, be very sure you have the time, organisational ability and knowledge to do this.

Plan design

With your team together you now need to plan your design. This will come as a welcome break after months of paperwork. At the end of this stage you’ll have a clear vision of how your project will turn out; giving you the hope you need to get you through. Make sure budgets and time frames have some all-important leeway built in for the inevitable hiccups that you will come across.

Planning permission

You should already have a clear idea of the planning regulations that will affect you, but with your plot purchased and your design in-hand it’s time to seek planning permission. This stage will seem excruciatingly slow, but provided you’ve done your research you shouldn’t encounter problems. If you’re looking to build something unique that’s likely to come up against some resistance then it’s highly recommended that you start communicating with your local planning authorities before too much money is spent.

Apply for basic utilities

You will need your basic utilities. Apply for your water and electricity as soon as planning permission is granted so you don’t experience delays with your build.

Prepare detailed drawings

Work with your architect or designer to put together the detailed drawings that will act as the instruction manual for the whole team of workers, ensuring that everyone on site is coordinated and there are no costly errors.

Coordinate building control officers

It’s time to get the authorities involved again and inform the building control officers of all your plans and coordinate site inspections to ensure you’re operating a safe site that complies with building regulations.

Find your suppliers

Ensure you’ve selected the suppliers of raw materials and fittings that will deliver on time and can provide exactly what you’re looking for. Start to work with any companies that will be preparing bespoke items such as windows, doors or staircases.

Find your tradesmen

Find the tradesmen who will be working on your site. You may need a variety of different teams, or you may need one head builder who already has reliable subcontractors. Either way, do your research as you’re trusting your project and your finances with these tradesmen.

Of course, if you’ve employed a good project manager such as KJ Hill, most of the above will be their responsibility.

To find out what happens next, look out for the next article in our “Self-build Timeline” series of blogs.


Venetian blindsOptions of window coverings are now seemingly endless. What you choose will not only have a huge impact on the aesthetics of the whole room, but also the atmosphere, as the window coverings can affect the insulation of the room.

Natural light is one of the most sought after qualities in a room. It will lift your mood and make any room seem more spacious. But although you want to let light into a room you will need to choose window coverings that are practical for your situation. You may need privacy in the day time, black-out coverings at night, extra insulation and a covering that suits the style of your whole home.

Curtains are the obvious choice of window covering. Fashions now are changing so curtains can still provide you with a crisp, modern feel and don’t have to be so heavy. Curtains are perfect if you need some extra insulation. Lined curtains work perfectly to keep heat in when you have single-glazed or sash windows. They are a more expensive option, but you’ll soon start saving on your heating bills. Lining curtains also makes them hang more opulently and will protect the colour and pattern of the curtains from sun-damage, so they will last longer.

However, lined curtains can seem too heavy for some spaces and can block out some light during the day when they’re open. If you want to use lined curtains but want maximum day light, make the curtain rod longer so the entire window is exposed when the curtains are opened. It will also make the window feel larger. Or, you can tie curtains back. This is a very formal look that will not work in every home, but can provide a lovely frame for the extending view.

Curtains don’t have to be heavy. For a relaxed look use a lighter material, such as a crisp cotton. If you need curtains that come down to the floor consider having them made about 3 inches too long, so they trail and bunch attractively when drawn. This suits informal spaces and will do wonders in an older property for hiding an uneven floor. Lighter, unlined curtains fall very differently to lined curtains, will not offer much in the way of thermal insulation and will not block as much light, so won’t work if you have street lights outside your property, but they do work well in open, communal spaces.

Curtains don’t provide any privacy during the day, which is needed for windows that look directly onto a street or public area. If you wish to have curtains but maintain some privacy, or add an extra feature then you no longer have to use the heavy net curtains of the 1980s. You can now buy beautiful sheers that light can filter through. These can come with subtle patterns, or plain and add a touch of class to a room.

For a sleek look you will want to consider using blinds instead of curtains. There are many different styles of blinds to choose from and each has their own advantages and disadvantages. For a bedroom, black-out blinds are a very popular choice. They can come in thick, woven materials that will also provide some insulation when closed. Black-out blinds are very popular in children’s bedrooms, but ensure there are no parts of the mechanism that could be a hazard to your child.

Generally, black-out blinds are roller blinds. If you go for this choice then make sure you research the mechanism, so it’s within your reach. Roller blinds can work well in lots of different spaces due to the variety of colours and patterns. If you wish to have the blinds as a feature during the day, then hang them higher than necessary to cover the window, so you can have some of the blind showing without blocking any light.

Roman blinds add a look of luxury to a room. They can come in thicker material for improved insulation and block unwanted light during night time. The cascading fabric works well in grander spaces. Roman blinds are very hard to clean so hang them somewhere where they will not get messy.

Venetian blinds are traditional in spaces where you want both privacy and light control. They come in a variety of different materials. Wooden blinds provide a lovely soft look and are very sturdy, but offer little to no insulation. Venetian blinds can let in maximum light, or provide shelter from the sun in a room that is prone to getting too hot.

If you have large patio doors to cover, you may consider vertical blinds. Choose an option which gives you full control of how much light is let in to the home as during summer you may want to provide some shade. Vertical blinds are generally made from a lighter fabric that will not block all light, but will provide privacy.

When you choose your window coverings ensure you consider the practicalities before aesthetics. Decide on your budget, how much insulation is needed and how much light can filter through. Check the mechanisms of any blinds before you buy them. You will now find so many different options with colours, patterns and materials and you can experiment with how window coverings are fitted that you can add a truly unique and seemingly effortless touch to a room with your choice of window treatment.

Of course, for those of you lucky enough to be planning a new build, you have the luxury of choosing the shape, size and position of your window. Your project manager will be able to advise you on any implications that will affect the plastering, finishing and decorating, leaving you to choose your perfect window covering.



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.