Building As Usual (BAU): LIVE UPDATES on Lockdown, Merchants and More

Building As Usual (BAU): LIVE UPDATES on Lockdown, Merchants and More


We’re committed at Homebuilding & Renovating to keeping you informed of anything that matters in the world of self build, home renovation and construction. Because, while this current crisis is anything but usual, we’re sure that you, our community of homeowners looking to create their dream home, and tradespeople, designers and builders, will find a way to keep on building – in whatever format.

Check back here regularly for updates of essential news, merchant openings (and closing), and find out what everyone else is doing to make the best of all this.


15.30

Persimmon: We Will Return to Site Safely

Some more now on the breaking news from earlier that housebuilder Persimmon will restart building from Monday, implementing strict safety measures across construction sites.

Persimmon’s chief executive David Jenkinson said: “Having spent the last month developing and testing new site protocols that incorporate the necessary social distancing and protective measures, we believe that we are now able to return to site safely”.

“These new measures are fully compliant with government public health guidance and will be strictly enforced by a specialist team”.

Persimmon joins Taylor Wimpey and Vistry Group in announcing it will reopen its door in the next week, while DIY retailer B&Q yesterday announced it had reopened 155 of its UK stores.


13.30

FMB Supports Cash Grants for Builders

The Federation of Maser Builders (FMB) has called on the government to increase guarantees on loans to small businesses to 100%, to reflect the difficulty that builders are facing in accessing finance.

The FMB also wants the government to create a Support Fund that administers grants to SME construction firms in urgent need of support.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Local builders have struggled to access finance through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), with just 4% of those who applied being successful. Extending the Government’s guarantee to 100% on CBILS loans for small businesses would be welcome news.

“Anything to speed up access to cash has to be applauded. But while faster loans would be positive, grants are needed now. The Small Business Grant Fund offers valuable help to many businesses but given most SME construction companies do not operate from business premises they are missing out on cash when they need it most.

“A new SME Support Fund, similar to the ones that exist in Scotland and Wales, and that is not linked to business rates, would overcome this problem and provide the much needed immediate cash assistance to small building companies.”


11.40

The DIY Tasks We Can’t Do Ourselves

Lockdown has brought out the ambitious DIY experts in all of us, but there are some tasks that still pose problems.

According to new research by Compare The Market, ‘How to bleed a radiator’ is the most common DIY query in the UK, receiving 210,000 combined annual searches on Google and YouTube.

Here is the top 5 in full:

Rank

Question

Combined annual searches

1

How to bleed a radiator?

210,000

2

How to read a smart meter?

107,280

3

How to clean a washing machine?

87,000

4

How to plaster a wall?

70,800

5

How to wallpaper?

67,200

While doing work on a DIY basis is a way to keep costs down on self build and renovation projects, make sure you know which tasks to leave to the professionals 


10.55

Persimmon Announces Return

A huge update on the construction sector from housing secretary Robert Jenrick:


24 April 09.55

Construction Firms Announce Return

Two of the UK’s foremost housebuilders will resume work on construction sites in the next two weeks.

Taylor Wimpey plans to restart construction work on the majority of build sites in England and Wales on 4 May.Pete Redfern, chief executive of Taylor Wimpey, said the company would use “detailed new site operating protocols developed in compliance with strict social distancing requirements”.

Vistry Group, meanwhile, will restart work 27 April on about 90% of its partnership sites and a ‘significant number’ of housing sites.


15.05

Updated: B&Q Reopens 155 Stores

There’s no stopping B&Q. It has been confirmed to Homebuilding & Renovating that the DIY and home improvement retailer has reopened 155 stores across the UK.

A B&Q spokesperson said: “Having watched other essential retailers support social distancing in their stores, we are now following their best practice and are re-opening some stores with strict social distancing measures in place.

“To further support social distancing, we have two metre floor markers throughout the store and have also installed perspex screens at the checkouts.  Only products that you can shop and takeaway in store on the day are available to customers. Our services such as kitchen and bathroom design, paint mixing, timber cutting and key cutting are not available for the time being and, at this point in time, we’re only accepting card and contact-less payments.”

This is the full list:

England:

  • Ashford
  • Ashton-Under-Lyne
  • Aylesbury
  • Barnsley (Dearne Valley)
  • Basildon
  • Basingstoke
  • Beckton
  • Birmingham – Erdington, Halesowen & Solihull
  • Blackburn
  • Blackpool
  • Bognor Regis
  • Bolton
  • Brighton
  • Bristol – Longwell Green & Hartcliffe
  • Burton upon Trent
  • Bury
  • Camborne
  • Cambridge
  • Cannock
  • Castleford (Glasshoughton)
  • Chard
  • Chelmsford
  • Cheltenham
  • Chester
  • Chesterfield
  • Clacton-on-Sea
  • Colchester
  • Coventry – Alvis Retail Park & Brandon Road
  • Crawley
  • Crewe
  • Darlington
  • Dartford
  • Derby
  • Devizes
  • Doncaster
  • Dover
  • Eastleigh
  • Exeter
  • Fareham
  • Farnborough
  • Gillingham
  • Gloucester
  • Gravesend
  • Great Yarmouth
  • Grimsby
  • Halifax
  • Handforth
  • Havant
  • High Wycombe
  • Huddersfield
  • Hull – Ferry Lane & St Andrews Quay
  • Ipswich
  • Kings Lynn
  • Leeds – Beeston Ring Road & Killingbeck
  • Leicester
  • Leigh
  • Liverpool – Aintree & Liverpool Shopping Park
  • London – Acton, Chiswick, Cricklewood, Croydon, Enfield, Greenwich, Leyton, New Malden, Peckham, Sutton & Yeading
  • Loughborough
  • Luton
  • Macclesfield
  • Manchester – Cheetham Hill & Trafford Park
  • Middlesbrough
  • Milton Keynes
  • Nelson
  • Newcastle (Scotswood)
  • Northampton
  • Northwich
  • Norwich
  • Norwich Hall Road
  • Nottingham– Eastwood, Netherfield & Riverside
  • Oldham
  • Peterborough
  • Plymouth
  • Portsmouth
  • Preston (Bamber Bridge)
  • Reading
  • Romford – Roneo Corner & Tangent Link
  • Scunthorpe
  • Sheffield (Queens Road)
  • Shrewsbury
  • Slough
  • Southampton – Hedge End & Nursling
  • Southend
  • Speke
  • St.Helens
  • Stafford
  • Stevenage
  • Stockport
  • Stockton on Tees
  • Stoke-On-Trent (Meir Park)
  • Stroud
  • Sunderland
  • Sutton in Ashfield
  • Tamworth
  • Taunton
  • Torquay
  • Tunbridge Wells
  • Tyne & Wear – North Shields & Washington
  • Wallasey
  • Warrington
  • Watford
  • Wednesbury
  • Wellingborough
  • West Thurrock
  • Wigan
  • Yeovil
  • York – Clifton Moor & Hull Road

Northern Ireland: 

  • Belfast (Holywood Exchange)
  • Lisburn (Sprucefield)
  • Newtownabbey

Scotland:

  • Aberdeen – Bridge Of Don & Garthdee Road
  • Bishopbriggs
  • Coatbridge
  • Dundee
  • East Kilbride
  • Edinburgh – Hermiston Gait & Newcraighall
  • Glasgow – Darnley, Great Western Rd & Parkhead
  • Inverness
  • Kirkcaldy
  • Paisley

Wales: 

  • Caerphilly
  • Cardiff – Cardiff Gate & Culverhouse Cross
  • Merthyr Tydfil
  • Newport
  • Swansea

14.13

Support Finder Tool Launches

An important tool has been released by the government to help construction workers and tradespeople access financial support during the ongoing crisis, as reported by The Federation of Master Builders (FMB).


12.35

B&Q Reopens More Than 140 Stores

B&Q has reopened dozens of UK stores following a successful trial period over the weekend. A total of 140 shops have reopened, including those in Manchester, Cardiff and Aberdeen.

Social distancing measures will be implemented in the newly opened stores, with customers required to stand two meters apart.

