Build programme

Self Build Timber Frame - Stages of Build

We have been working with timber frame self build clients for over 40 years. This history has given our team a wealth of knowledge and expertise from which our self build customers can benefit.

To give you an insight into self building with a Potton, we have put together a step by step guide of the stages involved in building your new Potton home based on extracts from our award winning practical guide to self build.


To view each stage, click on the appropriate section to navigate down the page:

  1. Site preparation
  2. Working with Sub-contractors
  3. Groundworkers
  4. Scaffolding
  5. Timber Frame Package
  6. First Fix Trades
  7. Insulation
  8. Plasterboarding
  9. Claddings
  10. Second Fix Package
  11. Second Fix Services
  12. Landscaping

1. Site preparation



  • Ensure your Building Regulation application has been lodged
  • Arrange necessary site and structural insurances


Health and Safety

  • Provide proper toilet facilities - ‘portaloos’ that are maintained weekly by the supplier are recommended
  • Ensure that members of the public are kept off your site by providing “Heras” temporary fencing or equivalent



  • If you have no secure storage available, a lockable store for tools and equipment is worth considering


Entrance and Access 

  • Hardcore may be needed for easy access to your site / crane hardstanding


Water and Electricity Supply 

  • Water is essential: you may need a stopcock and standpipe or locate a temporary source by agreement with a neighbour or hire a bowser
  • Heavy duty tools need electricity: you may need to arrange for a temporary supply or hire a generator (you may also need a transformer for 110 volts)


Space Planning 

  • Phase delivery of materials to avoid overcrowding the site
  • Also consider space for a skip


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2. Working with Sub-Contractors


Every Potton client receives their very own subcontractors pack. This is intended to assist you in obtaining quotations for all the various aspects of your build, allowing you to compile an overall budget for your project. It also contains example letters to invite quotations for various aspects of your project

  • Always remember that an ‘estimate’ is not a quotation and you should obtain a written quotation since this is a fixed, binding figure and should define the scope of the works to be completed
  • With the large majority of trades, you should obtain quotations for ‘Labour and Materials’, unless you have a specific reason not to do so. An example of an exception to this is brickwork, which is almost always ‘Labour’ only
  • Always check with each subcontractor exactly what is included and what is excluded from their package
  • You may need to provide materials for some subcontract trades. Ensure these are ordered in good time


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3. Groundworkers


Setting Out

  • It is essential that your foundations are correctly located on your plot in accordance with your planning approval



  • It is our recommendation that foundations are purpose designed for each individual dwelling by specialist consultants
  • Survey the ground conditions to establish the best foundation method for your site


Structural Floor (Oversite), Insulation and Floor Finishes

  • Oversite generally refers to the structural ground floor upon which the timber frame will be constructed and which will receive the final floor finish
  • Building Regulations require the use of insulation in the ground floor



  • It is advisable to consult your Groundworker about the timing of drainage installation


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4. Scaffolding


"You can't erect houses without scaffolding!!"

  • Generally, scaffolding will need to be erected on three sides of the building prior to delivery. Always ensure that your scaffolder is available to complete the fourth side following the delivery of the timber frame
  • Always choose and agree a price with a qualified, recommended scaffolder
  • Internal features may also require additional scaffolding, such as vaulted ceilings and galleried hallways
  • It is advisable to lay a hardcore strip around the outside of your house in order to provide a firm base for scaffold. A scaffolder is not obliged to erect a scaffold if he considers the ground to be unsuitable. This could cause unnecessary delays
  • No one should be allowed on the scaffolding until it is complete and a certificate issued (by the scaffolder)


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5. Timber frame package


"The Superstructure of your New Home."


