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The build begins: groundworks & basement

Our project on the Graven Hill self build development gets underway, as we dig out the site and form the shell of our new basement. Chris Bates reveals where we’re at with the Build It Education House and what we’ve learned so far

Part 4

If you’ve been following this series, I’ve got some great news: it’s taken us four issues to get here, but we’re finally on site! After all that planning – which with any luck will stand us in good stead – it’s now time to start moving the Build It Education House from dream to reality. This month, I’m looking at the groundworks phase of our build and sharing the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

Preliminaries & plot handover

On a traditional self build project, there’s a fair amount to sort out before you can bring the diggers in to carve out your new home’s foundations. One of the biggest (and often most frustrating) tasks is arranging utility connections: you’ll need to figure out both temporary and long-term supplies early on.

Things are a little more straightforward on a custom build development (for an in-depth guide, see page 138). Graven Hill’s serviced plot approach means these key provisions are brought right up to the site boundary; so all we needed to do was pay for the electricity meter connection and consumer unit – a much more straightforward process.

The self build sites at Graven Hill are provided on a golden brick basis; so they would normally deliver the plot with the foundations already built to your specification, ready for you to organise the above-ground works. Our project is a little different, in that we’ve decided to add a basement storey. So rather than using Graven Hill’s standard contractor, we wanted to make sure we had a team on board that was experienced in this kind of work – and in using the insulating concrete formwork (ICF) system we’ve specified.

Graven Hill agreed to appoint our preferred company, ICF Contractors, to carry out this phase of the Build It House – right up to completion of the basement shell. We expect this to take two months, including waterproofing and drainage. ICF Contractors will assume the role of Principal Contractor for health and safety throughout this stage of the works.

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About Build It

Build It is Britain’s longest running self build magazine. Each issue is packed full of inspirational and informative readers’ homes, as well as expert advice on issues from budgets and planning to project management and design. This month: - Installing underfloor heating - Flooring cost guide - New routes to self build - What are building surveys?