Should I get someone to sign off on my Building or Renovation?

Certifying my building or renovationHi folks,
Here is an important issue that I think it is worth covering for any building works that you may have planned for the future.  The answer is yes it is advisable to retain an  Architect, Structural Engineer or Building Surveyor to inspect periodically during building or renovation works and to advise you and certify the works on completion. Your Certifier should have full Professional Indemnity insurance and be sure to request a copy of the insurance and retain it for future reference.  An average house requires 5 stage payments but the more visits the certifier makes the better.  The Certifier must feel satisfied that the works comply with the building regulations and therefore it takes as many visits as it requires.  Don’t forget that the building regulations are there to protect you or future owners of the building so it’s no advantage to take short cuts on the specifications that are laid down.  In fact I would say aim to go beyond what the regulations specify as much as possible because you only have one chance to get the job done right.  It is particularly important for example that the required depth of foundation is dug with the required re-enforced steel.  This should be inspected by the certifier before the concrete is poured.

I know it sounds over the top but I would advise you to be present during the pouring of the foundation so that you can see the cement being poured over the re-enforced steel and take photos while the concrete is being poured and keep them as a record.   The same applies for the sub floor, make sure it is inspected by the certifier to ensure that the correct depth of concrete is being laid and that the correct amount of re-enforced steel has been included in it.

It is the law in Ireland that your building must be compliant with building regulations.  These regulations are there to protect you from having a property that is structurally unsafe or that could be a fire hazard. Using a certifier to inspect and sign off on your building is not only the law but it could also an insurance policy for you in the event that your property was ever deemed to be non-compliant in the future.  If it is found at a later stage that your property was non-compliant at the time it was certified, the certifier’s professional indemnity insurance could possibly cover you for any losses

Make sure that the certifier is completely separate from the building contractor.  It is not a good idea to have someone who is related in any way to the builder as there could be a conflict of interest.  So for complete peace of mind please use an independent certifier.

As with any profession I would say keep a good eye on what is going on yourself.  Don’t take it for granted that the certifier will see everything so make sure to inspect the building daily and take lots of photos that you can refer back to or show to the certifier or any interested parties.  Familiarise yourself with the regulations so that you can even spot some obvious stuff yourself. You can find technical guidance documents from the Irish Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government Resources at http://www.environ.ie/en/TGD.  This will be one of the biggest investments of your life and it’s your money so make sure that you keep a good eye on everything and don’t be afraid to ask the certifier if you’re unsure about something the builder is doing.  And if you’re not happy with the answer the certifier gives you ask someone else.

As the building owner, you are responsible for compliance with the Building Regulations. As I said above these regulations are the law, so it is illegal to be non-compliant.  Non compliance can result in a fine or prison sentence or in the case where non compliance causes the death of someone could result in a charge for manslaughter.   Where buildings are found to be non-compliant you will be forced to remedy the faults or even to tear down the building altogether in the case of a severe problem.

You can’t sell a property without an opinion on compliance with the Building Regulations so whether you are building a new property or extending or renovating a property make sure to have it certified.

And lastly please do not pay for work until it has been signed off by the certifier up to that stage.  If the builder wants you to pay for work in advance it is better to pay the money into an escrow account.   An escrow is a holding account where money is held by a trusted third party and it can be released in stages as the work has been certified or approved by you.  The escrow protects you as you only release the money as the work has been approved and the escrow protects the builder as they know that the money is there for them when the work has been signed off.  A solicitor can hold money in escrow or you can use a trusted online escrow service.  We provide a link to an escrow service to all users who post a job on our website and we highly recommend that it be used.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of getting your building works properly certified throughout the building works and if you think you are going to forget the advice I have given you in this article please print or bookmark this page and read it over and over again throughout your building project until it is complete and certified:-)

To find an Architect, Structural Engineer or Building Surveyor go to the Golden pages or get up to 4 quotes from any of these professional here

Cheers
Oliver Dempsey
Tradesmen.ie

The advice in this article is meant as a guide only and a decision should only be made on how to proceed with your building project by consulting with a qualified building professional who can inspect your particular project and give appropriate advice on the matter.

 

Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions or suggestions

Here are some other articles that you might be interested in below:-

http://blog.tradesmen.ie/2011/10/attic-conversion-prices-dublin-ireland

http://blog.tradesmen.ie/2012/04/house-extension-prices-dublin-ireland

http://blog.tradesmen.ie/2012/04/do-i-need-planning-permission

About Oliver Dempsey

Owner and Managing Director at Tradesmen.ie and contributor to the Tradesmen.ie Blog You can connect with Oliver on Google+ DISCLAIMER: All content provided in my articles is for informational purposes only. The information contained in these articles has been obtained from research carried out by myself through online and offline sources and through other writers and contributors who provide me with content. While I am responsible for the final editing of each article and I do my best to verify the information, I do not make representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information. Therefore you must not rely on the information contained in any of these articles and always make sure to seek the advice of a suitably qualified expert before embarking on any project.
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  • Brigid Dempsey

    Yes I agree, at the time it is such a bother, but such a relief afterwards if any difficulties arise. Brigid

  • Eimear Flynn

    very good article, when we did our house we just paid by installments as the work was done

  • Eimear Flynn

    very good article, when we did our house we just paid by installments as the work was done 

  • tradesmen1

    Thanks Eimear, yes it’s definitely the best way to do it and for future work remember that you can use escrow payments as well

  • Pingback: Attic Conversion Prices Dublin Ireland | Tradesmen.ie Blog

  • tradesmen1

    Hi Brigid,
    yes it is to ensure that it complies with the building regulations and that you won’t have any problems down the road.  Just one more point about the professional indemnity insurance, it was pointed out to me by a builder lately that the professional indemnity insurance may only cover a problem that occurs if the certifier was involved from start to finish.  A professional sign of an opinion of compliance is still only an opinion, it is not a certificate of compliance.  So make sure to involve the certifier right from the word go

    Oliver

  • tradesmen1

    I got this email below from Gerhard Heyl, HSLC Building Contractors in response to the article above so I thought it would be nice to share it.  Thanks for your comments Gerhard

    Oliver

    —–forwarded message—-

    Believe it or not you don’t have to have steel in your foundations. It’s whatever the structural engineer spec. Being there with pour is fine. It’s great to see. What is important is for the guys not to let the truck drivers wet the concrete to make it easier to pour. This weakens the specified strength. Again engineer decides that. Also floor does not need steel. There is different types of floors so again more important to follow spec.

    An engineer and not an architect should inspect the trenches before pour. He decides then what to do. Also to look at the surroundings. Trees rivers etc. sometimes if trees are removed. Especially mature leyland or cypress trees and the soil has an elasticity of more than 10% the soil will heave causing founds and floors with or without steel to crack. (there is a engineering table for this). So there is a lot to deciding the foundations.

    Again let an engineer inspect trenches.

    Also insist in the traceability of the hardcore under the floor. It has to be less than 1% pyrite so the quarry should provide a quality cert stating that what u get is ok for subfloor use. Hence why so many houses has pyrite problems.

    Gerhard