Important snagging and paperwork checks to make before moving into your new home
There are a few essential steps to take once the building, decorating and installation work of your home is pretty much finished. There’s the snag list, but you will also need a formal completion certificate from your local authority before you can move in, as well as various warranties, electrical safety and benchmark certificates.
The snag list
Before you move in, there is one final job to complete: the snagging inspection. It should take place shortly after the completion certificate has been issued. It will involve you or your project manager, or both of you, walking around the house with your contractor, or individual trades, with both parties noting any defects. If done correctly, running through the snag list will take quite a while, possibly a day. You may find it useful to ask your architect to attend the inspection, to help with any debatable points.
It is an accepted practice in the building industry that you hold back around 2.5-5% of the agreed contract price to cover any snagging work – although you should make sure that this is written into your contract at the start of the project. You will need to write a detailed snag list of everything that needs to be fixed and sorted out before you settle your contractor’s final bill.
If you don’t feel that the work on the snag list meets your standards, you’ll then have money to employ another contractor to complete it, rather than paying out twice for the same tasks. If you’ve project managed and employed individual trades, you’ll need to negotiate the snagging process with each of them, which can sometimes be tricky as it may not be clear who is responsible for each particular problem.
Snag list: what to look out for
1. Paintwork: Check that all the painted surfaces are of a good standard. Newly plastered walls will often require several coats of paint, for instance. If you notice any rough spots, the surface will need to be sanded down and repainted.
2. Heating: Turn on the heating system and check everything is working properly. If any radiators fail to warm up evenly, they may need to be bled. Carry out a similar check on any wet underfloor heating. Are all the zones working and have they been connected to the thermostats properly?
3. Plumbing: Run the taps to make sure they work and that the water from the hot tap is warming up. Fill the sink and allow water to escape down the overflow. Then empty the sink and check for leaks beneath it.
4. Kitchen: Make sure all the cabinet drawers slide in and out smoothly and that the doors open and close – and align evenly when closed. Have all the shelves been fitted where they were supposed to be, are the tiles grouted and the kitchen sink area sealed?
5. Skirting boards: Check that all the boards have been nailed on properly, filled in and then sanded and painted.
6. Carpets and flooring: Are the floor tiles and carpets level and fixed securely?
7. Bathrooms: Check that the tiles have been grouted, and that the basins and baths are sealed. Make sure plugs and light cords have been fitted and test the extractor fan.
8. Doors: Open and shut all the doors, both internal and external, to make sure they all fit snugly. Ensure external locks are working, not just for security, but for insurance purposes.
9. Drainage: Inspect the gutters and downpipes and make sure they are securely fixed and leak-free during rainfall and that all gullies and drains are free from debris.
10. Lighting: Are all the fittings secure and working?
11. Electrics: Use a plug-in night light to check that all sockets work.
12. Roof coverings: Take a look to see if any tiles or slates are cracked or appear loose and that all lead flashings are complete and secure. Ask your roofer to take pictures of the finished work if you can’t gain access to view it yourself.
What’s not acceptable?
Advice from TV presenter, property expert and social entrepreneur Kunle Barker on how to deal with defects
- Identifying defects is an important process to get right at the end of a build. Any problems overlooked could turn out to be costly to correct, so it’s vital that as many as possible are picked up at the snag list stage.
- The National House Building Council has a useful guide to the industry standards for finishes, which outlines tolerances and guidelines for work such as tiling, brickwork, plastering and flooring. If anything falls outside of these tolerances and guidelines then you should insist that the works are rectified.
- But even these guidelines can be open to interpretation, so it’s always best to try and decide the things you will and won’t compromise on. This will help you to focus on what is really important in your home. In the case of subjective defects, you may well be able to negotiate with your contractor. For more advice, go to nhbc.co.uk.
- It might also help you to get your architect to be part of the inspection process.
- Be wary of asking another builder for advice on checks for defects – they can be overzealous when it comes to evaluating other tradespeople’s work.
What else do you need to sign off a new build?
You should have been given a guide completion date by your contractor – ideally it will have been written into your building contract. Once that date is reached and your home is nearly ready to be moved in to, your contractor should notify you or your surveyor, project manager or home-building package supplier that the property requires a snag list inspection.
If everything is in place for handover, the formal application to the local authority can be made for the official completion certificate to be produced. This is one of the most important official documents you’ll be given during your self-build. Without it, you won’t officially be allowed to live in it.
The certificate doesn’t prove that there aren’t any hidden problems and it isn’t an insurance cover, but if you ever decide to sell your home, the buyer will ask to see this documentation. Plus, you won’t be able to apply to HMRC to reclaim VAT without one. Inspection will usually involve a visit and a look around the site, plus the testing of equipment to see that it all works properly.
If you wish to move into the property before the completion certificate is issued, you can do so, but you’ll need to arrange for a Building Control officer to inspect it and issue a temporary occupancy certificate.
Warranties and electrical safety
You will also acquire many other certificates over the course of your self-build project – warranties, electrical safety and benchmark certificates, for example. And you’ll need to find an accredited domestic energy assessor to undertake an energy performance certificate (EPC). Ask your contractor or individual tradespeople for any manufacturers’ warranty certificates. If a problem does occur in the future, the warranties may enable you to make a claim.