Jake Fitness of Self Build Zone explains what a structural warranty is, and why you might need one on your self build or renovation project.
Interview with Jake Fitness
Jake Fitness is a team leader at Self Build Zone, a provider of site insurance and structural warranties.
A structural warranty is a type of insurance policy
It can cover any new structural works you do on a project, whether it be a new build, renovation or extension.
It will be more costly to add on at the end
Jake stresses that the ideal time to start thinking about the structural warranty is when you have a pretty good idea of what your project will entail. This is for three reasons:
- To ensure that your building is acceptable to warranty providers
- To be able to factor it into your project budget
- Leaving it until the end will mean they charge a higher price, as the surveyor won't have had full visibility of the build process.
“If you're thinking about doing a project anytime soon, really make it one of the first things you do, because it's more important than your kitchen, your doors and your windows and all of the nice looking fittings, because ultimately, it's what's going to pay you if there is something wrong with your build.”
Typically the price of a warranty is based on the size of the property, the frame construction type, and the build cost. The average warranty cost is between £2,500 and £4,000. This covers the full premium for the 10 years, plus all the site audit visits.
It isn't a legal requirement
It is however likely to be a lender requirement if you're looking to re-mortgage the property within that first 10 years, or if you are going to sell it during that time. You can still purchase a warranty at that time, but you will end up paying a far higher price for it.
It doesn't hold anyone liable for the damage
The difference between a warranty and a standard contractor's guarantee, is that you don't have to hold anyone liable for the damage that has been caused. This is because rather than blame being placed on the architect or contractor for cracks etc, the warranty provider will conduct an independent survey to assess the damage and pay you for that loss. This can be beneficial if you're looking to sustain the working relationship with the team in the future as you're not trying to place blame on an individual or company that may not even be at fault.
Technical audit surveys are carried out
These repeat visits are similar to that carried out by a building control officer, but are purely from the viewpoint of whether there is likely to be a claim within the next 10 years. They are more comprehensive than whether they just meet building regulations, and on a new build would typically take place:
- when the foundations are fully excavated but before the concrete is poured
- at the damp proof course stage
- for brick and block it will be when you're at first floor joists, or for timber frame and ICF it will be when the frame has been erected
“We'll still carry on even when you're at the weathertight level all the way up till completion, letting us know of any defects during the build, which, to be honest, most builders if they've built a small defect in then they're probably going to not let you know about it. But we will stop the building in its tracks if we need to, just to make sure everything's rectified and built to a very good standard.”
A structural warranty will cover defective design, workmanship and materials
This will be for a period of 10 years after completion.
An example of this could be the structural engineer not designing the foundations deep enough and the property subsides. Worst case scenario would be a claim for completing demolishing and rebuilding.
Other things that would be picked up could be things like a roof not being designed to take the full weight of solar panels, or poor mortar mixture being used that needs remedying.
Select a provider that has an A rating
Although the actual cover of the warranty is much the same for all providers, it is important to check that who is actually insuring and paying for the claims has an A rated backing. This relates to how financially stable they are, and how likely they are to still be around in 10 years time if you do need to make a claim.
Jake says an unrated insurer should be avoided as they don't have evidence of their stability within the market.
He also recommends doing your due diligence by checking out blogs, reviews and testimonials to select your provider.
All construction types can be covered
Jake explains that Self Build Zone will cover all construction types, because each self build is so different. Rather than making blanket statements about the construction types they are able to rely on the auditing process from when they come out to do the inspections. This includes straw bale with thatched roof, and green oak frames.
Having been a warranty provider for over 20 years, Jake says that they are helped by being in the position of knowing what causes claims within the 10 year period, and the types of risks associated with each construction type.
A structural warranty is more comprehensive than alternatives
Contractors have a defects period where they will be responsible for all claims for the first two years following completion. That's not something that you would typically have under a self build warranty though, as self build can relate to anything from full involvement by the contractor, right up to 100% of the work being done by the homeowner themself. If you do rely on a contractor's guarantee and they go out of business within the following 10 years, you won't have anyone to go back to for any of the defects that may arise.
Likewise, architect's certificates (Professional Consultancy Certificates) are also sometimes available, but will only cover defective design, and not the workmanship or materials for the property. You would also have to prove that the architect was at fault, and are usually only valid for six years. In contrast, with the structural warranty, you don't have to evidence the fault to any particular party to claim, and it would be provided for 10 years.
Another reason for having a structural warranty, is that sometimes local authorities may ask for one to show that your property is a self build and therefore exempt from paying a community infrastructure levy.
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