>> Feb 8, 2017
Do you need to hire a building surveyor, and do you really need to check with utilities before you start? These are important questions and should be part of your project planning. Just because you are excited to start with that weekend (or summer-long) building project doesn't mean you should pick up the hammer and nails.
Draw it Out
The first part of a good plan is a drawing. In order to go ahead with the next steps of your building project, you will need to have a good diagram of what you intend to do. Besides the obvious point that it's much easier to build something when working from a diagram, having a piece of paper with a real drawing will make the other planning steps much more likely to be successful.
As we mentioned earlier, you can do your own or hire a professional to do a proper blueprint and survey. Either way, make it accurate and include as many measurements as you can. You should also have any other nearby structures, bodies of water and boundary lines too.
Permits and Paperwork
This is the part most people try to avoid when they are doing small-scale building in their backyard. The truth is that you are risking larger problems later if you skimp on the paperwork and try to avoid doing the proper reporting of your project.
Small sheds or other buildings that are smaller than around 120 sq ft are usually exempt from needing a permit, as long as they are not attached to the house. Every area has its own set of regulations for this, so it's better to take your plans to the council office and find out the details.
And even if your project needs to be larger than that, getting the right permits isn't necessarily a nightmare. Most regions (such as New York City, for example) have clear outlines on the process you can research beforehand.
There are likely some fees attached but if you have your plans worked out, it should be a simple job with minimal wait times. If your plans show that you have broken zoning regulations, you can easily make changes now before you actually start construction.
Don't forget to make a thorough investigation about what is below the surface if you plan on doing any digging more than a few inches deep. Pipes, wires, and cables can be damaged even by a hand shovel. Never just assume that there is nothing there. Have professionals from the local utility companies do a check for you. You'll need to have a precise location to give them, which is another reason why you should start off with a good plan and drawing of your building.
This is a little less crucial than the first 3 tips, but making a rough list of materials can help your project go more smoothly and hopefully prevent spending too much on unneeded supplies. You don't want to buy 6 bags of cement mix when you really only need one. On the other hand, you don't want to make 3 trips to the store instead of one because you keep running out of supplies.
A few basic measurements can help you make estimates, and there are even apps that can do the math for you.