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Building Work - It's Just a Big Jigsaw

Apr 1, 2008
First fix? Second fix? What does it all mean? You look forward to gutting your new home and doing it all up but you don't understand the process. That's a risky place to be, so get yourself familiar with what your builder is up to and learn how the elements of a building project fit together.

If you're renovating an old home or even branching out and having a new-build then its important to know the process and how your builder will organise the job so that you can engage in the process. After all building jobs can be complex and can cost an awful lot of money so it makes sense to know what you're paying for.

Any building job has a sequence of events that needs to be followed to achieve a successful result. Once a design or plan has been drawn up a specification is needed. This defines the fittings, fixtures and materials to be used. If you don't spell out exactly what you need then you will end up with something to the builder's taste and budget (and he will assume the lowest common denominator rather than splashing out) rather than your own. You can discuss with your builder which materials and fittings you will source and which he will be responsible for.

Then the order of work is established. More complex jobs may require several different trades that need to be co-ordinated. Everyone hates delay as it adds to the expense and frustration of construction work. Most big building projects can be divided into two broad stages - the first fix and second fix.

First fix includes all the initial stages. The team starts off with demolition, clearing of rubble and erecting scaffolding. Your builder may need to prop up structures with temporary steel beams before carrying out basic structural work. He may move and lay services (e.g. waste and water pipes and electrical and telephone cables), and connect them up to external suppliers. And there's the construction of internal and external walls and even the roof.

Obviously the first fix is the messy stage and also the time when external walls and even the roof may be missing. Security and weatherproofing are at their most vulnerable - remember those TV housebuilding programmes where there's a race to get the roof on before the winter!

The second fix is, for the homeowner at least, probably the more satisfying stage. It is when the personality of the house is established through the homeowner's choices of colour, tiles and fittings.

The second fix is when walls get plastered and services are installed including radiators, under floor heating, bathroom and kitchen fittings, appliances and even electrical sockets and switches. Then there are the carpentry elements - hanging doors, fitting cornicing, skirting boards and architraves and even fitting units and built-in storage. Finally there is tiling in the kitchen and bathroom and flooring throughout the house. And of course decorating - whether paint or wallpaper.

Throughout the process different trades work around each other so you may see a lot of to-ing and fro-ing of electricians, plumbers and carpenters. For instance an electrician may do one part of a job (e.g. lay cabling) and then have to wait for the plasterer to complete his job before fitting sockets and switches. Not only do the trades have to co-ordinate and slot themselves into place but the builder also relies on suppliers to deliver fittings at the right time, to avoid delays.

Throughout the process there are also official inspections to fit in to ensure that building regulations are being adhered to. Building inspectors will need to sign off certain elements of a building project before the next stage can take place.

A building project can be complex - an inticate jigsaw that relies on a range of trades and suppliers turning up on time and getting on with the job. But if you are aware of the different stages you will appreciate the progress being made and can question delays if they occur.
About the Author
Expert builder India Cooper brings the consumer up to speed with what your builder is up to and learn how the elements of a building project fit together. To find out more please visit http://www.ratedpeople.com/find/builder
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