A B&Q spokesman said: “As an essential retailer, we’ve watched other essential retailers support social distancing in their stores and are now in a position to follow best practice and reopen a small number of our stores as a trial, while keeping our colleagues and customers safe.”

B&Q had shut its stores since lockdown measures were introduced, but remained operational through Click & Collect (typically providing allocated time slots for collection) and home delivery services on a limited range of products.

On Thursday, other UK firms, such as Aston Martin and Taylor Wimpey, announced that they would return to work in May.


11.45

The Most Therapeutic Household Job Revealed

Hedge trimming is the most therapeutic household job during lockdown, according to Victorian Plumbing.

Victorian Plumbing investigated which household jobs are helping us beating the lockdown blues, and from its research devised the Calm Count.

The Calm Count is a rating taken from Google searches for therapeutic jobs during lockdown combined with interest spikes.

Calm Count: Top 10 most therapeutic household jobs:

  1. Hedge Trimming – 40,962
  2. Jet-washing the decking – 33,665
  3. Cleaning windows – 27,475
  4. Painting the garden fence – 27,370
  5. Clearing the gutters – 23,081
  6. Sanding furniture – 22,456
  7. Organising kitchen cupboards – 14,982
  8. Hanging the washing out to dry – 8,680
  9. Dusting – 8,292
  10. Hanging Pictures – 4,990

10.10

Covid-19 Causes Planning Backlog

A self build and custom homes specialist’s plans to transform a plot in Cambridgeshire is facing uncertainty due to the application being caught in a backlog due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Pelham Structures plans to transform a four-acre plot on Hardwick Road in Toft, Cambridgeshire, into a residential development. Should the application be approved, aspiring homeowners will be able to build their home themselves or have a bespoke house designed for them.

Pelham Structures filed the application with South Cambridgeshire District Council two months ago, but is yet to hear back from the council.

“There’s a backlog of applications which has been exacerbated by coronavirus,” the spokesperson said. “We have a planning reference number, but I don’t think the council has put notifications up.

“We submitted around eight or nine weeks ago, so we’re almost approaching termination of the deadline.”

Read the full story.


23 April, 08.50

Social Restrictions Could Remain All Year

It is unrealistic that life will return to normal in the near future, according to the government’s chief medical adviser, who says social restrictions could remain until next year.

Prof Chris Whitty has warned that the chances of having a highly effective vaccine by the end of 2020 are incredibly small, and that coronavirus will be a challenge for the foreseeable future.

The comments appear to throw cold water on hopes that lockdown restrictions might be lifted by the summer, or later in the year.

As for the construction and homebuilding industries, there is no immediate change. But rather than swiftly moving past coronavirus, the current situation might be the new normal for some time to come.

(MORE: How to Maximise the Efficiency of Your Project During Lockdown)


16.05

Housing Sector Faces Economic Struggle

There will a loss of 526,000 home sales in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent government lockdown, according to estate agents Knight Frank.

This represents a reduction in transactions of 38% on 2019 and poses significant economic implications, which could be multiplied across the UK.

Knight Frank estimates the DIY and renovation sectors will lose around £7.9bn, and has called on the government to introduce post-lockdown measures to help stimulate the housing sector.

Knight Frank’s five-point plan to reignite the UK’s housing post-Covid comprises:

  • Implement a stamp duty holiday
  • Extend Help to Buy
  • Review the conveyancing process
  • Introduce virtual planning meetings
  • Offer greater flexibility around planning obligations, S106 and CIL requirements

14.15

Companies Available During Lockdown

As part of Homebuilding & Renovating Home School, we’ve been updating our directory of suppliers and vendors which are available to help you during lockdown.

Here’s what Bedford-based building solutions specialists Excel Structures is offering during lockdown:

Type of service during lockdown: Phone consultations | Video consultations (by appointment) |Technical support | Interactive video CPDs

What are we doing? We are still beavering away with new and existing projects at various stages of procurement and design. We’re also offering project technical reviews and quotations on new projects as well as design development and programme planning. Our team is available to answer queries or discuss any aspect of your project – building system and/or high performance windows and doors.


12.28

Lacklustre February for Builders Merchants

February was lacklustre for builders merchants even before the Covid-19 pandemic and UK lockdown, new figures from the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) show.

The BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) reveal that total builders merchants sales during the month were down -1.3% compared with February 2019.

However, February trading is unlikely to have been much affected by the coronavirus pandemic, pre-dating social distancing, which started on 19 March, and the lockdown measures which took effect on 24 March.

Explaining the figures, BMF CEO John Newcomb said: “Public confidence was already at a low after three years of Brexit uncertainty, and any possibility of a Brexit bounce following the signing of the Withdrawal Agreement in January was swiftly countered by widespread flooding hindering work in February.

“While we all know the figures for the first Quarter will be pretty abysmal when they are released next month, it is interesting to look back at the trend before Covid-19 took hold.  How long ago that all seems today.  We may have to wait until 2021 until we fully understand what the new normal will look like.”

(MORE: These Merchants Are Still Providing Essential DIY Products)


11.05

HMRC Could Owe Millions to Construction Workers

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) could be sitting on millions in unclaimed tax refunds owed to construction workers, new research shows.

Tax refund experts Rift Refunds says these refunds could be owed to those yet to claim or completely unaware they are even owed money.

There are an estimated 2.3 million workers in the UK construction sector workers, with 1,478,400 of these classed as Pay as You Earn (PAYE) employees.

RIFT’s data shows that PAYE construction workers could be failing to claim £300m a year and with the ability to backtrack these claims for the last four years, this could see them owed a lot more.

Bradley Post, Managing Director of Rift Refunds, said:“The construction industry has been looked after to a certain extent, but like the majority of sectors, workers are facing months of uncertainty.

“With many finding themselves on furlough, we wanted to highlight that there is a notable cash sum due to PAYE construction workers from HMRC that they may be unaware of; money that could well make the difference over the coming months.”


22 April 09.30

Maximise Your Project’s Efficiency

Whether your self build or renovation project remains operational, or you’ve decided to take a step back, you can use this time to make significant progress with your build.

If you’re debating the best next step for your project, here’s a rundown of the challenges you could yet face as well as some tips to make the most of your current situation.


16.30

Where Can You Get Essential DIY Products?

In case you missed our article last week on which builders merchants are still providing essential DIY products, here it is.

Some merchants are well-stocked, but being able to buy these materials and get them to your home will depend not just on the stock available but also merchants’ delivery and/or collection policies.


14.55

UPDATED: Companies Offering Special Services During Lockdown

Thinking of extending your home and looking for inspiration and tips on how to get started? George & James Architects is offering one-on-one online consultations to help you begin planning your extension, and answer whatever you have questions about starting or, or an existing project.

We’ll be updating our directory of suppliers and vendors to help you with your projects during lockdown.


14.03

How to Create Your Dream Kitchen and Bathroom

Transforming a kitchen or bathroom requires forethought, design skill and good planning. In this this 60-minute seminar from Home School, by Homebuilding & Renovating expert Michael Holmes, you’ll find all you need to achieve the kitchen and bathrooms of your dreams.

Buy it now for just £4.99.


12.09

#HomebuildingHour Highlights

Planning permission, the continuation of build sites and the use of video calls were among the topics discussed in this morning’s #HomebuildingHour.

Planning Permission

Fleming Homes showcased its success with securing approvals during lockdown:

The Continuation of Building Work

Michael Holmes, TV property expert and chair of the National Custom & Self Build Association (NaCSBA), highlighted the importance of social distancing on build sites that have continued to be operational:

Video Calls

And Malvern Garden Buildings is pioneering the use of video calls to offer bespoke advice to those seeking installations:


11.00

The #HomebuildingHour is now live!

Join the conversation now on Twitter. Share your self build, renovation and construction questions and use #HomebuildingHour.


09.35

Updated: Rightmove Cancels Monthly Report

Yesterday we reported that Rightmove had cancelled its month report on UK asking prices citing a lack of meaningful data because of the coronavirus outbreak.

This article explains what’s happening with the housing market and why Rightmove made the decision not to release the report.


21 April 2020 08.40

Join #HomebuildingHour Today

This morning, we’re bringing the Homebuilding & Renovating Show to your home. If you have a question about your home or a build project then follow #HomebuildingHour between 11am-12pm today on Twitter.

