How to build a home -

Posted by SAPAC Reporter on

How to build and ensure success with

Prepared by independent SAPAC Reporter
Article Classification: Public Awareness
Press here for Afrikaans Article [LINK]
Discipline: Architecture, Engineering, Building
Areas: Southern AfricaNorthern Cape, Western Cape,Cape Winelands, Free State, Gauteng, North West Province, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Natal 

SAPAC Procuring Land

1. Procure land

  1. Before purchasing property in a development or estate, it is important to verify the developer's credentials as many have faced financial difficulties in the past.
  2. Thoroughly examine the guidelines of the estate to identify any restrictions that may impact your plans or activities.
  3. Ensure that the land has been officially transferred by the council and is ready for sale, as some individuals begin advertising properties before this process is completed.
  4. Confirm that necessary services such as water, sewerage pipes, and electricity supply have been installed on the property.
  5. If the land is privately owned and subdivided, check if it has been fully registered at the deeds office and if new services have been installed, noting that this registration process can take up to a year.
  6. Consult with a town planner to determine any restrictions on neighbourhood heights and boundaries. - Contact SAPAC for a subject matter expert.
  7. Keep in mind that banks usually provide only 60% bonds for new plots, so you will need additional capital to cover construction costs.

SAPAC SG Diagram

2. Gather relevant information

  1. Request the seller to provide an SG diagram, which includes the dimensions and area of the plot. Additionally, ask for a Title Deed that may outline any specific height or double storey restrictions applicable to the plot.

  2. Arrange for a land survey to be conducted if one is not readily available. This survey will provide accurate measurements of heights and contours, which will be essential in determining the allowable height for the final construction.

  3. Get a geotechnical report prepared by an engineer to assess the soil conditions and building suitability for foundations. Although it may not always be mandatory, obtaining such a report is a precautionary measure to ensure safety and mitigate potential risks. So do get it!

SAPAC Architect

3. Choose architect on and draw up plans

  • When embarking on the construction of a house, it is crucial to make thoughtful decisions. Opting for a well-designed home not only increases its value but also enhances the overall living experience.

  • While finding an architect may not be the most challenging aspect with, ensuring that the project remains within budget can be a greater concern. It is advisable to establish your budget beforehand and gain an understanding of the prevailing rates per square meter charged by local building firms. Important, do not opt for the cheapest. 

"Opting for the cheapest per square meter, works out more per square meter when you have to eventually go the legal route."

  • Architects employ various fee structures, allowing you to choose between obtaining plans only or plans coupled with project management services. Involving an architect undoubtedly elevates the project, but it comes at a cost, as you may incur expenses for high-quality subcontractors and the architect's time for management. 

    Some good quality architects do take a hands on approach.

  • Moreover, it is important to note that energy-efficient models are now mandatory for some council submission of plans. If your architect lacks expertise in this area, you may need to engage the services of a specialist. Therefore do consult with

 SAPAC Building Committee

4. Present your plans to the Building Committee of the estate.

  1. When constructing a property within an estate, it is necessary to undergo a thorough evaluation and obtain approval from the estate management. It is important to note that this review process typically involves the payment of a fee.

SAPAC Engineer

5. You must appoint a structural engineer that is on

  1. The integrity of your structure rests in the hands of the engineer, not the architect. Prior to submitting your plans to the council, it is imperative to engage the services of an engineer.
  2. It is imperative for you to understand the Engineers role at every suitable stage of your build. The engineer is crucial at every step of your build
  3. It is crucial to understand that the engineer is conversant with building standards. And that you keep them involved every step of the way.
  4. Its a no brainer, the engineer knows best period and must get and be on site. It is therefore essential to understand their professional rates.
"By not having a suitable qualified Engineer on site you are taking chances." "There is a reason structural engineers is so pertinent about issues "They are persistent about standards and this is what you want for your build." "And yes they have professional fees, which is non negotiable so they will ensure your build is a success."

Ensuring a Engineer is involved on site and when required inspections is to be performed according to their schedule (not your schedule) is extremely important and will result in success.

6. Submit your plans to the local council

This do include the following paperwork 

  1. Proof of transfer of ownership.
  2. Submission of the SG diagram, which includes the dimensions and area of the property.
  3. Contour plan, indicating the natural land contours and slopes.
  4. Geotechnical report, although it may not always be mandatory, to assess soil conditions and foundation suitability. It should be your requirement to know this.
  5. Appointment of a structural engineer for expert oversight.
  6. Complete set of plans, including floor plans, elevations, and storm water management plans.
  7. Comprehensive electrical layout.
  8. Approval from the estate or relevant authorities.

