What Is A 'First Fix' In Construction?


If you’ve ever spent time around builders or tradespeople, you might have heard the phrases ‘first fix’ and ‘second fix’ used regularly. Carpenters may describe themselves as a ‘second fix carpenter’. But what does ‘first fix’ mean? What does ‘second fix’ mean?

What do ‘first fix’ and ‘second fix’ mean in the building trade?

The words “first fix” and “second fix” are used in the construction of residential and commercial buildings in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

The first fix includes all of the work required to complete a structure, from the foundation to the plastering of the inside walls. This comprises building walls, floors, and ceilings, as well as installing electrical and water supply cables and pipes. Some say that first fix begins when the building’s shell is finished and concludes when the walls are plastered. It’s useful to understand the contrast between the two stages because different contractors, such as plumbers and electricians, would most likely need to return to complete specific tasks throughout each fix.

What happens during a first fix?

This is everything that occurs between the foundations being laid and the plastering completed. Construction of the structure, cladding, flooring, doorframes, stairs, and so on, as well as the installation of cables for electrical and ICT distribution, piping for water and gas distribution, and heating ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) distribution, are all part of the first fix. When looking at the finished construction, the first fix is usually not noticeable. The first fix should be tested whenever possible before moving on to the second fix (for example, plumbing riser stacks).

The first fix will most likely entail the construction of flooring, ceilings, and walls, as well as the installation of electrical connections and water supply pipes.

Depending on the scope of your home expansion or loft conversion, you may also need to install:

Make sure you have solid plans: a comprehensive, itemised contract, and a good knowledge of who is liable for what before you start building.

You may even decide to engage a project manager to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Who is responsible for these tasks?

Because the terms ‘first fix’, ‘second fix’, and ‘third fix’ lack clear definitions, it’s critical that contract paperwork spells out exactly what work is to be done and by whom, rather than relying on ambiguous shorthand terms. Have a chat with your builders before they begin work so you both know exactly what will happen when. Go through the contract together to iron out any uncertainties. This is the best way to ensure that miscommunications and misunderstandings do not happen once the work has begun, and time becomes limited and costly! If you’re concerned about finding a reliable building team to do your first fix, rest assured that we are members of the Federation of Master Builders. You can also find advice on how to choose a good building team here.

If you want to know general info on the work of constructionists, read our blog post What Is A Building Contractor?

Look out for our next article, where we’ll be going through what happens in the ‘second fix’!…