What is Self-Build?


Building your own home is the only way to create the home of your dreams with decent savings. This is a quick, general guide for those wondering what it’s all about.

Approximately one million people in the UK would like to build their own home in the next year. This is what is termed in the industry as self build, and it is estimated that around 11,000 self build homes are completed each year.

Self building, of course, does not necessarily mean picking up bricks and physically getting stuck in on site. In fact, less than 10% of all self-building projects involve the owner being significantly involved with the actual building process.

Instead, most self builders will be involved in the creative side of the process — formulating a design brief for the house designer, employing professionals, and choosing the internal and external fixtures and fittings.

The key to the self build process is that it is flexible, and so regardless of whether you are very busy or have plenty of time on your hands, your involvement in the project can be tailored entirely around your own lifestyle. Along with the potential cost savings involved in building your own home, it is the unique opportunity to design a house that suits your needs that is the primary reason for self building.

Finding Land to Build a Home on

Self build land is, in some areas of the country, increasingly difficult to find, yet self build plots are definitely there – you just need to know how to find them. There are numerous web sites and guides to finding a plot explaining all the tricks and tips to help you find land for your self build home. However, like most things; some are better and more productive than others.

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Home?

Costs to build your own home will vary depending not only on the quality and size of the home you build, but also where you are building. Land prices and labour costs are regionally variable, so do take this into account when researching what others have built.

You also need to remember that as well as land, materials and labour, you will need to pay any professional fees, legal charges and also the fees to apply for planning permission and get building regulations sign off.

Anyone who has read my books will know that in my opinion whilst there are several web and book based “calculators”, the permeable’s are so that the only true way is to have the works costed professionally.

Designing your New Home

Of the 11,000 or so homes self built last year, every one of them looks different in some way; some are traditional in style, being authentic replicas of Georgian, Tudor and Victorian homes, with warm, cosy interiors and plenty of cottage appeal; some are radically contemporary in design, with white rendered or wood clad exteriors, flat roofs, vast areas of glazing and large, open plan interiors. Timber Frame (or other system-build) and masonry construction adds to the Myriad of options. The majority, however, mix styles and features in a way that suits the individual owner.

Finding a Designer or Architect

Some people design their own home or work with a design and build company, but many enlist the help of a house designer or architect. Whether you are working with an architect or not, the first stage of any design process is creating a brief and deciding exactly what the requirements are for your home.

You also need to think about how the house will work with the plot you are building on, and be aware of any restrictions if you are building in a special designated area, such as a conservation area.

Custom Build Homes

The emerging term ‘custom build‘ is used to describe a subsection of self build which more closely follows models in Australia, the United States and other countries — whereby developers create large estates of individual serviced plots with planning permission and encourage individuals to specify their own design and build on them. This is an ever growing and changing area of self build, hoped to give more people the chance to build a bespoke home.

How Long Does it take to Build a Home?

The average self build project takes around a year on site and probably a year in the pre-planning. The preambles themselves can take a while as you need to sort your finances, confirm a design and of course obtain planning permission before you can even break ground.

As a general rule you should expect it to take around two months to get a design and a general budget worked out; it usually takes two to three months to get planning permission (during which time you should engage with builders); construction of the shell takes around three to four months, with perhaps double for the internal work. As a result, self builders should look at the whole process taking between a year and 18 months.

The length of the construction process depends on the construction method you use. Masonry generally takes longer than something such as timber frame which can be largely prefabricated off site. Some encapsulated kit systems take just a few days to be erected and made weathertight. If at all possible, try and ensure that exterior work is completed in time for winter; builders like to be inside when it is cold, and deep frost can stop foundations being dug at all.

Can I do this myself?

Many inexperienced self builders make their first mistake almost immediately by approaching things in the wrong way. Without a doubt; if you are anything but a seasoned self-builder you will need professional guidance in the form of a Project Manager.

Here at Holden Management Services we can guide you through the entire process.


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Holden Management Services, Wigmore Farm, Green Lane, Stratfield Saye, Hampshire,RG7 2ED