Additionally, keep in mind that there are fees associated with council submissions.

Previously, the task of managing this process could be outsourced to "runners" who were paid to handle it. However, it is now common for such services to be restricted. Consequently, either you or your architectural firm will need to regularly follow up with the council to determine if any additional information is required. The timeframe for this process can vary, typically taking around 2-3 months, but often longer. In some cases, obtaining concessions can even span several years.

7. Ensure that you have comprehensive structural engineering plans in place.

Before initiating the tender process through, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive set of structural engineering plans. These plans should encompass various aspects such as foundations, slab work, and roofing. It is important to note that these specifications can significantly impact the overall costs, particularly if the ground conditions are unfavourable. It is very likely that the engineer may require a Geotech report to inform their design decisions.

SAPAC Builders

    8. Appointing the builder from

    1. In order to obtain an accurate quote from a builder, it is essential to create a clear Schedule of Finishes. This can be prepared by an architect for a fee, or alternatively, you will need to specify all the desired finishes, flooring, ceiling, and roofing details. 

      For a more comprehensive and detailed cost breakdown, it is recommended to engage the services of a Quantity Surveyor. 

    2. In South Africa, it is a requirement for builders to be registered with the NHBRC (National Home Builders Registration Council) in order to undertake new construction projects. Requesting the builder's certificate as proof of registration is important, and it is advisable to ensure that their registration is up to date since it is renewed on an annual basis. Additionally, builders should also be registered with the Labour department.

    3. To avoid any misunderstandings or disputes, it is crucial to have clear and concise discussions about budgets, payment milestones, and timelines upfront. These details should be documented and mutually agreed upon through signed agreements. It is therefore highly advisable to perform payments in stagger payment schedules. And to obtain a report from an engineer before each stagger payment is made. And that a QS is appointed in terms of the contracts to ensure all is above par.

      NOTE: Is is strongly advisable that the contract is performed either by an architect or QS that has the required experience to handle such contracts. 

    9. You have to register your project with NHBRC

    1. When constructing a new house, regardless of whether you are using a bond or not, it is necessary to register your house with the NHBRC (National Home Builders Registration Council).

    2. Several paperwork and approved plans must be submitted to the nearest NHBRC office by you, the builder, and the structural engineer. This should be handled by your NHBRC registered builder.

    3. A sliding fee based on the building cost will be applied, with a cap of approximately R36,000.

    4. While this registration process may seem burdensome, it is crucial to not skip this stage. If you require a bond, obtaining an enrolment certificate is essential. Even if you are financing the construction with cash, you still need a certificate, as the risks of non-compliance is significant. The potential consequences, both in terms of cost, time, and administrative complications, can be a nightmare if you are caught without proper registration. [LINK] to NHBRC

    10. Registering a bond

    1. To obtain bond approval for your new construction project, you will need several documents in place. These include a set of council-approved plans, an NHBRC enrolment certificate, and a detailed cost breakdown and contract from your chosen contractor.

    2. It is important to note that this process can be time-consuming, as banks have become cautious about funding new builds. Therefore, it is crucial to have a substantial capital investment of your own to support the project.

    11. Connect power and water

    1. Even if the necessary services have been installed on your new property, it is still essential to arrange for the council to directly connect the water and electricity pipes to your home. This process may involve only a short distance, but it requires the appropriate connectors.

    2. Both water and electricity connections come with fees, and you will need to visit the council or the estate to submit an application. It is important to note that this process can sometimes take several months, so it is advisable to apply well in advance before commencing the construction. This is particularly crucial as you will require running water right from the start of the building process.

    12. Securing your site

    • On-site theft is a prevalent issue, making it important to take preventive measures. It is advisable to fence in your property, as estates often require it, or alternatively, consider installing a lockable container. Additionally, it is crucial to provide a dry storage area for cement. Expensive equipment should be removed from the site at the end of each day to minimize the risk of theft. Some of the builders with have their own site storage containers.

    13. Ensuring compliance in terms of the Occupational health and Safety act 85 of 1993

    1. Builders and subcontractors are obligated to maintain a Safety File, particularly on larger construction sites. These files should be prepared by a competent registered safety professional. More information on compliance may be requested from SAPAC. [Link]
    2. This will ensure that compliance with regards towards the regulations as pertained in the OHS Act 85 of 1993 covers you in terms of liabilities.
      Occupational Health and Safety Act
    3. Important - workers operating on your site managed by your builder should and must have their own medicals in place. Medicals can be arranged through 
    4. All workers should have the required training in place that pertains towards the site inherent risk and hazards and a substantive site specific risk assessment should be in place drawn up and signed off by a panel of experts associated with the build site. 
    5. Ideally there should also be site specific legal appointments in the file. And the site supervisor should be a competent person that may and can manage the site in the possible circumstance the builder is not present on site. 
    There is several other controlling factors that has to be in place in line with this file. SAPAC may be contacted to provide the correct risk based legal consultation to ensure you the owner, engineer, builder, workers is properly covered.