Industry experts across the construction and design sectors will be on hand to offer advice, and connect you with information about the wider self build and renovation market. 

Here’s what to know, and a guide to getting involved:


15.50

Energy Efficiency Concerns During Lockdown

With more of us using increased household lighting and electricity throughout the day as we adapt to being homebound, there is understandably concern about the environmental impact this could have.

Energy comparison site Saveonenergy.com analysed data from OpenDataCommunities’ database of over 18 million Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) to establish the areas in the UK whose residential properties are emitting the most and least carbon dioxide.

The areas emitting the most CO2 in KG in the UK are:

  1. London – 5,859,934,000
  2. Birmingham – 2,485,115,000
  3. Nottingham – 1,740,275,000
  4. Sheffield – 1,676,752,000
  5. Manchester – 1,604,642,000

The areas emitting the least CO2 in KG are:

  1. Dumfries and Galloway – 2,644,000
  2. Galashiels – 51,327,000
  3. Llandrindod Wells – 100,416,000
  4. Harrogate – 233,202,000
  5. Sutton – 245,438,000

If you are concerned you are emitting too much CO2, retrofitting homes with energy efficiency measures can help to improve sustainability as well as reduce our heating bills. This can be achieved by measures such as installing insulation, upgrading your boiler, and replacing light bulbs with energy efficient LED versions.


14.12

Building Societies Update Mortgage Products

Some interesting updates from the self build mortgage scene: both The Melton Building Society and Swansea Building Society have made significant adjustments to their products, yet neither apply to their self build mortgage products.

The Melton has introduced desktop valuations (referring to valuations undertaken when a full inspection cannot take place) on all applications up to 90% loan to value (LTV).

However, this excludes their Advance Self Build products, and The Melton has confirmed: “We will not be accepting new build applications during this time.”

Swansea Building Society, meanwhile, says it will allow drive-by valuations on mortgages up to 60% LTV but this will exclude self build and renovation mortgages.

(MORE: What is a Self Build Mortgage?)


12.30

Mental Health Action Must Happen Now

Mates in Mind has called on construction employers to act now to support the long-term mental health of their staff during the ongoing crisis.

The charity has evolved its tools and resources to provide confidence and clarity to construction workers managing mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, having observed from its research that many are struggling to access the support they need.

As part of this work, Mates in Mind has partnered with Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) to provide deliver a series of webinars that are accessible to all, including those who are currently furloughed.

James Rudoni, Managing Director at Mates in Mind said:

“In this crucial period, when our mental health as a nation is under strain and the mental wellbeing of our colleagues and employees may have slipped beneath other business priorities, we urge industry leaders to recognise that never has there been a more essential period for us all to invest in the mental health of our people.

“Supporting our workforces now, letting them know that there is someone there to support them, and how, when and where they can get help is vital if we want our people to be mentally fit for work during and post this pandemic.

 “Mates in Mind are committed to supporting workforces in accessing the support they need. We know that in creating a long-lasting culture of openness and prevention, enabling individuals to recognise the signs of mental ill-health early, as well as knowing where they can go to for help, will help to tackle issues of isolation, anxiety and uncertainty around the topic.”


10.45

Job Retention Scheme Opens

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is now open for applications, enabling UK employers to access support to pay partial salaries for employees who would otherwise have been laid off during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has produced a handy guide for construction employers and workers about how the scheme works, as well as guidance for its members.


09.55

Home Offices: Worth the Investment

Working from home can be enjoyable for many providing your environment is tailored to your needs, and the Covid-19 pandemic has prompted one in 12 households to invest significant funding into a new home office, research shows.

The findings, from AA Financial Services, reveal that the average amount being spent, which took into consideration any decorating, new equipment or furniture, or the possibility of converting another room, is £1,759.

Here’s how to create the optimal home office.


20 April 08.45

Rightmove Halts Monthly House Prices Report

Rightmove has for the first time ever cancelled its monthly report on asking prices across the UK because it would not be meaningful due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

So few new homes have been put up for sale in the last month mean that there is no functioning housing market, Rightmove says.

“Given the lockdown and pausing of key activities in the housing market, statistics on the number of properties coming to market, new seller asking prices, and new sales agreed are not meaningful,” said Miles Shipside, director of Rightmove. “You do not have a functioning market when buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.”

However, while home buying has drastically fallen, Rightmove reports that the total available number of homes for sale has fallen only 2.6% since lockdown began on 23 March.


16.25

Should Construction Workers Be Labelled ‘Essential’?

Construction industry chiefs have called on the government to deem construction workers as essential staff, it has been reported.

Industry leaders allegedly made the request today during a call with construction minister Nadim Zahawi.

The follows reports that some construction workers have faced abuse, either online or face-to-face from the public, for staying open despite the fact the government has asked them to where safe to do so.

Balfour Beatty is among the construction firms which has instructed staff to say they are essential workers if they are challenged.


15.39

Three Quarters of Homebuilding Projects Halted

Only a quarter of on-site residential homebuilding projects remain open, according to new research by Housing Today.

The coronavirus pandemic has halted work on sites due to deliver nearly 300,000 homes, according to an analysis by construction data firm Barbour ABI, carried out for Housing Today.

The findings reveal how hard the sector’s workload has been affected, despite the government maintaining that sites should remain open where possible. The sites that are currently operational can only do so providing social distancing can be maintained.


13.58

Emergency Response Fund Launched

Historic England has launched a Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund to help self-employed contractors survive immediate challenges posed by the pandemic.

Historic England, an executive non-departmental public body of the government, has invested £2m into the fund in response to a survey which found many small businesses are struggling to stay afloat.


12.10

Sharma Thanks Construction Sector

Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has written a letter to the UK’s construction sector praising workers for their tireless efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It reads:

“To everyone working in the UK’s construction sector,

In these challenging times, I want to pay tribute to all those who are working tirelessly within the construction industry. Delivering on large or small construction sites across the country, in builders’ merchants and logistics providers, or producing construction and mineral products.

Our country and our economy needs all our support. And the construction industry has answered the call to action. Whether by building temporary hospital wards, installing complex and life-saving oxygen systems, constructing the infrastructure that society needs to function or ensuring that people have safe and healthy homes to live in, you are delivering for our Nation through this difficult time. My heartfelt and personal thanks for everything that each and every one of you is doing to support our joint national effort.

The Government has advised that wherever possible, people should work at home. However, we know that for many people working in construction their job requires them to travel to their place of work, and they can continue to do so. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer’s advice.

To help ensure that it is safe for you to operate in your workplace, the industry has worked to develop Site Operating Procedures (SOP), which were published by the Construction Leadership Council. These align with the latest guidance from Public Health England. As this health guidance updates, the SOP will reflect any changes.

I am in regular contact with industry leaders about the developing situation that faces the sector. And I am fully committed to continuing to engage through the coming days, weeks and beyond.

Thank you again to everyone operating in the UK construction sector. You are making a hugely valued and critical contribution to the resilience of our Nation and I salute you for the enormous efforts you are individually undertaking to support the UK economy.”

10.50

Some Construction SMEs Battling for Survival

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has published new data revealing that 65% of small to medium-sized (SME) construction firms will not last more than two months without government support. And the SME loans announced by the government one month ago are not coming through.

“Faced with relentless overheads, supply chain blockages, site closures, and difficulty accessing government financial support schemes, stranded small builders are facing a grim future without urgent help,” the FMB says.

The FMB asked 332 construction SMEs about the impact of Covid-19 on their businesses. Of the 65% which featured they could not survive for two months, 23% said they will struggle to even get through the next four weeks.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “If the government doesn’t act by extending grant support to more small businesses, the coronavirus will wipe out thousands of small building companies, significantly reducing the capacity of the construction industry to build the homes and infrastructure we need.

“Builders are suffering because work has stopped, through no fault of their own, but bills are still landing on their doormats. Builders urgently need more money in the bank to get through lockdown.”


09.45

Which Merchants Are Still Open?

Some builders merchants have shut their doors, but self builders and renovators can still obtain key DIY materials including plasterboard and paint.

