If you’re planning a self-build or renovation, you may have thought about managing the construction phase yourself. Project managing your own build will be all-consuming in terms of time and cannot easily be abandoned due to holidays or other commitments at work. It is not for the faint hearted but, having said that, can be an enormously satisfying thing to do.

Construction phase project management for self organised projects should be relabelled as ‘site management’ as this is really what it means; active, daily organisation of who is on site and when, where materials are coming from and all the logistics involved in their delivery, and constant contingency planning for inevitable let downs. From a financial point of view, managing your cash flow amongst everything else is paramount. Here are Dobanti’s 8 top tips for helping keep your finances in check to help you along the way:

  1. Make sure you are absolutely clear about the trigger points for your next lender’s release. When financing your build or renovation with a mortgage or similar, it is probable that you will need to make the call to say that the next stage has been reached which might then trigger either a full valuation on site or a much more straight forward professional’s certificate.  Whichever applies to your mortgage there will be a timetable involved from making that first call to actually receiving the cash.  This time lag must be factored into your cash flow.
  2. Use credit when it is available. Some large suppliers are happy to provide credit and you should use this to your full advantage. But, don’t forget to make your monthly payments by their due date otherwise it could end up affecting your future credit rating.
  3. Accept that certain types of supplier will require deposits. Some suppliers will only process manufacturing orders based upon contractual certainty, e.g. windows, bespoke doors, staircases etc.  This is fair enough as the supplier has to order materials and commit manufacturing time on your behalf.  Some will want the balance payment on delivery to site but, in these circumstances, I would want to inspect the goods before completing my payment.
  4. Understand the terms of supply. All suppliers and bespoke manufacturers have different terms.  You should read the small print because in the event of a dispute, this is where the legal process will start.
  5. Do not be tempted to pay contractors up front. As distinct from suppliers, and unless a contractor is processing a large material order for you, there is no need to make payments up front. When you accept a tradesman’s quote you should be clear about the payment terms between you which, depending on the work involved, maybe fortnightly in instalments, at certain key stages or just payment in full at the end.
  6. Retentions should be pre-agreed. If you think a retention is sensible, for example to check your heating system out through the first winter, then this should be agreed with the contractor before accepting their price. It is unfair, and indeed not legal, to just impose a retention at the closing stage of the works.
  7. If quality is in question then you must seek professional help before completing your final payments. There are plenty of independent professional people who can come to site quickly and give you good advice.
  8. Use a triplicate book for any variation. This is so simple and yet so effective.  Keep the book on site and let all your contractors know that if they think something is a variation, they must get a written note from the triplicate book first before carrying it out.  You then have an opportunity to agree and secure a written record of the price.

And… constantly look for efficiencies, which the professionals like to call ‘smoothing’, but don’t be tempted to cut practical health and safety corners as this will always be one of construction’s false economies!

Dobanti Chartered Surveyors, based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, offers a variety of build, renovation and construction phase services. This ranges from full project management of your build, to consultancy and support for those wanting to project manage themselves, but unsure where to start. Get in touch today for a chat about your project – we’d be delighted to hear from you to see how and where we can help!


This article was written by Tim Doherty, and originally published for Build It Magazine. Tim is the Director and Principal Surveyor at Dobanti Chartered Surveyors, a building surveyors based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Dobanti offers a wide range of property services including design and planning applications, tender development, appointment of contractors, project management of builds and renovations, building surveys, and more. Get in touch for more information, or read more online now. Further articles and blog posts can be found here.