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July 31, 2020

Lockdown easing: Where does the self-build sector stand?

As England continues to ease out of lockdown and more restrictions are lifted, it’s great news for many sectors, not least the self-build sector. Many building sites ceased work in the early stages of lockdown and while that wasn’t officially required by the government’s guidance, these difficult decisions were made to keep site workers safe and because much of the work had little choice but to halt anyway.

Now, as businesses begin reopening, we’re on the way to heading back to some semblance of normality – and Boris Johnson’s pledge to ‘build, build, build’ is a brilliant move for the construction industry. But what does that mean for the self-build sector? Here, we take a look at the rules and guidance for construction projects and help to clue up anyone embarking on a self-build project as to how they and their workers can stay safe.

Self build: The official guidance
The government has set out its official guidelines for those in construction or working outdoors. While until recently the guidance has been that everyone should work from home unless they cannot work from home, the very nature of the work in self build has meant that hasn’t been applicable throughout. However, if you’re a self builder managing a site, you should consider who is needed on site and plan for the minimum number of site workers required to operate safely and effectively. The general rule applies that clinically vulnerable people must be helped to work from home – ie offered off-site roles – and where this isn’t possible, they should be in on-site roles that enable them to maintain social distancing of 2m (or 1m with risk mitigation). And of course, the advice remains that workers with symptoms mustn’t at all be on site – nor should they be if they live with someone who is self-isolating.

Financing the build
Lenders are providing funds for self builds – but be aware, the lending conditions may have changed. If you’re yet to arrange a mortgage for your build plans, it’d be wise to bear this in mind. Contact a lender or mortgage broker with experience of self-build funding so you can manage expectations and make appropriate plans.

Self-build mortgages are often released in stages as and when phases of works are complete. It’s worth collating evidence of work as you go along to avoid any hold-ups.

Scheduling and timeframes
As work picks up again, if you were mid-build when we went into lockdown, it’s only to be expected you’ll need to review and re-schedule work and deliveries. If you’ve hired equipment and tools or bought materials, for example, you’ll need to know where you stand with that in terms of adjusted timelines. You’ll need to contact each of the businesses you’re using to double check they’re up and running in their entirety and account for any delays. Disruptions in supply chains and services can have a big knock-on effect so make sure you’re prepared.

Safety on site
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) had previously commented that it was ‘almost impossible’ for builders to follow social distancing guidelines on site but some firms may find enabling more flexible working hours helps this. Self builders quite often work solo on sites, which obviously accounts for increased levels of safety. If you require multiple trades at work on the site at once, consider how this will work – implement staggered breaks, ensure regular handwashing, provide sanitiser and multiple kitchen and toilet facilities.

Other tips include utilising technology and arranging online meetings where face-to-face ones aren’t required, offering ‘hygiene breaks’ where workers are required to wash their hands and implementing enhanced security measures to improve risk of contamination.

Continue your research
While you won’t have been able to attend the usual line-up of live self-build shows for inspiration and expert advice, many are now being held virtually so do look into this. Some are starting to think about reopening and welcoming back visitors. Alternatively, self-build magazines and publications can remain a frequent source of inspiration so you should never stop planning and researching. We have a permanent stand at The National Self Build and Renovation Centre and would love to see you there and hear all about the challenges and wins of your self-build project.

If you’re about to re-start a self-build project, take care to thoroughly read the latest government guidelines – you can never do too much planning and researching. If you’d like to discuss internal or external doors specifically for your project, please get in touch.