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How to self build your own home

PUBLISHED: 12:21 13 October 2015 | UPDATED: 14:13 13 October 2015

Sylva self build

Sylva self build


Building your own home can be exciting, but there are some important factors you should consider before you start your self build project

Sylva self buildSylva self build

Whether your self build is still a thing of dreams, you’re looking for land for sale or you’re actively researching suppliers to get the project off the ground, building your own home is an exciting, if daunting, prospect.


Up to 20,000 people a year in the UK now choose to build a home from scratch in what has become an important part of the Government’s housing strategy. 


Want to know how to self build? Expert home builder Craig Strachan at Sylva tells us what you need to consider.


Plan your self build in detail

Sylva self buildSylva self build


Whilst the planning stages may not be the most exciting part of building your new home, spending time detailing each stage of the work is essential if you want to complete your home on time, on budget and to the correct specification.  


Investing in a designer who understands your requirements will ensure that your new home design allows you the lifestyle you’re dreaming of. They’ll advise you on all manner of specifics and criteria, and will draw-up plans in accordance with your local planning office’s expectations.


You should also spend time choosing your builder; speak with a few until you’re confident in their abilities and happy that they’ve understood your requirements correctly. Once you know who you’re working with, the next step is to ensure that everybody knows the sequence that things need to be done in, who is responsible for what, and when you need to make key decisions (there’ll be a lot of them!).


Sylva self buildSylva self build

Prepare a detailed schedule including everything that leads up to starting on site, such as planning conditions, building control, utility connections, as well as the things that need to be done once you start, like researching materials, ordering machinery and scaffolding, co-ordinating contractors and managing the day to day progress of your build.


Once the build starts, try not to change your plans or design as any changes will likely incur additional time and costs.


Budgeting for your self build


Think about each and every element of the house build and be meticulous in your research of what things actually cost, don’t just estimate. Once you’ve set out a realistic budget, you’re more likely to stick to it.

Sylva self buildSylva self build


If something changes or things are more expensive that you were hoping, don’t just adjust the costs down telling yourself you’ll buy things at better prices further down the line - all you’ll be doing is delaying that stress and extra cost. One option is to compromise on the specification, and it’s a good idea to do this on items you’ll be able to upgrade easily later. For example, invest in your home’s fabric to ensure it doesn’t use much energy rather than install eco-technology, as you can always put solar panels on the roof at a later date.  


Another option to reduce the cost of your self build is to leave some rooms unfinished, e.g. don’t fit the en-suite straight away.  Of course, if you do omit things during the build, take into account that you will need to pay VAT on them at the point they are installed – you can only make one VAT reclaim. 


Have a contingency budget


Sylva self buildSylva self build

In addition to your budget, you should keep a contingency to one side for unexpected costs. Depending on how and what you’re building, this will need to be between 10-20% of your total build spend. Some bespoke design and build companies can offer you a fixed price for your home, affording great security and peace of mind and eliminating the need for a contingency.


Alternative construction methods can also help reduce the likelihood of overspend, such as kit houses and timber frame homes which are manufactured under controlled factory conditions and assembled on site in a fraction of the time of a conventional block and brick home.


Understand how much time you’ll need


Keeping costs low by doing work yourself can seem like a good idea, but remember this commitment will need to be upheld in all weathers as your build team will be replying on you to meet your targets in order for them to continue with their work programme.

Sylva self buildSylva self build


Even without getting your hands dirty, research suggests that the average time spent managing a self build is 40-50 hours a week!  This is in addition to any design or site tasks that you might take on yourself.  Be honest about whether you can really afford that much time on top of work, family and other commitments in your busy life.


Get someone else to do it all for you


Of course, one way to reduce all the stress, additional cost and risk associated with being a self builder is to get someone else to do it for you. Oxfordshire based bespoke design and build company Sylva offer a complete Concept to Keys® package where you can enjoy all the advantages of self build without having to take responsibility for the day to day management of your project. They provide you with a fixed price to take your new home from concept design to whatever build stage you prefer; structure, shell or turnkey - so you can still get involved in many of the fixtures and fittings arrangements if you wish. Working with their in-house team of architects, engineers and on-site construction professionals, you will have one point of contact to deliver your new home on time and on budget.


For more information about Concept to Keys® or to discuss your project, please telephone Sylva on 01608 819 391 or visit



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