This is where to look 


17 April 08.42

How to Create Your Dream Kitchen and Bathroom

Transforming a kitchen or bathroom requires forethought, design skill and good planning. In this this 60-minute seminar from Home School, by Homebuilding & Renovating expert Michael Holmes, you’ll find all you need to achieve the kitchen and bathrooms of your dreams.

Buy it now for just £4.99.


15.50

UPDATED: Companies Offering Special Services During Lockdown

As part of Homebuilding & Renovating Home School, we’ve been updating our directory of suppliers and vendors which are available to help you during lockdown.

Kitchens & Bedrooms for DIY is one of the interiors companies which is offering free downloadable planning measuring guides, as well as consultations through phone call or Skype.

The measuring guides include a step-by-step checklist to help gauge what you’re looking over, then once the guide has been sent back you will be contacted to book a virtual appointment.


15.00

Homebuilding Hour: The Highlights and What to Expect

Here’s an update from our colleagues at the Homebuilding & Renovating Show regarding the second #HomebuildingHour next Tuesday…


13.45

Barratts Furloughs 85% of Workforce

Barratt Developments, the country’s biggest builder by number of new homes built, has announced it will furlough all but 15% of its workforce until on-site work restarts.

The government has not instructed build sites to shut amid the Covid-19 lockdown, but Barratts is among the developers which has closed sites. It has halted construction, land buying and non-essential capital expenditure.

Planning ahead for when construction work will resume nationwide, David O’Leary, policy director at the Home Builders Federation, said: “A building site is a complex business: you can’t just pull the shutters down and then reopen in two weeks, there are a lot of interdependencies.”

It is expected that the prolonged closure of build sites across the UK will mean tens of thousands of homes are delayed or never built, exacerbating a shortage of new homes.


11.40

Stay at Home, Renovate Your Home Office

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted one in 12 households to invest significant funding into a new home office so they can improve their conditions while working from home.

The findings, from AA Financial Services, say the average amount being spent is £1,759, while Londoners are spending over double the amount (an average of £2,769) than in other parts of the UK (the average in Scotland is £872).

James Fairclough, Director of AA Financial Services commented: “The prolonged and indefinite period lockdown could be the catalyst for a number of home improvements across the nation – particularly now with question marks shrouding the housing market once again.

In the current climate, with more time to complete the work, this presents people with a good opportunity to get a few jobs done. If you are at home with your family, the key is to maximise the space so that you can work comfortably and efficiently during this time.”


09.45

Take The Heat Off Your Home

Brits used 15% more heating last month then they did in March 2019, which is understandably being linked to more people working from home and home offices on the rise.

The study of 100,000 European homes was conducted by tado°, a smart thermostat company which has advocated homeowners try to use less heating during lockdown.

“Many people end up heating the whole home when in fact only some rooms are occupied where heat is needed,” said tado° co-founder Christian Deilmann.

(MORE: Upgrading Your Home’s Energy Rating Could Increase Its Value by £25k)


16 April, 08.40

Virtual Home Searching Soars

Could the Covid-19 pandemic change the way we purchase homes? Virtual home searching has risen in recent weeks, and estate agents Knight Frank believe the housing sector will embrace the new virtual reality.

“Technology will not only become a lot more widely used but will become slicker, too,” said Priya Black of Knight Frank. “Buyers and agents alike will get more comfortable with the process.”

With house visits no longer permitted during lockdown, Knight Frank reports that virtual home searching has soared in London, with Londonders viewing and reserving new flats and houses having only viewed them online.

Being able to take virtual tours inside properties and around neighbourhoods means that prospective buyers can utilise technology like never before to research new homes.


16.01

Update: B&Q Supplies Latest

B&Q is still operating Click & Collect and Home Delivery services, and is offering a limited range of home improvement products for those in the midst of planning or performing DIY tasks.

A B&Q spokesperson said: “Given these changes, we are experiencing extremely high demand at present for online orders as customers adapt to buying products in a different way and with demanding moving online.

“Products such as paint, sand and cement are widely available on diy.com for contact-free Click+Collect and home delivery. Plasterboard supplies are lower than usual but we expect stock levels to get back to normal by the end of April.”

However, in order to complete an order online you have to join a queue which can take more than an hour, depending on the time of day you join.


14.15

Scotland Makes Funding Pledge

The Scottish government has announced today that it will provide additional funding for businesses during the Covid-19 crisis, including small and medium-sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) within the construction industry.

Here’s some reaction here from Gordon Nelson, Director of Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Scotland:

13.25

Construction Output Could Collapse by 70%

This is according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which has warned the collapse forceast in the second quarter could have a major impact on the construction industry.

The OBR expects construction to experience the biggest losses as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, along with the manufacturing, retail, travel and food industries.


11.35

UPDATED: Companies Offering Special Services During Lockdown

As part of Homebuilding & Renovating Home School, we’ve been updating our directory of suppliers and vendors which are available to help you during lockdown.

If you’re looking to make the most of your garden while the sun is out, then Softub UK is offering phone consultations, online chat consultations and contact-free deliveries of hot tubs.

“Softub hot tubs are made from NASA engineered foam insulation, making them incredibly durable, perfectly insulated and very, very light, allowing us to deliver and install them with one person, following social distancing guidelines,” it says.


10.05

New Homebuilding Concerns Raised in Report

Homeowners have been left vulnerable to rogue traders due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and home improvement companies are facing cash flow problems.

These are the latest findings from the National Home Improvment Council (NHIC), which has called for government action to protect the homebuilding industry.

Read what the report means for homeowners.


09.05

Updated: CLC Issues New Guidelines

Yesterday we reported that the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) was imminently set to update its guidance for on-site construction workers. And it has done just that.

The salient updates from the third version of the CLC’s coronavirus Site Operating Procedures include:

  • When construction workers working closely together cannot be avoided, this should be limited to less than 15 minutes and workers should be side by side rather than face to face.
  • The use of face masks should be a last resort

The full guidance can be read here.


15 April 08.35

Homebuilding Hour Returns

After the success of last week’s Homebuilding Hour on Twitter, we have some news…

Getting involved with #HomebuildingHour is simple! Just follow these easy steps…

1) Be on Twitter on Tuesday 21st April at11am

2) Post your Q or the message & use #HomebuildingHour

3) Search #HomebuildingHour to see the full feed & all responses


15.10

CLC To Release New Guidelines

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) is set to release new guidance this week on on-site operating procedures on construction sites.

These will include the latest Public Health England (PHE) guidance on social distancing in the workplace during coronavirus (COVID-19) published last week, and new measures which should be implemented to help reduce the risk of transmission on build sites.

The CLC works between industry and government to identify and deliver actions supporting UK construction.


13.51

Full Service Provided

Timber Innovations is offering a full service to prospective homebuilders during lockdown. It will discuss timber frame/SIPs/Passivehouse solutions, and offer quotations for these options. It is also answering technical queries for all aspects of the build, and can put clients in touch with external architectural resources.

We’ll be regularly updating our list of which services remain open during lockdown so bookmark this link in your browser.


12.55

Updated: House Prices Set to Plummet

Here’s some more on the earlier news that house prices could drop by an average of 13% this year, as predicted by economists.

What is particularly interesting is the the varying forecasts we have seen so far regarding how low house prices could fall. Experts estimate it could range from 3% to 20%, and the uncertainty over the Covid-19 is represented in this mix of predictions.

However, there is a general consensus among property experts that clearer forecasts will be possible once lockdown measures have ended.


11.10

Saffron Suspends Self Build Mortgages

Saffron Building Society will be putting self build mortgage applications on hold until physical valuations can resume, it has announced.

The building society will still be accepting self build applications, but no valuation will be instructed.

Saffron has also withdrawn all its mortgage products that have an 80% loan-to-value (LTV). A spokesperson said “These changes are designed to make the process as smooth as possible in these challenging times.”

(MORE: What is a Self Build Mortgage?)


10.18

House Prices Set to Plummet

House prices could drop by an average of 13%, or £38,000, across the UK because of the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, a consulting firm has suggested.

This new forecast from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said the economic impact of the lockdown measures could significantly disrupt the UK’s housing market.

