How to Build Your House
Before building your home you should get familiar with the different professionals you will have to work with. These include, but are not limited to, architects, land surveyors, bankers, building contractors, engineers, plumbers and electricians. Unless you are a trained professional in one of these fields, it is best to employ one. For your own safety and budget, don’t try to do it yourself.
While it is important that you feel comfortable with and trust your contractors, you should not entrust anyone with complete authority or responsibility for spending your money. Develop a good working relationship with your contractors and let them do their jobs, but make sure that you keep on top of them and hold them to meeting your deadlines within budget.
Try to learn and understand the entire step-by-step building process to the best of your ability; know the order in which things are going to happen, so you can be proactive in having materials ready. Workers have to paid whether the materials are there or not. HLSCC regularly holds seminars for building contractors which you might want to attend to get a better understanding of what will be entailed in building your house.
If you are ordering materials from overseas, it is critical to know when it’s time to order windows, doors, tiles, paint, etc, as these should be incorporated with plastering. Painting should be the very last thing that is done. Avoid having to waste material and labor costs by having to repaint and/or replaster, for example, if the windows arrive late and the walls were already plastered.
Try to have some knowledge of all materials being purchased for your building project, especially pricing and quantities. You should be able to at least identify a bundle of steel or a dozen full lengths 2x4.
Get familiar with the professionals you need to employ and shop around; check references for quality, efficiency, professionalism and the ability to stay on budget and on time. Verify that any professional you hire has the relevant trade license and necessary qualifications. Talk to homeowners who have recently completed the building process and ask about their experiences; learn from their best practices as well as their mistakes. Ensure that the professionals you select don’t cut corners and that they abide by the building regulations and codes. It’s always good to shop around for the best service at the best deal. Be very professional in this task; don’t select a contractor because he is your cousin or your sister’s boyfriend, unless of course you have done your research and determined that person can do the best job at the best cost.
Professionals you need to Build
An architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings, and is licensed to practice architecture. Architects are trained to:
- design a structure to respond to existing natural conditions
- create options for building
- maximize your construction dollar
- ensure that construction is carried out according to the plan
Your architect will be responsible for capturing your vision, while considering sound building policies, safety measures and environment in the design for your home. Your architect should be taken to visit the desired building site to determine what house design would be best suited for the location. Your architect will also be given a budget of what you are willing to spend to design and build your home.
In certain conditions an engineer may be required. You or your general contractor may feel there is something about the house or lot, which requires a stamp of approval from an engineer.
- An engineer will design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, safety and cost.
- An engineer may bring current knowledge of codes, standards, and procedures to your project that will determine the safety and soundness of a building and its surroundings.
- An engineer is best equipped to assist in the construction of your home, especially in an area prone to landslides.
- An engineer can help address any technical feature that needs to be added or considered for a home outside of the norm of general contractors.
A Land Surveyor
A land surveyor is a professional who is licensed and is regulated by the BVI Government, who, through a combination of education and experience, understands and is able to outline the physical characteristics of land. A surveyor is also qualified to perform and depict a physical retracement of the legal history of that land. Land surveyors are knowledgeable regarding zoning regulations, planning regulations, building codes, health codes, wetland regulations and general land use requirements. Land surveyors should be brought in at the initial stages of the design process and building process of a home. They also monitor the structural settling of buildings and other structures and conduct utility pipeline surveys which would help determine how the house would connect to the main electrical and water pipelines.
A building contractor examines and interprets your plans or arranges the drawing of plans to meet building regulations.
- Once the actual building has started, they are the chief agents and professionals with which you will communicate. Their job is to arrange the submission of plans to local authorities for approval and arrange inspections of building work and organize subcontractors to carry out all stages of building and negotiate rates to pay.
- Contractors also calculate quantities of material required for building projects and order these from building suppliers or advertise for tenders.
- They are responsible for arranging the delivery times of materials to coincide with various stages of the building process.
- They supervise the work of subcontractors to make sure buildings are of an acceptable standard and are proceeding according to schedule.
- They are the chief administrators on your building project and coordinate the activities of office staff involved in the preparation and payment of accounts and talk to lawyers and financial institutions of matters relating to loans and contracts for building projects.
- Most contractors in the BVI have their own firms which include some normally sub-contracted trades and are able to provide a package of services from their firm before subcontracting.
A quantity surveyor is a professional working within the construction industry concerned with building costs. The quantity surveyor is a trained individual responsible for costing every detail of a construction project. They observe various market trends and import duties on building material goods as well as the going rate of pay for different pre-construction and construction personnel in order to prepare a bill of costs for the project, which is a detailed estimate of cost for each stage of the building project.
A plumbing contractor is a professional contractor that provides a means for the supply of safe water and the proper disposal of fluid waste from the premises in all structures and fixed works. This classification includes but is not limited to:
- Complete removal of waste from the premises or the construction and connection of on-site waste disposal systems or sewerage. A main sewerage system exists in the Road Town area, but most homes rely on septic tanks for sewerage disposal.
- Piping, storage tanks and venting for a safe and adequate supply of gases and liquids for any purpose.
- All gas appliances and gas connections for all systems.
- Water and gas piping from your property’s side of the utility meter of the structure or fixed works. In addition to connecting to public water pipelines, cisterns are built for most homes and are integrated with the foundation design of the house.
- Installation of any type of equipment to heat water, or fluids, including the installation of solar equipment.
An Electrical Contractor
An electrical contractor places, installs, erects or connects any electrical wires, fixtures, appliances, apparatus, raceways, conduits, solar photovoltaic cells or any part hereof, which generate, transmit, transform or utilize electrical energy in any form or for any purpose.
A reliable 110v, 60-cycle mains supply is available on Tortola, Beef Island, Virgin Gorda, Great Camanoe, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada.
Although this can easily be overlooked, treatment of the soil around a home is paramount before commencing a building project to get rid of elements, such as termites, which can easily undermine the building effort.