Many self-builders – perhaps even a majority, and especially those on a low budget – choose to build using subcontractors.

In some ways this is like learning to swim in the deep end: choosing to build without the backup of a builder and taking on a project that in most cases is way outside their normal life experience. Most are successful. Most experience a very steep learning curve that involves mistakes, delays and misunderstandings on site, which the repeat self-builder will make certain never happen again.

Learning the sequence of events on a building site is invaluable. Learning what each trade does and where their responsibilities begin and end is vital. And learning that the critical path in building can so easily be thrown off course – and how to get it back on track again – is essential.

Listing the tasks of each trade is one thing. But all but a very few overlap to some degree and it’s important to understand the grey areas between, which can be the responsibility of a builder but which, in their absence, often falls to the self-builder.

The Carpenter: What needs laying on?

All materials. Most, if not all carpenters are labour only and provide only their tools.

Remember to buy nails, fixings, screws, glues and fillers.

Who do they work with?

  • Possibly alongside groundworkers who’ll need carpenters available at first floor joists, if they’re timber
  • They work with the roofer to establish fascia levels
  • With the plumbers on pipe boxing and second fixing of sanitaryware
  • Works alongside the bricklayers to sling the first floor joists, bed the plates and sling the end trusses
  • Liaises and works ahead of the plumber to build any necessary tank stands
  • Works with the bricklayers and plasterers to build in door linings and construct studwork
  • Sometimes carpenters will undertake tacking of plasterboard and installation of insulation

What do they do?

First Fix

  • Cutting, laying and levelling of suspended ground floor joists
  • Fixing of decking (flooring) to suspended ground floor joists (if appropriate)
  • Cutting, laying and levelling of first floor (chamber) joists and trimmers
  • Fixing door linings (casings) to openings in ground floor blockwork
  • Laying first floor decking
  • Making up and installing first floor studwork partitioning, including door linings
  • Fixing window boards
  • Fixing staircase flight
  • Making up and fixing garage door frames
  • Nogging out for plasterboard
  • Hanging temporary external doors
  • Making up tank stands in the loft (only if a vented plumbing system is being used)
  • Boxing out pipework


  • Erecting and completing roof using prefabricated trusses or cutting and pitching a roof made on site
  • Laying sarking boarding (Scotland)
  • Fixing fascias and soffits, including, where required, any soffit or eaves ventilation
  • Fixing bargeboards

Second Fix

  • Lay insulation and decking to floating ground or first floors
  • Assemble and fit staircases
  • Hang all internal doors, plus any patio doors
  • Fix all timber mouldings
  • Hang timber external doors
  • Fit garage doors including personnel doors
  • Hang doors to fitted wardrobes and fit out
  • Fitting or fixing of loft traps


If the first floor joists are timber they’ll need to come onto site at around the fifth week for between one and three days.

  • At around the eighth week they’ll need to bed the plate and sling the roof, which should take between one and two weeks
  • At around week 12 when the roofers have finished they’ll be inside first fixing
  • In weeks 14 and 15 they’ll box in pipework and lay floating floors • Off and on between weeks 16 to 20 they’ll be second fixing and they’ll probably come in at the end for snagging.

What do they cost?

They often give a lump-sum price, but charge approx £140 per day, plus £100 per day for a mate or labourer.

Grey Areas

  • Making and fixing of templates and profiles
  • Boarding out the loft
  • Fixing loft ladders
  • Scarfing the joints in the plates may be done by the bricklayers
  • Some carpenters tack plasterboard to ceilings and/or studwork
  • Some carpenters install insulation to ceilings or studwork

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