Many people dream of building their own home, in order to have a residence that is in their perfect location, and designed exactly to their specifications. Self-build can mean anything from being involved in the design process and sourcing the materials, to preparing the foundations and taking on the actual construction yourself.

To what extent you are going to be involved in the project will probably depend on the time you have available, and the prior experience you have. If you like the idea of planning or even building a home yourself, here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Find a plot

Study the area where you would like to build your home for suitable available land. You can do this by physically scouting around locations and viewing them in person, or by checking auctions, online portals, or by using a specialist plot finding service. Often, self-builders hear of plots by word of mouth, so get to know people in the area.

Sometimes, landowners will apply for planning permission prior to selling land, so it is also worth checking out the local authority website for recent planning applications. When you find a potential plot, consider how easy it is to access, if it has utilities and services in place, and any issues regarding planning and title deeds.

2. Have a design prepared

Once you have found the right plot and have obtained outline planning permission, you will need to draw up the plans. Unless you have training or experience in this area, it’s best to consult an architect or designer. You can choose to use the services of a package supplier who will handle the design and build together.

Of course, you will probably want to have some input into the design process yourself, as having a home designed to perfectly meet their requirements is the main attraction of the project for most people. However, if you are building the home with a view to sell on and make a profit, you can take a more hands-off approach.

Which route you go down will depend on your finances and budget. It’s important not to exceed your budget at this stage, or you will run into big problems further down the line. Try and include a contingency of 10% in your budget for unexpected costs and delays.

3. Source suppliers

At the moment, there are severe shortages of some building materials, so it is best to order your materials at least three months in advance. You may have to wait longer than this, so seek advice before making any further preparations. Also make sure you have somewhere dry to store materials so they don’t spoil in bad weather.

4. Prepare the ground

Once you have obtained full planning permission for your design and have Building Regulations approval, you are ready to start the on-site groundwork. Many people choose to do this themselves to save money, and bring in contractors to do the rest of the construction work, although a site survey will be necessary.

Make sure there is site access for plant machinery before hiring any equipment. Clear the plot of any rubbish and vegetation, level off the ground, and strip back the topsoil. Make sure that the topsoil is stored for future use for landscaping. Arrange for any services that are not in place such as electricity and water, and portaloos and fencing. 

It is advisable to consult your local Building Control about the foundation works, as the condition of the ground will have a major impact on the end result of the project. For example, the soil composition will determine the type and depth of foundations that are required.

If ground conditions are good, then strip foundations are the most common and economical option. Standard trenches have a depth of at least one metre and a width of 600mm, the Building Regulations advise. Excavated trenches are covered with at least 150mm of concrete. An inspection may be required after this process is complete.

From this point, many self-builders will bring in contractors to complete the project. If you are hiring builders, ask around locally for recommendations, ask for references and if possible, look at examples of their previous work. Make sure you take out the relevant insurance policies and structural warranties in case of an adverse event.

Provide clear directions and make sure the plans are strictly adhered to, as regulations are very strict and even small deviations may mean costly alterations, or in the worst-case scenario, you may even be served with a demolition order.

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