Top Tips: Expert advice for self-build success

If you are thinking about embarking on a self-build journey, there are several things that you will need to consider to ensure a successful project. To help, we have produced some top tips and advice for self-build success.

Do your research

Before you make any firm decisions, do some through research. Take yourself to exhibitions such as Futurebuild (formally Ecobuild), The Homebuilding and Renovation Show, The National Self Build & Renovation Show or Build It Live. Browse websites like Build It, Home Building and Renovating, Self-Build Portal and Build Store. You could also attend seminars and workshops such as NSBRC Passivhaus Workshop. It’s also great to consider if there are any local Community Land Trusts (CLTs) if you are unsure about going alone on this project.

Recruit your self-build team

Next, you will want to recruit your self-build team – most importantly a qualified architect. Here at Sustainable Design Collective, our architect Bill Brown RIBA has over 40 years’ experience in housing, interior design and commercial architecture. A housing specialist, he has also worked as a Director of Housing and Construction in local Government. At SDC we provide award-winning architectural design service, alongside providing bespoke, precision engineered ‘kit homes’, with a range of specifications up to Passivhaus standard; this ensures total continuity between the Design and Build phases and provides one port of call for your project. You may also look to allocate a project manager to help keep things running smoothly, however many people embarking on a self-build project will manage their own build. To enquire about our architecture and project management service for your self-build project, contact us on enquiry.sdc@gmail.com.

Create self-build brief

Your self-build brief is an ever-changing document that you will build upon and edit throughout the whole process. In the beginning, at the minimum you will need to include the number of beds, rooms, architectural styles that you like. It’s important to keep in mind how you and your family live your day-to-day lives – it can be useful to imagine scenarios and how they might play out in your new house. It can also be helpful to keep a visual inspiration board somewhere that you spend a lot of time, so you are able to keep coming back to the designs/ ideas and reflect upon how you feel about them – tools such as Pinterest are a great way of doing this. You’ll also want to create a detailed self-build budget, ensuring that it contains contingencies – this will help to make sure it is realistic.

Go eco friendly

Eco-homes are typically built to a high energy efficiency standard, use sustainable materials that have a low environmental impact, and create an indoor environment that is healthy and comfortable for its occupants. There are many benefits to building an eco-home including saving money through energy efficiency and renewable energy, great air quality for a comfortable and healthy home and protecting the environment. Check out our blog Why build an eco-home? to find out more.

Map out your self-build plot

Finding land can be one of the most difficult tasks when it comes to planning your self-build. You will want to make sure you have acquired your plot BEFORE you become too committed to any designs, and then use your site to inform the design decisions of you and your architect. Often people will get carried away with the design of their home before they have even found a site, which can result in immense disappointment if you cannot execute your plans on the plot you end up purchasing. Once you have secured your plot, you will want to make sure that you visit it often, so it informs the design. Check out our blog on Tips To Finding Land For Your Self Build for some helpful guidance.

Assess your self-build site

It’s important for your architect to create a design that is sensitive to the site. Steep sites or those with difficult access can be more challenging. To avoid this you want to ensure that you take your time in selecting an appropriate site, considering factors such as suitable access,
the types of trees that are on the plot (as this can give you an indication of the type of sub-soil you’re likely to come across), whether the plot on a slope and whether the plot has services conveniently located for connection.

Create a self-build shopping list

Figuring out exactly what you need and then finding suppliers who can give you the best value for money can be tricky. Here at SDC we can help manage this process by finding and managing the contractors for you, finding usually at least three different quotes for the materials that are not covered by our kit system. Essesntially, we are able to hold your hand as little or as much as you would like throughout the process.

Set realistic Timescales

It’s helpful to set yourself realistic timescales as the process of self-building can at times already be demanding and stressful enough. Flexibility can be important, however, using a kit system allows you to set a fixed date for the erection. At SDC our Kit Home Timber Frame and Passive slab are manufactured under precise factory conditions in Gloucester. Building in this way enables ground-works and superstructure manufacture to begin simultaneously, saving between 4 and 8 weeks on Kit Home build time. Take a look at this video of one of our kit homes being erected.

Relationships matter!

Keeping a good relationship with neighbours and project team is very important. Maintain communication with your team so that you feel comfortable expressing your concerns to them and asking them questions. Get to know the builders, keep track of your self-builds progress and arrange regular meetings. You’ll need to be prepared to make calls and decisions at any time, so it’s a good idea to build the connection with your team so you feel comfortable in doing so.


To find out how we can help you on your self-build journey, get in touch with our team at enquiry.sdc@gmail.com.