Welcome to our Self Build Insurance blog!

Welcome to the ProAktive Self Build blog where we hope to bring you news, advice, hints and tips to help you with your self build!

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Mini home Builder Challenge Winners Announced!

ProAktive Selfbuild, the people who developed the UK’s first self build insurance policy in 1984, have announced winners of the first Mini Home Builder Challenge.

The contest, launched in October 2016, invited children (under the age of 11) to build or design their dream home.

ProAktive received entries from children of all ages, ranging from 7 months, to 11 years old.

Although all the entries were fantastic, there could only be one winner, in each of the three age categories.

Under 5 category winner – Matilda. Lots of children dream of living in a storybook castle. This fantastic creation, complete with a drawbridge, looks simply magical.

winner 1

6 – 8 years old category winner – Alfie. The attention to detail on this grand design would make Kevin MacLeod proud. Alfie has even included a football pitch, perfect for an impromptu game of five a side.

winner 2

9 – 11 years old category, and overall Mini home Builder Challenge winner – Monica.

A tremendous amount of time must have been dedicated to this complex build. A range of different materials were used. Monica could be an architect of the future!

winner 3

ProAktive would like to thank all mini home builders for creating a fantastic collection of entries, Special congratulations to Matilda, Alfie and Monica. We hope you enjoy your family getaway.

If you are building a new structure, extending your home, or converting or renovating, contact ProAktive regarding your self build insurance needs. Please visit www.selfbuildonline.co.uk.

Considerations to take into account before undertaking piling work

As more difficult sites are accessed for self build we are finding that piled foundations are required more and more. In previous years that this type of work was generally limited to locations in the south of England due to the prevalence of clay soil but we are now seeing this country wide, particularly with phrases like `future proofing` being used.

There are a number of considerations to take into account before undertaking piling work but its also important to realise that it could have an impact on your self build insurance.

You may think the risk is no worse than digging standard foundations, however from an insurer’s point of view there are a number of considerations to think about:

  • Employers Liability – Employees could be injured if they are working with heavy machinery and in close proximity of lifting operations
  • Public Liability – There could be damage to neighbouring properties and damage to underground services
  • Works – What plant is being used and what is its value? – There are risks of theft, tipping, grounding and potentially even falling into watercourses where piling is being done near a river etc.

Before an insurer can underwrite the risk they would require certain information, such as why piled foundations are required, for example:

  • To provide vertical support for a building e.g. where the soil on which the building is to be constructed is not sufficiently strong to support the weight of the building.  This could arise when the construction is taking place on loose, sandy soils or where the ground level has been “made up” by trucking in additional soil – it may not be possible to compact the soil sufficiently.  Alternatively the weight of the building is such that the top layers of ground are not sufficiently stable or strong enough to carry the weight.  In such circumstances piles are used to transfer the weight of the building down to suitable soil e.g. rock.
  • To provide lateral support e.g. to ensure that embankments do not “slip”; to hold back surrounding soils whilst construction of say, a basement takes place
  • To impart stability to soils.  This could involve simple compaction of made up ground (see above) or could involve anchor rock faces

In addition insurers are looking for the contractor undertaking the self build to be experienced in piling works, ideally a member of the piling federation or to be CHAS members (The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme). This gives the insurer an indication of their safe working practices while on site and their experience in this type of work.

The number and depth of piles is also something the insurer needs to know. We often find that coastal properties or plots that are based near water can require a large number of piles which will be a factor (as mentioned previously) in any quotation insurers provide.

Similarly the diameter of the piles will be a consideration. Minipiles for example can sometimes be used in difficult or variable ground conditions causing minimal disruption.

You should also ensure that any designs, plans and specifications are drawn up by professionals with professional indemnity insurance in place.

Importantly, always ensure you protect your investment with self build insurance. ProAktive self build developed the first UK self build insurance policy in 1984. ProAktive are the industry leaders, with specialists available to discuss your project build, and insurance requirements.

Which flooring should I choose for my new self-build?

One of the questions which often comes to mind when putting together a new self-build is which flooring to choose, with many people wanting the most eco-friendly, energy efficient choice for their new home.

With this in mind, a solid or engineered wood floor may be your best choice, with both options offering a sustainable way to ensure your new home has an ideal flooring solution.Engineered Wood Pic

One of the best things about a wood floor is that it’s naturally renewable, and so with careful management, the forest from which it comes can supply huge amounts of building materials without being depleted over time.

The manufacturing techniques involved in engineered wood flooring are becoming more and more efficient, as the boards can be made from types of wood that are not currently utilised in solid wood flooring. Once its laid, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between a solid or engineered wood floor, and as the slightly cheaper option engineered wood flooring really is the ideal choice for your eco-friendly home.

With both solid and engineered floors, they are, as explained, a natural product and so it’s likely that you’ll find natural variation in terms of the pattern and colouring of your flooring. The amount of variation which is deemed acceptable depends on the grade of the wood you choose.  The AB or Prime grade gives extremely consistent colour throughout the planks and minimal variation. The ABC or Select grade has a consistent colour but some variation and knots in the wood may be noticeable. Finally the CD or Rustic grade has a wide variation of colour and knots, which may sound unattractive, but actually gives a real warmth and vintage look, making it ideal for homes which are going for that vibe.OAK RUSTIC LAQURED PORTRAIT

Of course, engineered wood floors have longevity in their favour, with their ability to be sanded down and refinished at least once, making them look brand new once more. The sanding process should be done carefully however, especially on planks which have a 2mm wear layer, as these can only be done once.  You should only need to sand down after ten years of use though, especially if you have gone for a lacquered finish.

When it comes to energy efficiency, if you’re worried about it, then there are several ways in which you can enhance the levels of efficiency.

Over the years, natural flooring products can move creating little gaps and spaces which are a result of expansion and contraction, these gaps allow cold air to pass through them. The way to combat this is to install the correct calibre of underlay, and doing this could save you up to 15-20% on your heating costs as no heat will get lost.

With wood flooring giving a great balance of longevity, sustainability and being eco-friendly, it would be an ideal choice for the green self-builder.

Oak Antique Web

Mini Home Builder Challenge Winners

Back in October 2016 we launched our minibuilder competition inviting under 11`s to build and design their dream home using materials of their choosing.

We were stunned by the entries we received and the judging proved challenging to say the least. But….. we have chosen the winners and they are…

Winner of Under 5`s – Matilda. What little girl doesn’t dream of a castle to live in! We loved the ingenuity of the materials involved in particular.


Winner of 6-8 yrs – Alfie. A grand designs build that Kevin MacLeod would be proud of. Great detail and a boys dream of an indoor football pitch meant it had to win.

Alphie Anderson

Our overall winner and the winner of the Age 9-11 category is………. Monica. We loved the different materials used, design and plans involved. A very clever build we hope to see built in the future.


Congratulations Matilda, Alfie and Monica. We hope you enjoy your prizes.