Erection Service

  • Erection of your timber frame is usually undertaken by Potton and is strongly recommended
  • It is essential that the groundwork is complete and checked for accuracy prior to delivery


Timber Frame Superstructure


Sole Plates

  • It is essential that the timber sole plates are accurately laid. Any faults at this stage will be magnified as each storey is erected


Structural Post and Beams - Heritage and Barn 

  • These create the structural aisle frame internal load bearing superstructure



  • These will make up the internal and external walls of your home


Intermediate Floors 

  • These comprise of joists, deck and beams as applicable


Roof Structure 

  • Typically comprises of structural components such as trusses, rafters, purlins and bracing


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6. First fix trades


"Installation of Pipes, Wiring and Timber Supports"


First Fix Carpentry

  • Loose timbers (noggins) supplied as part of your Timber Frame (load 1) package are fixed by your carpenter to support electrical sockets, plasterboard, kitchen units etc.
  • Try to fix all window sill boards from underneath at this stage; they can quite easily be screwed, thereby avoiding any holes and filling on the top face


1st Fix Plumbing and Electrical Services

The installation of all cabling and pipe work

  • It is essential that cutting / drilling of the timber frame structure be carried out in strict accord with the Potton Construction Details. MAKE SURE YOUR CONTRACTOR IS AWARE!
  • Liaison with your electrician, plumber, kitchen and sanitary ware supplier is essential to ensure correct provision of timber supports (noggins)
  • Ensure that electrical box supports are fitted in accordance with the Potton construction details


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7. Insulation


Insulation is essential for the optimum thermal and acoustic performance in your new home.


Thermal / Acoustic Insulation

  • It is the responsibility of the builder or project manager to provide insulation to all areas in accordance with the SAP and thermal calculations
  • No gaps should exist around insulation in walls, ceilings and roofs
  • If insulation is broken or is poorly fitted between studs, ceiling joists or roof joists, permitting a gap at sides or ends, thermal and acoustic performance can be adversely affected
  • To meet Building Regulations, walls around all bathrooms and WC’s, including soil stacks, should be fully insulated


Wall Insulation

  • Insulation is required in all walls (including internal walls and dormer windows)
  • Your Potton timber frame package will be supplied with high performance rigid insulation pre-fitted into external wall panels
  • In separating walls the insulation should be draped behind the electrical installation


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8. Plasterboarding


"Drylining is a relatively dry process compared with traditional plastering"



  • Plasterboard used on walls and ceilings is an internal finish which is a fundamental structural element offering an appropriate degree of fire and acoustic performance. Plasterboard must be fixed in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations, usually by screw fixing directly to the studs of the timber frame
  • The joints should then be taped, filled and smoothed
  • Plasterboard for walls should be taper edged for a taped and jointed system, but for ceilings can be either taper edged or square edged dependent on the final decorative finish



  • Storage of plasterboard must adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions.Care must be taken not to overload upper floors. It is not advisable to put any more than 12-14 sheets of 12.5mm plasterboard in any one stack
  • No amount of paint or wallpaper will cover up bad dry lining - choose your contractor with care


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9. Claddings


Cladding materials must be chosen to suit the area in which your home is being built and have to be agreed with the planning officer



  • Always keep your bricks, blocks and sand covered when on your site. Store cement in a dry space, on pallets
  • Stack bricks for use by taking them from a mix of packs in order to avoid problems with slightly different shades or colours


Types of Brick

  • Faced bricks: common clay bricks that have a sand face added to them, providing a weathering surface
  • Stock bricks: dense clay hard fired bricks that are suitable for most applications
  • Handmade bricks: made from clay thrown by hand into a mould to create the desired textures
  • Engineering bricks: very hard bricks used in high load bearing situations and in manhole construction
  • The timber structure is independent of brickwork claddings


Tile Hanging

  • When tile hanging, it is highly advisable to carry out the vertical tiling before finishing the roof. This is because access can be very limited after fitting the roof tiling and make for awkward detailing


Roof Finishes



May be clay or concrete, plain or profiled

  • Interlocking concrete tiles are large format and are generally the most cost effective
  • Plain tiles may be concrete or clay and they cover an average of sixty to the square metre, and so have a consequential increased labour cost. Plain tiles are often used for tile hanging