CEBR predicts that economic uncertainty, falling incomes and fewer house sales will lead to a steep decline in house prices by the end of 2020.


14 April 08.45

Planning Permission: What Will Happen?

In case you missed it, we’ve answered some of the FAQs regarding planning permission during the Covid-19 pandemic, including expert insight from within the industry.

Here’s what you need to know.


15.15

Update: Coronavirus and JCT Contracts

Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) has released a new article aimed at contractors and clients to shed light on what the effects of the coronavirus pandemic means for design and build contracts.

The article, written by JCT past-chair Peter Hibberd, focuses on the JCT Standard Building Contract (SBC) and all JCT contracts with like provisions for extension of time, loss and expense, and termination.


14:05

RIBA: What Lies Ahead?

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has published a great piece on what lies ahead with regards to the coronavirus outbreak and building work across the UK.


12.30

New Guidance for Tradespeople

The government has published additional guidelines to assist tradespeople when working in people’s homes, and those working within the construction sector.

For tradespeople, the guidelines state:

You can continue work, providing that you are well and have no symptoms. You should notify all clients in advance of your arrival.

You should maintain a safe distance (at least 2 metres) from any household occupants at all times, and ensure good ventilation in the area where you are working, including opening the window.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless your work is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repair.

No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

For those working within the construction sector, the guidelines recommend several measures including:

  • Workers should wash their hands each time before getting into enclosed machinery (such as diggers) with others, and wash their hands every time they get out
  • Workers should be reminded daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating
  • Groups of workers working together in teams should be as small as possible (cohorting). For example, you vehicle crews should be working together, rather than mixing crew members on different shifts.

11.15

Builders Need Government Support, Says FMB

Construction output fell by 0.2% in the three months to February 2020, compared with the previous three-month period, the Office for National Statistics has revealed.

The findings have led to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) clamouring for greater support for builders, especially as builders will not have had the opportunity to revive their workloads due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “The Government must ramp up its support for builders by allowing Directors of small Limited companies to use their dividend payments in their Job Retention Scheme claims. A cash grant mechanism to get builders through this tough time should also be developed, and all financial schemes must come on line as soon as possible.”


10.30

Bank Holiday DIY Ideas

With a four-day Bank Holiday weekend just around the corner, many Brits will be using their time at home to tackle DIY tasks. And Insulation Express has uncovered which intermediate DIY tasks have had the biggest rise in Google Searches compared to last year,

This is what it found:

Revealed: Top 10 DIY Tasks Brits Have Tackled in the Past Year 

(Data is compared from April 7th 2019 to April 4th 2020)

Position Google Search – ‘How to’ Rise in Google Searches Since Last Year*
1 Tile around a window +7,300%
2 Re-grout tiles +7,100%
3 Change a light fixture +6,300%
4 Remove mould from walls +4,700%
5 Fit an electric shower +4,300%
6 Make a fire pit +3,900%
7 Remove skirting boards +3,800%
8 Paint kitchen cupboards +3,500%
9 Paint floorboards +164%
10 Slate a roof +95%

If you’re planning on nailing those put-off DIY tasks this weekend, make sure you read about the DIY jobs that could save you hundreds of pounds during the coronavirus lockdown.


9 April 2020 9.50

Planning Permission: What to Know

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to concerns over whether it will it be harder or take longer to obtain planning permission. So, Homebuilding & Renovating spoke to industry experts to ascertain what self builders and renovators should be aware of when trying to secure planning consent during the coronavirus outbreak.

We looked at:

  • What happens if you submitted a planning application for a new build or extension before the outbreak?
  • Can I file a planning application now?
  • What happens if the date on my planning permission is about to expire?
  • What could council committee meetings (including planning committee meetings) taking place virtually mean for self builders and renovators?

This is what you need to know.


15.20

Get Lighting Design Advice

Brilliant Lighting is one of the brilliant interior companies still offering services during lockdown, including online and phone consultations, as well as architect seminars online.

It is continuing to work on existing and new client lighting designs, and its the design and project management team are working from home with full access to all our design tools, systems and client project information to hand. 

We’ll be updating our list regularly of the companies providing special services during lockdown, so do bookmark this page in your browser.


14.00

Home School – What to Know

If you haven’t already familiarised yourself with Home School – this is what you need to know.

We have launched Home School to help you start planning and detailing your project, all from the comfort of your own home. Home School will be covering five main topics:

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Building Your Own Home
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Extending & Renovating
  • Build Costs Explained
  • Kitchen Design Masterclass
  • How to Create a Home With Wow Factor

Being stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t make vast progress on your project, and Home School will provide the best information, ideas and advice to anyone looking to create their dream home.


12.30

Which Merchants Are Still Open?

Some superb work now from the Builders Merchant Federation (BMF), which has compiled a list of build merchants that are still trading and open to builders. It has also created a list of open and closed suppliers.

And don’t forget to keep checking our directory of suppliers and vendors which are available to help you during lockdown, and updates on the services they are providing.


10.55

Free Online Workshop For Construction Workers

Calls to a UK’s charity construction industry helpline have increased 25% over the past 10 days, so the charity, Lighthouse Club, has launched free online workshops to support construction workers.

The online lunchtime workshops include mindfulness and meditation, and resilience and controlling stress. All you need is access to an email address and to the internet, via a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Full details can be accessed here.


8 April 2020, 09.25

Scotland Closes ‘Non-Essential Construction’

All non-essential construction work will stop immediately in Scotland due to concerns over COVID-19, the Scottish government has announced.

Only projects delivering facilities dedicated to battling coronavirus, such as hospital works, and critical infrastructure sites such as roads, railways and utilities will continue.

The Scottish Government said in a guidance note that the construction sector and its supply chain is “considered a non-essential business sector”.

The government added: “Any project deemed essential can only continue operating if it can comply with guidance on social distancing, safety and welfare during the COVID-19 outbreak. Any site unable to meet these requirements should close.”


16.09

Watersafe Issues Plumbing Advice

Watersafe has seen an increase in the amount of water people are using during lockdown, so it consulted with its plumbers to pass on tips for homeowners to reduce the risks of preventable plumbing problems.

This is what they recommend:

  • Refrain from plumbing DIY – if this was to go wrong it might not be easy to get a plumber to call out
  • Think carefully before calling a plumber – for example, if you have a dripping tap that’s not an emergency or causing danger
  • Don’t add stress to your plumbing – avoid blockages by not disposing of food waste or fat/grease down kitchen sinks and only flush toilet paper down toilets
  • Add an extra jumper during the colder nights and turn down your heating down a notch – this will ease the strain on your boiler and save you a bit of money too.

Watersafe added that many of its plumbers are available to talk to or FaceTime on the phone, and may be able to help without attending your home.


14.59

UPDATED: Companies Offering Special Services During Lockdown

To help you plan your build project from the comfort of your home, we’ve been compiling a list of all the companies offering special services to customers during lockdown.

From what types of services companies are offering, to the assets they are creating to best help customers, we’ll be keeping track of the services that best suit you, depending on what you require for your build plans.

Check back regularly for updates from more companies across the UK.


13.45

Free Mini Video Guide on Build Costs

As part of our newly launched Home School initiative, you can enjoy a wealth of information to help you plan your dream home while on lockdown.

In this free mini guide, Jason Orme offers his expert advice on how to understand, estimate, reduce and manage your build costs.


12.48

Can You Still Get Planning Permission?

The current conditions are leading to uncertainty for those planning build projects as to whether obtaining planning permission will be easier or harder.

There is good news though. Projects are still receiving planning permission, and in many areas of the country the planning system is still pretty much business as usual.

With council committee meetings now taking place virtually, Paul Testa from Paul Testa Architecture says: “We’re finding it makes decisions even more variable as [councils] have relaxed the rules on how many officers are present when decisions are made, so individual planners are left more to their own devices.”

We’ll be covering how to get planning permission during lockdown in greater detail this week.


11.48

Remortgage Advice for Self Builders

Hanley Economic has sage advice for a self builder left “slap-bang in the middle of our build” and facing financial uncertainty.

Share your self build and renovation questions at #HomebuildingHour on Twitter now.


