August 11th 2021

8 steps to self-building your dream home

8 steps to self-building your dream home

Step 1: Budget

“The first thing many self-builders ask is ‘How much is it going to cost to build my own home?’ You might have an idea of what your dream home looks like, and have imagined the perfect spot to build your new home, but before you dive in headfirst, you need to determine your budget.

“If you have funds already in place, then you know how much you have available to spend - that is your budget. However, many self-builders will be looking for financial assistance, so the next step is to speak with a self-build mortgage advisor, for example BuildStore. An advisor can let you know the amount you can borrow which, combined with your savings, tells you the total funds available to spend on your self-build project. Most of the materials for your build will require payment upfront, so remember to ask your lender about stage payments too.

“There are two key things to consider: cost of land and build costs. You can get an idea of land costs by doing a bit of research. Local estate agents sometimes advertise land for sale, and you can also search online, using tools such as, to get an idea of prices for your desired plots.

“Next, you’ll need to consider the build costs. Generally a self-build home can cost around £1,500 - £2,000 per square meter to complete. Take your budget (minus the cost of land) and divide by the cost to build to get an approximate size of home that is affordable to you. We talk more about factors affecting build costs later in step 5.

"To get a better idea of the price of our timber frame packages, or to get an approximate total build cost, then try out our self-build cost calculator.”

Step 2: Finding a place to build

“It is important to find your plot before designing your home. By not doing so, you may be missing out on opportunities to make the most of a great view, have the sunshine facing your favourite rooms or positioning your bedrooms furthest away from the sound of traffic.

“There are limited numbers of plots available, so you don’t want to get your heart set on a house design and then struggle to find a plot to fit it on, as it could end up being a waste of money having paid for a design you cannot use.

“As with property prices in different locations, plot prices vary too due to the desirability of their location. The price of a plot will also increase if there is planning permission in place or if services have been directed to the plot. These are things to consider during your plot search.

“Once you have found the ideal plot, you will need a solicitor to help you procure it.”

Step 3: Design your dream home

“If you haven’t already, create a ‘must haves’ list for your new home. This will help to give you a clear vision of your ideas and will let your architect know how you’d like your home to function, allowing them to bring your ideas to life.

“Spend some time at your plot and get to know it, see where the sun is at different times of the day and notice where the shaded areas are. Get up high if you can, to see what the view is like from various vantage points, as knowing where you like to look can help to make the most of the surroundings when considering your home design.

“Most architects will have an eye for detail, ensuring the flow and functionality of your home is taken care of - and they will consider things you may not have even thought about. This expertise comes at a price, with an independent architect’s fees ranging from 5-7.5% of the cost of your home.

“To give you some inspiration check out a few of our home designs. When designing your home, you can choose from one of three options:

  • Select or adapt a Kirkwood design

  • Create a custom design, working with our in-house designers

  • Or we can follow your own architect’s design

“A fractious relationship between a client and architect can be agonising, so whoever you choose to design your home, make sure you can be happy working with them and that you are confident that they will listen and incorporate your ideas. Scroll through case studies on their website to ensure you like their work, and meet with them beforehand to make certain you will have a pleasant experience.”


Step 4: Planning

“Whichever route you follow for the design of your house, the next step is to prepare drawings for planning. These drawings detail the layout and elevation of your house, and plots your house on a location plan showing where your new home, access roads and parking bays are situated. Once complete these drawings, along with a planning application, are submitted to the local planning authority. To check the cost of a planning application use the fee calculator tool.

“To give you the best chance of getting planning approval first time, try talking to the planners first or employ a planning consultant. Most planning consultants have previously worked for a local planning authority so will know the process inside out. They can help with any obstacles you may come across during the planning process, and they will be familiar with the local area planning expectations. If you do choose to use a planning consultant, get them involved as early as possible to advise on design and material selection.

“The local authority will write to the applicant with comments or their decision on whether the application is approved. Their decision should be made within two months of receiving all the information required, including answers to their comments, and if your application is unsuccessful, you can appeal or resubmit a new application with a different design.”

