Understand the steps to closing out a building project
The final stages of construction represent a potentially vulnerable point in the client–builder relationship, so it is critical to manage this period well. It is therefore important to know the steps involved in successfully closing out a building project.
Until now, the entire build may have run without hiccup, but towards the tail of proceedings, there is still a risk of events veering off track. As enthusiastic as you are to get your house back, the builder will be just as keen to leave for the next job, which can cause both of you to rush and mistakes to happen.
The risk of derailment is compounded by misconceived notions of what constitutes the end of the project, in the minds of both the homeowner and builder. Imagine reading a novel though to the end, only to find the final page has been torn out. This absence of ending provokes exasperation with homeowners, who are left craving closure; and frustration for the builder, to whom the project never seems to end.
We can square this circle by giving definitive shape to the end of a building project. Contrary to accepted belief, the end of a building project isn’t a single point in time – happens in four separate stages, the boxes of which must all be ticked to close out a building project successfully.
Stage 1: Practical completion
Practical completion is the most obvious stage of closing out a project. It is what people generally take to be the end, marking the moment the house is ‘handed back’ to the homeowner.
This is when scheduled work is complete, barring any known omission or delays. You’ll know the end is close when the final building control inspection takes place and when non-essential tradesmen off the job to be reassign elsewhere.
The builder will have cleaned up and cleared out the site of tools, plant and materials, and trained you in how to use the new installations (door locking mechanism, heating controls, AV app, CCTV, etc).
They may have left site, but they’ll return shortly for stage 2.
Stage 2: Completion of snagging
More on this coming up, but in short: snagging is the process of identifying and fixing minor defects at the end of a building project.
Upon or shortly after practical completion, you will make a list of items that still need to be completed or fixed, which the builder returns to complete before receiving the final scheduled payment.
This is also a good time to inform your home insurance provider that works are complete.
Stage 3: Paperwork handover
Ensuring you receive all the relevant project documentation is a crucial part of closing out a building project successfully. Use the following checklist to ensure you don’t miss anything out.
- Completion certificate, issued directly from building control (this certifies that the extension meets the legal minimum standards)
- Electrical installation certificate
- Gas installation certificate (if applicable)
- HETAS installation certificate (if applicable)
- FENSA installation certificate (if applicable)
- Other brand-specific product warrantees (such as Topseal roofs or K Rend external rendering)
- Manuals and warranties for all appliances, fixtures and fittings
- Insurance-backed structural guarantee from the builder (if offered)
- Other delivery dockets and receipts
Stage 4: Payment of retention
The fourth and final stage in closing out a building project successfully is when you release the retention payment.
Before doing so, you will have identified any minor latent defects that have presented since snagging, and the builder will have addressed them.
Owing to the absence of an industry-wide accepted milestone to mark the end of a build, neither the homeowner nor the builder quite know what the end should look or feel like, and this can cause frustration all round. Successfully closing out a building project requires a change in mindset from both parties to an acceptance that the end of a building project is a mini process on its own. Following the four stages laid out here will help you administer the close effectively.