    14. Building in an estate - building deposit

    1. In most cases, estates typically request a building deposit prior to the commencement of construction. It is important to note that any damages caused by trucks, concrete spillage, or the building process itself may be deducted from the deposit to cover repair costs.

     SAPAC Suid Kaap Mini Diggers

    Photo: Courtesy from Suid Kaap Mini Diggers 083 632 2993

    15. Excavate and clearing your property

    1. It is possible to complete this stage earlier since it does not require approved plans or permission.

    16. Contact NHBRC for inspection

    1. Regardless of registration, it is necessary to contact the NHBRC (National Home Builders Registration Council) for property inspections prior to commencing foundation digging. They are also required to conduct additional inspections at key structural milestones, such as the pouring of concrete.

    2. Similarly, the Structural Engineer must inspect all steel and formwork related to the foundations before the concrete pouring process may take place. The Engineer must be present at key phases during construction. Inquire about their schedules.

    17. Contact for over inspection

    1. On the there is various subject matter experts. Solely relying on an inspection performed by the outside officials is mainly not enough. To close the loop and to ensure that you have a proper build it is essential to contact a structural engineer or a purposeful independent inspector that you may find on the platform. This person will laisse with the relevant structural engineer involved with your site. And perform the relevant checks.

    18. Start your build

    1. This is the pivotal phase where the actual construction begins. While trust is important, it is crucial to exercise thorough checks and inspections. Regular inspections by either yourself the architect, the structural engineer and SAPAC's independent third party subject matter expert is necessary to ensure the progress and quality of the build. It is important to ensure that all subcontractors have access to updated plans throughout the process, as adjustments and modifications often arise, which can lead to unforeseen consequences.
    2. Maintaining detailed records of any changes and their cost implications is essential. Additionally, managing cash flow meticulously can greatly impact the adherence to the timeline and overall success of the project. Therefore planning ahead in line with budgeting is essential. 

    19. Conclusion

    1. Procure the land.
    2. Gather the relevant information on your land. 
    3. Visit and choose an architect.
    4. Present your plans to a building estate for approval if building in estate.
    5. Appoint an engineer for the project and align yourself with their firm.
    6. Submit the building plans to the local council for approval and lodging.
    7. Before tendering the plans on ensure that the structural engineer has plans in place for the structure.
    8. Visit and submit your plan for tendering and then appoint your chosen builder.
    9. Ensure that you register the project with the NHBRC as this is a requirement.
    10. Register a bond.
    11. Connect the power and water utilities to the property.
    12.  Secure your site.
    13. Ensure compliance is applied in terms of OHS Act 83 of 1993 or consult with
    14. If building in an estate ensure to pay the building deposit.
    15. Excavate and clear the property in line with requirements.
    16. Contact the NHBRC for their visitation inspection. 
    17. Contact to be put into contact with an independent 3rd party inspector that will laisse with the engineer and the builder.
    18. Start the build. - Ensure continuous inspection is performed at key phases during the project. 

    20. Do not overlook these

    Ensure there is a contract in place for the following:
      • Architect and their role and responsibilities
      • Engineer and their role and responsibilities 
      • Independent inspector, the independent inspector will laisse with the engineer, and builder directly. And provide detailed feedback.
      Do not do the following:
      • Change the design, dimensions of the architect.
      • Change the Engineer on the project.
      • Decide you know how to build and interfere with the builder after each initial meeting.
      • Decide to introduce other contractors on site while the builder is still operational on the site. i.e. Kitchen cupboards or solar installation. Do not do it. 
      • Become emotionally charged with regards to snags and run to social media immediately get in contact with [LINK], keep cool calm and collective. 

      What to do if there is an issue:

      • Call a meeting with the Engineer, Independent inspector and Builder and raise the concerns during the meeting. 
      • Ask the engineer for input, and then request the builder for input.
      • Refer the issue to the independent impartial inspector. 

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      Note from SAPAC for your build

      No build is ever the same, it changes with regards to topography and each build has its own elements of challenges. If you experience any problems do come in contact with SAPAC to see how we may be able to assist you with any possible experienced issues. Remember we are here to assist you with the best possible subject matter experts for FREE and that forms apart of the Collective. Each build should be in essence a memorable experience, between you the client, architect and engineer. 

       Be sure to share this article. And to join the SAPAC online group at

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