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How to get started on a self-build project

Building your own home from scratch can be an exciting prospect, but getting started can be intimidating.

In this guide, we offer some top tips on where to begin with your self-build project and how to avoid the pitfalls newcomers often fall foul of.


While you're probably eager to get going, it really does pay to do your due diligence when it comes to research.

Thankfully, this is easier than ever thanks to the wealth of online resources available to budding self-builders. While we've covered this in depth in our stand-alone guide<link>, some of the best places to consider include:

The National Custom & Self Build Association

The Self-Build Portal

Build It Magazine

Homebuilding & Renovating

The Self Build Guide

We've also put together a couple of guides of our own on obtaining planning permission and getting a warranty for your self-build property – so be sure to check them out.

Finding a plot

Thanks to government initiatives to spur on self-build in the UK, practically every local authority will now have a register of available plots in their area. You can also sign up to a council's register of self-builders and get alerts when new plots become available.

Once again, the web can also prove useful and you can use sites like PlotBrowser to locate suitable plots all over the country.

It's vital to make sure the plot you choose already has outline planning permission, since there's no guarantees you'll be able to acquire this later if you opt to buy one without. In a worst case scenario – you could end up with a patch of land that's useless to you and that'll be hard to sell on, given that planning's already been refused.

Picking an architect

Unless you're an architect yourself, you'll need to pick an architect to help make your self-build dreams a reality.

They'll be responsible for interpreting your plans and can help in various ways when it comes to the logistics of the build.

This is a long-term relationship, however, and you shouldn't rush your decision. Meet with a few architects and see how you gel with them – you'll be stuck with them for the long-haul so it pays to pick someone you can get on with.

You can find a selection of registered self-build specialists on the Royal Institute of British Architects' website.


Specialists in Construction Insurance

Briefing your architect

Once you've picked an architect, you'll need to convey your ideas to them and this is carried out by producing a briefing document.

Architects can offer different levels of support, so if you've got building or architecture qualifications – you might just be looking for support on project management. If you're completely new to the field, you may need someone to walk you through the project from start to finish.

A briefing document usually starts life as a wish-list but in tandem with your architect, will progress as you come up with firm figures for a budget and make tough decisions on what you can afford, what'll break the bank and what you can compromise on.


Once you've got a general idea of your project pinned down, it's time to pursue planning. As mentioned, we've put together an in-depth guide on this, but in short – whether you're conducting a renovation or a build from scratch – you'll need to obtain the necessary permissions from your local authority.

Planning laws differ depending what country of the UK you're in and can be influenced by policies governing what can be built in a locality put into force by a local authority.

Thankfully, the government has gone some way to lessening the red tape surrounding planning for self-builders but the system can become quite complex so it's worth reading into.

The Build

Before you've got the go-ahead it's worth putting the feelers out in terms of contractors and other workmen you'll be outsourcing the build to (as well as how much you'll be taking on yourself).

Again, your architect should be able to help you with this if it's your first project, but getting quotes and likely schedules in place will be vital if you want the build to proceed quickly.

You'll also need to think about where you're going to live in the meantime and how you'll get utilities connected up to the build site and the property itself.


We've covered the common mistakes made by first-timers in our in-depth guide, but some key issues to be aware of include:

- Unrealistic expectations

- Trying to take on too much yourself

- Failing to take unforeseen issues and delays into account in your budget

- Potential planning issues like conservation areas and the presence of protected species.


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