11.35

Join in with #HomebuildingHour

Some fascinating insight is being shared on #HomebuildingHour on Twitter, as experts discuss moving on with projects and which companies are still open (in some capacity) for business.

It’s great to see that glazing specialists IDSystems are one of the many companies moving onwards and upwards…

…while Rainwater Harvesting has great advice for managing mains water consumption.


11:00

The Homebuilding Hour is now live on Twitter!

Share your questions or messages and use #HomebuildingHour – industry experts will be online keeping the self build industry connected.

We want to hear your questions on adapting to the current situation and anything build related!


09.30

Save £100s on DIY

As the nation turns to DIY to improve our homes (and keep busy), new findings show that you can save over £1,000 during the coronavirus lockdown by doing eight simple DIY jobs around the house.

Some of these easy jobs can also help occupy the children, and bring the family together for an activity that can save on costs from bringing in tradespeople.


7 April 2020 08.50

Introducing: Homebuilding Hour

This morning, we’re bringing the Homebuilding & Renovating Show to your home. If you have a question about your home or a build project then follow #HomebuildingHour between 11am-12pm today on Twitter.

Industry experts across the construction and design sectors will be on hand to offer advice, and connect you with information about the wider self build and renovation market. 


15.09

Apex Loft Design is one of the many companies offering special services during lockdown. Through online and WhatsApp consultations, it will be providing detailed advice on roof space, from planning rules to design/layout options.

We launched this guide to companies’ services as part of our new Home School initiative, so you can continue to plan your project from the comfort of your own home. We’ll be updating the list regularly so do bookmark this link in your browser.


11.50

FMB Responds to PMI Reveal

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has challenged the government to better support small construction firms, in response to the construction PMI data published today.


11.40

Construction Activity Hits Lowest Level in 11 Years

Construction activity in the UK fell in March at its fastest rate since 2009, the new construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) has revealed. This is the sharpest fall in activity since the financial crisis of 2008-09.

General construction work has continued in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown, which has led to criticism over construction workers’ safety, especially those travelling to work on packed public transport. But the coronavirus pandemic has still plunged construction activity to its lowest level in 11 years.

The seasonally adjusted data from IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) revealed that survey respondents attributed reduced activity to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

10:30

New Welsh Guidelines For Construction Workers

There was news from Wales over the weekend, with the Welsh government updating its guidelines to protect construction workers, which will come into effect on Tuesday 7 April, 2020.

The mandatory recommendations state:

“The regulations will mean the 2m social distancing rule will apply to any workplace, including homes, where work and repairs are being undertaken and outdoor spaces. The new rules apply to those workplaces not already covered by the original stay-at-home rules introduced almost 2 weeks ago.”

Employers in Wales will be breaking the law if they do not ensure that construction workers can maintain social distancing, and all businesses will have to take all reasonable measures to ensure this is carried out.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford said: “These new regulations will ensure workers are safe in the workplace, by ensuring the social distancing measures we have put in place also apply in all people’s places of work.”

The Welsh government will publish more detailed guidance on Tuesday when the new regulations come into force.


6 April 2020 09:00

Let’s begin the day with this note from the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) which has advice for self builders affected by the Covid-19 lockdown.


14.44

Companies Offering Special Services During Lockdown

As part of our new Home School initiative, we’re compiling a list of all of the companies offering special services to customers during lockdown so you can continue to plan your project from the comfort of your own home.

We’ll be updating the list regularly so do bookmark this link in your browser.


3 April 2020 12.06

Homebuilding & Renovating Launches Home School

Introducing Home School – a new online learning platform from Homebuilding & Renovating to help you plan your next project effectively – from home. From design to project management, build costs to kitchen ideas, in the coming weeks we’ll offer you a series of brilliant video seminars from our experts, exclusive online content and much more.

We’ll highlight it on here when we add more exciting things to our Home School section.


2 April 2020 12.14

Campaign Launched to Encourage the Construction Industry to Donate Surplus PPE

An online appeal has been launched to encourage the construction industry to donate surplus PPE (personal protective equipment) to the NHS in order to protect frontline staff during the coronavirus outbreak.

Contractors Appeal, a voluntary organisation set up to help gather and distribute idle PPE to the NHS, is looking for items such as masks, overalls, gloves and goggles. While the campaign is aimed at the construction industry and those with ample supply, self builders and renovators with a stock of surplus PPE could also aid by donating to the campaign.

Donations towards the purchase of PPE for NHS staff are also being accepted.

You can donate surplus PPE here


16.33

The Construction Leadership Council Calls for Builders’ Merchants to Remain Open to Allow Essential Construction to Take Place

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has written to the prime minister with proposals to help sustain the construction industry throughout the Coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

The letter was written following consultation with 11 leading federations and representative bodies from across the construction industry, including the FMB (Federation of Master Builders).

Importantly, the letter, written by Andy Mitchell, Co-Chair of the CLC, asks government to provide clearer guidance to encourage builders’ merchants and material manufacturers to remain open in order to allow essential maintenance and construction work to continue to take place.

Andy Mitchell states: ‘For understandable reasons, we are seeing the closure of key construction product and material manufacturers, in parallel with the closure of electrical, plumbing and general builders’ merchants, and there is the very real prospect of many of the essential works not being able to be done, or unduly delayed, by difficulties in securing products and materials.

‘I ask therefore that you and your Ministers give very clear and visible encouragement that the production of building materials continues, if at all possible, and that electrical, plumbing and general builders’ merchants remain open so that essential maintenance and construction works can continue – and that the workers doing this are recognised, supported and appreciated.’

The letter also asks the PM to consider a range of further measures to help ensure both large companies and SMEs have access to cashflow during this challenging period. One significant proposal involves ‘retention release’.

Andy Mitchell proposed: ‘Retention release – it is estimated that throughout the industry there is £4.5bn held by clients and firms in the supply chain) in the form of cash retentions, which is a routine withholding of between 1% to 5% of each regular payment to be released upon successful completion of the works without defects. There will, no doubt, be some strong opinions over this, but were the Government to direct all Government bodies to release all retention monies held this would inject cash at all levels of the construction supply chain’.


1 April 2020 11.21

NHBC Offers Free Webinars for the Construction Industry

The NHBC (National House Building Council), the UK’s leading warranty and insurance provider for new homes, has launched a programme of daily webinars to support the construction industry during the Coronavirus outbreak.

The twice daily webinars are designed to train and inform the construction industry on a variety of technical topics related to housebuilding.

Webinars include a ‘Brickwork masterclass – improving masonry construction in new build’ on the 6 April, and ‘Pitched roofs including flat roofs’, which will highlight common issues found by warranty inspectors, on the 7 April.


16.18

Government Letter to the Construction Sector

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, has written an open letter to the construction industry.

The letter, published today, pays tribute to the industry for its ongoing role in creating the infrastructure required to help fight the Coronavirus crisis, and in supporting the economy.

‘You are delivering for our Nation through this difficult time’

The letter confirms that work may continue on building sites but must do so in accordance with an industry-developed SOP (standard operating procedure), published by Construction Leadership Council.

Last week, Co-Chair of Construction Leadership Council, Andy Mitchell, also advised: “If an activity cannot be undertaken safely due to a lack of suitably qualified personnel being available, or social distancing being implemented, it should not take place.”

The full letter can be read here:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): letter to the construction sector

To everyone working in the UK’s construction sector,

In these challenging times, I want to pay tribute to all those who are working tirelessly within the construction industry. Delivering on large or small construction sites across the country, in builders’ merchants and logistics providers, or producing construction and mineral products.

Our country and our economy needs all our support. And the construction industry has answered the call to action. Whether by building temporary hospital wards, installing complex and life-saving oxygen systems, constructing the infrastructure that society needs to function or ensuring that people have safe and healthy homes to live in, you are delivering for our Nation through this difficult time. My heartfelt and personal thanks for everything that each and every one of you is doing to support our joint national effort.

The Government has advised that wherever possible, people should work at home. However, we know that for many people working in construction their job requires them to travel to their place of work, and they can continue to do so. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer’s advice.