Step 5: Obtain prices

“Now that your planning application is approved, you can begin to obtain prices for the materials you wish to use in your home, from structure to heating to internal finishes and appliances. There are a lot of details to go over at this stage, and many decisions to make, so break everything down into digestible sections to make it easier. Try working from outside to inside when making your shopping list, noting each item you need to consider.

“Material suppliers and building contractors will be grateful that you have waited until planning permission is granted before seeking their prices as there is a high possibility of changes being made during the planning stages. Continuing to ask suppliers and contractors to revisit a quotation can be time consuming for both you and them, and they may lose interest in your project. With approved planning, you are in a good position to obtain prices, with the contractors being confident you are going to be able to build.

“Depending on which materials you choose for your build, the complexity of your design and the route you take to complete your build - either turnkey or project managed - are all factors which can vary the cost of your build project. Choosing a turnkey service may cost more than self-managing your project, but your build is likely to be completed sooner by a main contractor than if you were to manage the project yourself.

“Don’t forget to account for additional costs associated with rented accommodation or not being able to move from a current property for a longer time when considering which route to take.”

Step 6: Building Warrant

“Equipped with your choice of materials, your architect can prepare warrant drawings and a detailed specification. It is also time for a structural engineer to prepare structural calculations and details. A certified SAP assessor can then provide a SAP calculation (a calculation of the predicted thermal and energy performance). The SAP assessment can usually be provided by the architect or the timber frame supplier. All combined, these are required to both obtain a building warrant from the local authorities and to assist builders with their tender.

“Whether you are choosing a main contractor or employing individual tradespersons and a project manager, they will require a full set of warrant drawings to assist with preparing their tender prices. It is not all about price though - remember the people you choose to build your house will be working with you throughout the entire build process. It is therefore essential that you have a good working relationship with them, so do your homework - meet with them and make sure they are right for you and your project, and get references or feedback from their previous customers.

“Each company you approached with your plans will have put a lot of effort into tendering your individual project so don’t forget to give feedback to those you have chosen not to proceed with - you never know when you may need to call upon them should anything change with your preferred contractors or suppliers.”

Step 7: The Build

“Once you have obtained a building warrant you can start work onsite. Plan your project with your builder or project manager (if you have one), create a programme together and contact material suppliers to schedule delivery dates. Some of the products you have chosen may be on a long lead-time, so it is best to notify your chosen suppliers as early as possible.

“Make a checklist and keep a note of expected delivery dates and payment dates. During a construction project it is important to try to make payments on time to avoid delays. If any problems arise, be upfront and let your builders and suppliers know - they may be able to help you.

“Stay organised, and keep a folder with any quotations, invoices and receipts so everything is in one place.”

Step 8: Certify (move in)

“Once your build is complete, your energy assessor can provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) and you can apply for a completion certificate. A building standards officer will visit your property to check the work has been completed to the required building standards, and if they are satisfied, they will provide a completion certificate for your house.

“Check your self-build mortgage agreement as you may be able to transfer to a standard property mortgage. Also ensure you have the right insurances for your home and contents.

“Whether you’ve sold an existing property, you’re living with relatives, or you’re renting a place during construction, the time has come to pack everything up or retrieve it from storage to move into your new home.”


How Kirkwood Timber Frame can help...

“Here at Kirkwood Timber Frame, we provide a wide range of products, allowing for the entire structure, windows and doors, insulation, plasterboard, chipboard, internal door sets, skirting, facings and staircases. This is a large part of what you will need for your build, which can make things a bit easier for you.

“Our services include architectural drawings, SAP assessment, planning and warrant applications, timber frame engineering and timber frame design. We also manufacture timber frames, door sets and staircases at our facilities in Sauchen, Aberdeenshire.

“We are here to help you, so why not arrange to meet with a member of our team at one of our show homes for some help and advice? You will be able to see the products Kirkwood Timber Frame can provide and make choices on a variety of items.”

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