  • May be stone, quarried slate or man-made
  • Man-made slates are available and are made from either fibre and cement or moulded with a mixture of slate dust and glass fibre resin



  • Potton houses can accommodate most types of roof covering. If you intend to use natural or man-made slate it is important that details are agreed prior to the frame construction
  • Tiled roofs will require nailing according to the exposure rating and the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • As soon as the tilers have finished, decorate the facia and fix the guttering prior to the scaffolding coming down


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10. Second Fix Package


"This all comes as part of your Potton Package"

The Potton package generally contains the following materials:

  • Stairs
  • Skirting / Architraves
  • Doors (Internal and External) and door furniture
  • Door linings and associated requirements


Take time to familiarise yourself with the contents of your particular Potton package


Second Fix

Works to be carried out include the following:

  • Hanging of all external doors complete with locks and fittings.
  • Hanging of all internal doors, skirtings, architraves and fittings
  • Assembling the staircase, handrails and balustrading
  • Installing loft hatch


Additional Tasks

There are other tasks that the carpenters are often called upon to carry out as extras to the above:

  • Fitting of kitchen units and fitted bedroom or bathroom furniture
  • Boxing in of soil pipes and waste runs
  • Laying decorative timber floors


Carpenters/joiners will usually work on a labour only basis so all the materials and fixings will have to be supplied by you.


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11. Second Fix Services


"These are to be completed to finish off your new home"


2nd Fix Electrics

  • The installation of power points, lighting and switches in accordance with the appropriate regulations
  • Connection to the mains supply and testing
  • Before completion of the project a copy of an electrical installation certificate should be issued by your electrician


Remember that the Electricity Board will not connect unless all wiring is complete. If necessary, fit a bayonet point to those bare wires that are “just waiting for a fitting”.


2nd Fix Plumbing

  • The installation of the sanitary ware, radiators, boiler and rainwater goods etc. This will also include commissioning and the issuing of certificates for Building Control approval. In most cases your plumber will fix the rainwater goods, e.g. guttering and down pipes, as part of his second fix work


Don’t forget to give services (water, gas and electricity) plenty of notice of your requirements and timing for connection.



“This trade is usually labour only with the decorator providing most of their own tools including brushes, sandpaper and fillers”

  • Potton timber windows and door frames are supplied with a protective base coat, suitable for receiving either paint or stain decoration
  • It is essential to complete final decoration as soon as possible, and in accordance with the chosen manufacturer’s instructions


Internal Joinery

  • Stairs, internal doors, skirtings, architraves, door studs and linings can be finished in any proprietary stain or paint to suit your chosen colour scheme.
  • Preparation is two thirds of a decorator’s job and it is worth spending time to do this properly
  • It is important that work is carried out in a clean and dust free environment
  • Allow plenty of time for the inside to dry out before decorating


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12. Landscaping


"Hard and soft landscaping"


Regulatory Requirements

  • The approach to a building from the boundary should be designed to allow access for the disabled. This is set out in the Building Regulations. Ramps will be required for the main point of access to the house. Normally steps are not allowed except on steeply sloping sites
  • Many local authorities refuse to issue a completion certificate until such time as a proper driveway is installed. They may also insist on pathways, including disabled access and bin stores being completed


Planning your Garden

  • Large amounts of soil have to be taken away from some sites. Think about whether this can be kept on site and used to form the landscaping with banks, terraces, rockeries and pond
  • You can claim the VAT back on most materials purchased for hard landscaping within the garden of a new house or conversion, including fencing, paving and walls. It is also possible to reclaim the VAT on certain soft landscaping such as turfing or planting, so long as they were included or required within the planning consent
  • Stand in the rooms and view the gardens from as many angles as you can to ensure that trees and shrubs are planted in the optimum position.
  • When choosing patio, pathway and drive surfaces, be careful to avoid materials which can become slippery in winter


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