To help ensure that it is safe for you to operate in your workplace, the industry has worked to develop Site Operating Procedures (SOP), which were published by the Construction Leadership Council. These align with the latest guidance from Public Health England. As this health guidance updates, the SOP will reflect any changes.

I am in regular contact with industry leaders about the developing situation that faces the sector. And I am fully committed to continuing to engage through the coming days, weeks and beyond.

Thank you again to everyone operating in the UK construction sector. You are making a hugely valued and critical contribution to the resilience of our Nation and I salute you for the enormous efforts you are individually undertaking to support the UK economy.

Yours sincerely,

THE RT HON ALOK SHARMA MP

Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy


12.28

Virtual planning committee meetings authorised in government first

For the first time, the government has passed legislation allowing planning committees to temporarily take place via virtual platforms, in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

Prior to the change, under the 1972 Local Government Act, councillors had to be present in the same place in order to pass decisions.

In a Planning Update Newsletter, addressed to local authorities, Chief Planner, Steve Quartermain CBE, stated: ‘We understand that some councils are concerned about the implications of COVID19 for their capacity to process planning applications within statutory timescales.

“The Government has confirmed that it will introduce legislation to allow council committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period, which we expect will allow planning committees to continue.”

The new legislation, although subject to review, allows council committee meetings to be held virtually until 7 May 2021.

In the same Newsletter, Steve Quartermain also stated: ‘We recognise that there may be circumstances where a local planning authority is unable to consider a permitted development prior approval application within the deemed consent period. It remains important to prioritise these so important economic activity can continue. In these exceptional circumstances the authority can, if necessary, seek to agree an extended approval date with the applicant.’


31 March 2020 10.45

Latest stats reveal last quarter’s new build completions were the highest since 1989

Somewhat ironically, the latest stats from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government have revealed that the number of new house completions were up. The most recent, quarter four 2019 figures reveal that 49,590 homes were completed in the three-month period — the most of any quarter since 1989.

The 2019 year finished on 169,020 homes built, the biggest annual figure since 2007.

Co-founder of Properganda and property expert, Russell Quirk, commented: “At last, the government and the nation’s housebuilders have started to deliver on the rhetoric of the last few years, getting close to achieving something like the numbers that the country needs. Each year since 2012 has seen a steady climb and the latest figures show the biggest increase since the Berlin Wall was toppled.

“Unfortunately, having dusted themselves down from the wounds inflicted by Brexit, this upward trend will now surely be interrupted by the current Coronavirus crisis.

“That said, we should take solace that once this is also behind us, normal service and building, I’m sure, will resume in earnest.”


14.12

RICS announce low value construction adjudication service

In wider construction industry news, RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) has launched an adjudication service in an effort to ease cashflow for small and medium-sized construction companies during this period.

RICS has begun providing a low value construction adjudication service to give UK SMEs a simple and cost-effective procedure that will make solving disputes more accessible and quicker for lower value claims.

The service is aimed at disputes where the amounts claimed are for £50,000 or less, and the issues in dispute are relatively uncomplicated.

In the light of the impact of the coronavirus on the industry, there is a renewed call for an easy to use method. RICS have set up a high-quality panel of RICS adjudicators who have been trained to deliver the service.

“This new, more transparent process will offer access to justice for small and medium sized companies in the construction industry — helping to ensure small disputes are resolved quickly, cheaply and effectively,” said Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi.


09.57

Does Coronavirus Count as a Force Majeure?

JCT Design and Build contracts are commonly used in construction projects, and feature a clause regarding ‘force majeure’ – an unforeseeable circumstance that prevent a contract from being fulfilled.

In order to be classed as a force majeure, the event must not have been foreseeable at the time of signing the contract, and it must be the sole cause of non-performance.


30 March 2020 08.56

People Advised Not to Move House

The government has urged people not to move house while lockdown measures are in place, and instead aim to agree alternative dates to move. This is to not only help limit the spread of coronavirus, but to provide time to answer concerns about how the pandemic might affect house valuations and, given the current economic uncertainty, the granting of mortgages.

Even if the property you are moving to is vacant, you will still need consider the physical act of moving. Some removal firms may not be working, and if they are it is imperative that social distancing guidelines are followed.

Read more


16.30

Right, those are your major updates for the week. We’ll be back on Monday providing the latest news on how coronavirus is affecting the construction industry.

Of course, you can use this time wisely if you’re planning home improvements. Read this brilliant article on the most cost-effective home improvements to plan while on lockdown.


14.30

40% Increase in Door Sales

Self-isolation may limit how often we can walk out the front door, but it’s not stopping people from buying doors that better suit their tastes.

Door specialist OnlineDoorStore.co.uk has seen a 40% spike in sales over the past few weeks. And to assist those in the market, they offer the following tips:

  • While glazed units improve light levels and allow you to steal space from adjoining rooms, solid doors create stronger barriers between spaces and aid with privacy, insulation and noise control. Consider how your family uses your home and whether you need to increase natural light levels
  • Consider the placement of your doors. If you choose to hang your doors so that they open into a room, will there be enough space for your furniture? Those with narrow corridors or tight lounges will need to consider this carefully. Also, will the door be hung on the left or the right, and will this allow enough space for full capacity opening?

13.30

Housing Market Freeze

After concerns that coronavirus would affect house prices, the government has announced that it will in effect suspend the property market.

As a result, estate agents will not be able to market new homes and visits to houses already for sale will be banned. What this means is that there is now essentially a complete freeze on the UK housing market, which the government said had to be done to avoid breaking social distancing rules.

The government’s advice is as follows:

  • Home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while measures are in place to fight coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Our advice is that if you have already exchanged contracts and the property is currently occupied then all parties should work together to agree a delay or another way to resolve this matter.
  • If moving is unavoidable for contractual reasons and the parties are unable to reach an agreement to delay, people must follow advice on staying away from others to minimise the spread of the virus.
  • In line with government’s advice, anyone with symptoms, self-isolating or shielding from the virus should follow medical advice which will mean not moving house for the time being, if at all possible. All parties should prioritise agreeing amicable arrangements to change move dates for individuals in this group, or where someone in a chain is in this group.

12.30

What is ‘Essential’ Construction?

The Construction Industry Council (CIC) has outlined a list of construction that it deems to be ‘essential’

Graham Watts, chief executive of the CIC, says in a blog post it would be “incredibly dangerous for all construction sites to close; but it is also incredibly dangerous for all construction sites to remain open.

Watts argues that construction sites should only remain open if the work is critical and work can only continue if:

  • It can be carried out under the guidance issued by Public Health England;
  • It can be undertaken without compromising safety and health;
  • It is carried out in accordance with the Site Operating Procedure published earlier;
  • Workers can travel safely and responsibly to sites.

11.50

Reduce Your Bills During Lockdown

We’ve just had this in from Izzy Schulman, director at Plumbers4U, who has advice on how to be energy efficient and lower your household bills during the lockdown.

Check Your Thermostat

One of the simplest and easiest ways to be more efficient when your heating is on is to check your thermostat isn’t blocked by furniture or curtains. This limits airflow around your thermostat, so it won’t be recording your home’s room temperature accurately.

Make sure it’s not close to a source of heating either – like a radiator or oven – as this can also stop your thermostat from making correct readings.

Look at Your Insulation

Installing good quality insulation will help your home retain heat and reduce the energy needed to keep it warmer for longer. For example; laying loft insulation to a thickness of 270mm in a typical non-insulated three-bedroom semi and insulating the cavity walls could save you up to £270 a year.

(MORE: Insulating a Loft: A Beginner’s Guide)

Get Smart

Start setting boiler timers for when you need heat, like before you wake up or for when you get home.

Having your boiler only turn on when you need it can save you upwards of £80 and reduce emissions by 320kg of carbon dioxide a year.

When you do decide to switch on your heating, consider getting smart controls installed. So, you can control your heating remotely and even adjust it according to the weather outside.


10.20

CITB Suspends Levy Payments for Three Months

There was also big news last night for the wider construction industry. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) announced it will suspend its levy for bills due for payment in 2020, for an initial period of three months.

