New build, construction or renovation terminology - what does it really mean?

YM WorkerInWindowWhen buying a new build property or renovating an existing property there is sometimes a lot of terminology that developers and builders will use to explain the build process and the stages that the decoration will go through before the property is complete. Some of the phrases you may already know and some of which you may not. But what do these technical words really mean?

Schedule of works

It may be possible depending on who you are working with that you could ask for the schedule of works, detailing the overall build and who is responsible for what, before the work starts.

First fix

Typically the structural work which is completed before the plastering, and used in relation to specific trades including: carpenters, plumbers and electricians.  Completion of any stud walls, installation of doors and window frames, flooring, joists, stairs, setting out of electrics and pipework for plumbing.

Second fix

Usually after all plastering is complete, or plaster boards installed. Connection of appliances, installation of cooker, boiler and electric sockets, any light fittings, fitting of smoke alarms (if hard wired). Skirting boards to walls and doors fitted into frames. Bath, sinks and showers are installed then have the plumbing connected and this phase is all a bit neater than the first fix.

Third fix

Sometimes there is even a third fix stage, although it's heard less commonly these days.

Surface finishes

The part that matters to the average customer the most (for us non builders), the finish of the kitchen and bathroom fittings, paintwork and or stain work, all the tiling to the bathrooms and kitchens and wherever else you may have installed tiles, the general finishing before the property is handed over to you before completion of works. 

External works

How well has the builder/developer delivered on the architects vision? Does the building look like the drawings or 3D visuals that you were supplied with? Are the drain pipes where they should be according to the plans? If you are not happy about something do say, remember this is going to be your home and so you want it to be perfect from the start and not be niggled by those little annoyances in the long run.

Snagging list

A snagging list is basically all the defects that you may notice once the property has been handed over to you. A top tip is to really take your time to notice things, are the tiles on the wall straight? Is the paintwork perfect throughout,? Does every switch work? Are the floors level? Do all the appliances work, including the radiators? Are there any scratches on the surfaces? Even if it’s the height of summer when you move in, turn on the heating for a while, if it’s the winter, make sure you open the windows fully and check the locks. It’s important that you get all the minor/major defects listed and typed up to pass to the builder – before the workers leave the site, also make sure that any conversations about putting any defect right are documented and that you retain a copy. It could be harder to call them back, especially if they are off to another job in a different location straight after yours.


Make sure you find out from the start what aftercare is available for your new build or renovation, for instance, if all the lights go out and your property is the only one in the street / area, who would you call? Some builders will offer aftercare directly but some don’t, so it’s important to check.

Remember if you are in doubt about any of the above, make sure you seek professional advice.

Important to note: Anything to do with gas installations must be carried out by a person who is ‘Gas Safe Registered’

Read our guide to buying a new build here >

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