What is Self-Build?

Looking for a new home that suits your needs from the ground up? Then self-building could be for you
Chris Bates, Editor of Build It magazine
by Chris Batesmith
27th November 2012

Put simply, self-building is the act of commissioning a bespoke home that’s tailored to your design requirements and suits your lifestyle, as well as your budget. Every year, rather than buy a standard developer-built property, around 13,000 people choose to self-build their own homes from scratch in this way.

How does self-build work?

Today the term ‘self-build’ can be used to refer to a wide range of approaches to creating a bespoke home that suits your needs. In fact, as soon as you commission your custom home (whether through an architect, designer, contractor or package building company), you become a self-builder!

So if you’re picturing a lone self-builder, literally lugging materials around a barren plot and taking on everything from bricklaying through to interior decoration – fear not! While that’s certainly one way of doing things, and a great option for people who already work in the construction industry or happen to be ultra hands-on, it’s by no means obligatory.

Going down the self-build route means you can tailor the procress to suit just how much time and budget you can devote to your project.

How do Build It readers get involved in their projects?

  • 35% act as project managers, employing and managing contractors but completing around 25% of the work themselves
  • 17% project manage but do 5-24% of the work themselves
  • 16% oversee the build as project managers
  • 15% get the majority of the work completed by a single main contractor (such as a general builder)
  • 13% act as a project manager but do the interior decorating themselves
  • 4% commission a ‘turnkey’ home through a company that builds and finishes a home to your design

Figures compiled in 2011

At the very least, a self-builder is likely to track down and purchase their own building plot. They’ll also play a key role in the design stages of their project, working with an architect, designer or specialist company to come up with a house design that’s tailored to their needs. Key areas of consideration include style, layout, build cost and energy efficiency.

Many self-builders also choose to ‘project manage’ the build. Basically, that means overseeing the work by organising supplies, drawing up schedules, managing the workforce and keeping the site ticking over to ensure your home is built on time and to budget.

Others might engage a professional to take care of the project management, while some leave the project solely in the hands of a main contractor or package house supplier to bring to completion.

There are a whole host of other ways to create your custom home – and you can find out about each of these in more depth in our guide to building routes.

Who self-builds?

Self-builders come from almost every walk of life – from young families looking to find an affordable home that can adapt to a growing family, through to empty nesters keen to downsize.

According to Build It’s 2012 survey, some of the key motivations for building your own home include creating a new home for the family; designing and building an individual home; building an eco home; creating a home for retirement; and developing a one-off property to sell on.

As well as the design and lifestyle factors, for many people, affordability plays a big role. Self-building gives you the opportunity to create a high-quality home at a cost-effective price – or often the chance to get more for your money in comparison to buying an existing home.

For more on the advantages of creating a custom home, check out our guide to why you should consider self-build.

What kind of home can I create?

One of the fantastic things about self-building is that you’ll end up with a property that’s unique to you. This is your chance to specify exactly what you’re looking for in a home, from major areas such as looks, layout and running costs to the little details, such as quality of finishes.

Throughout this website, and in the pages of Build It magazine, you’ll find a wealth of inspiration that will put you on the path to a home that fits with your needs and lifestyle. Why not start by checking out our must-read beginner’s guides and taking a tour around some of our fantastic readers’ homes?

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