Bills due for payment will subsequently be issued for the full year, which the CITB hopes will provide immediate financial relief to construction firms. Levy bills are usually due for payment in May, but the CITB will not seek collection on these suspended bills until August, or later if possible.


09.20

Government’s Housebuilding Plans ‘Virtually Impossible’

Worrying news for housebuilding in the UK: the government’s target to build a million homes in the next five years has been described as ‘virtually impossible‘ following the reveal of new data.

Housebuilding rates in England have fallen further below government targets, with just 178,000 new build completions in 2019. And this is before the impact of coronavirus has taken its toll,

While the 44,980 new build completions during the final three months of 2019 marked a 3% increase than a year prior, the government remains behind on its homebuilding targets.

While it will likely be some time before we see the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the economy, the housing sector has already experienced turmoil.


27 March 2020 08.50

Chancellor Announces Self-Employment Grant

Thursday night ended with the news many in the construction industry had been hoping for. Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed that the government is offering to pay self-employed construction workers a grant of 80% of average monthly profits over the last three years. This will be capped at £2,500.

The Self-employed Income Support Scheme will be open for millions of self-employed workers, many of whom are construction workers, and will provide direct cash grants to support them during the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

People will be able to access the scheme no later than the beginning of June and HMRC will contact those who are eligible. Until then, workers are being encouraged to apply for Universal Credit to support them for the next two months.

The news was welcomed by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Construction workers across the country will now be taking a collective sigh of relief knowing they will now be protected in the same way that employees will be if they lose work due to Covid-19.

Hew Edgar, Head of Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) UK Government Relations & City Strategy, also embraced the chancellor’s announcement.

“Our self-employed members, surveyors working up and down the country, were telling us of their concern and worry about the lack of support for their businesses. However, the Chancellor’s announcement today – allowing them to access grants of up to £2,500 based on reported profits – now changes that completely.

“There are thousands of self-employed professionals in the built environment, who are just as vital to our economy as SME and large business, so this support will ensure then can continue to operate and contribute to the wider economy now and after this virus has been beaten.”


16.15

The National Custom and Self Build Association has tweeted its support for builders still working on projects across the UK.


14.50

DIY-savvy Brits may be relishing the prospect of doing their own jobs for a while, but for millennials, the return of tradespeople can’t come quickly enough.

Tradesmen directory MyJobQuote.co.uk surveyed 1,073 millennials in the UK about how confident they felt doing their own DIY jobs. Millennials, look away now.

Respondents could not identify eight out of 15 tools on average, and a review of Google Trends over the last 24 hours revealed that asking whether DIY stores are staying open during lockdown have increased by 3,000%.

While doing your own DIY can save costs, it’s important to only commit to DIY projects you are confident and experienced in, and know what to leave to the professionals.


13.31

Construction News is reporting that it has seen an email from a senior prime ministerial adviser which says the government is not closing construction sites nor is it encouraging them to.


12.10

Fears for construction workers at build sites has been raised by many, but not so much fears for employers. Now, Forbes’ legal experts say closing construction sites could protect employers just as much as workers.

David Mayor, an associate in the insurance law team at Forbes Solicitors, added: “The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) are underpinned by the need to identify and control site hazards, avoiding or reducing risk where possible.

“It will be difficult for government guidance to be wholly observed and if it ends-up actually increasing risk, employees could reasonably claim a breach of the Regulations or other health and safety legislation. This is a needless and avoidable scenario for both employers and workers.”

Underpinning the concern for construction workers is that social distancing is difficult and impractical to enforce on some build sites.


11.09

60% of Builders Cease Work

More than half (60%) of builders have stopped between 76% and 100% of their work, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) this morning, which says only emergency and critical construction work should be allowed to continue.

Furthermore, the FMB says around two-thirds of its members believe the government is not doing enough to support, citing the safety concerns now being commonly raised over travelling to and working on build sites.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Most FMB members have already taken the lead and ceased the majority of their work. It is almost impossible to follow Public Health England’s social distancing advice on many sites, and it would therefore be safer to close them.”

Berry concluded: “No one should have to choose between feeding their family and protecting their health and yet that is the position many builders currently find themselves in.”

The FMB has also pushed for chancellor Rishi Sunak to support self-employed builders equally as well as those on PAYE. The government has been challenged for days to provide a financial support package for self-employed workers, many of whom are builders.


09.53

Interest in Extensions Soars by 20%

Inquiries for extensions, garden rooms and home offices have risen by a fifth in the last week, according to modular house-builder Built & Spaces, as more of us realise we need more space if we’re going to be homebound for several weeks.

Steve Wilkie, Director of Built & Spaces, said: “People are suddenly working from home, looking around and they’re thinking, ‘I need more space.’ Homeowners might have been thinking about extending their house for years, but now they’ve got time to do something about it.”

Parents were reported as fielding the most enquiries, with parents across the UK trying to juggle work commitments with their children being off school.

(MORE: Coronavirus: Keep Busy at Home With These Easy Home Improvement Projects)


26 March 2020 08.50

Wednesday’s Recap

Welcome back to Building as Usual’s (BAU) live updates on how the lockdown is affecting the homebuilding industry.

Wednesday saw Boris Johnson defend the decision to keep build sites open, despite the risks posed by the spreading coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and mounting clamour for the government to protect builders, many of whom had been seen cramming into London Tubes to get to work.

Given the uncertainty over which build sites should remain open, the Construction Leadership Council sought to provide clarity by issuing guidance to the construction industry, urging employers to use their common sense when managing live projects and ensuring that employees can follow the government’s guidance and practice safe social distancing on site.

Meanwhile Selco announced that it will cease trading for three weeks. But Jewson, Travis Perkins, Screwfix and Toolstation are among the builders merchants still operational in some capacity, albeit only through delivery services.

It was quite the day. Stay with us throughout this beautifully sunny Thursday for the latest news and updates relating to your building projects and the wider construction industry.


15:45

How to Protect Your Build Site

We’ve just had this in from Self Build Zone managing director Paul Kempton, who recommends self builders adopt a gamut of measures to protect their build site from more than coronavirus.

“In times such as these the main problems outside of your control are going to probably be theft and arson,” says Kempton.


14.20

Making a Valuable Contribution

This tweet from Paul Fasham serves to raise awareness of how everyday people can make a valuable contribution during these unprecedented times.


13.40

Johnson Rebuffs Construction Fears

Departing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn took aim at Boris Johnson’s policy over build sites in Mr Corbyn’s last-ever Prime Minister’s Questions, asking: “Can the Prime Minister be absolutely clear that construction work on non-emergency work should stop now?”

Somewhat predictably, the Prime Minister remained stoic. Mr Johnson said people should work at home “unless they must go to work” to keep the economy afloat, and reiterated the need for social distancing. 

For now, no change regarding the government’s stance.


12.06

Advice Issued for Heating Engineers

The Heating & Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) has issued updated advice to heating engineers, based on daily changing government recommendations.

Engineers are still working nationwide, and must maintain a 2m distance from any household occupants to ensure everyone’s safety.

Additionally, HHIC says: “No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.”


11.32

Khan Challenges Johnson

London Mayor Sadiq Khan is leading the demand for government action with regards to build sites. The Prime Minister can expect quite the outcry during Prime Minister’s Questions, which has just begun in the House of Commons.


10.35

Johnson Under Pressure to Close Build Sites

The government is facing calls to close build sites as fears escalate about ensuring safety at building sites and preventing the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

Many construction workers were seen on packed London Tubes yesterday attending build sites, and as Boris Johnson appears before MPs today for Prime Minister’s Questions, he is under growing pressure to halt non-essential construction work.

Mr Johnson is also facing calls to provide a financial support package for self-employed workers, many of whom are builders.


25 March 2020 10.19

Introducing BAU

We’re committed at Homebuilding & Renovating to keeping you informed of anything that matters in the world of self build, home renovation and construction. That’s why today we’re launching BAU which stands, rather cleverly we think, for Building As Usual. Because, while this current crisis is anything but usual, we’re sure that you, our community of homeowners looking to create their dream home, and tradespeople, designers and builders, will find a way to keep on building – in whatever format.

Check back here regularly for updates of essential news, merchant openings (and closing), and find out what everyone else is doing to make the best of all this.





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