7 Self Build Pitfalls and how to avoid them

Have you thought about a Self Build but been put off by shows like Grand Designs? Watching seemingly happy-go-lucky individuals reduced to quivering wrecks, money running out by the minute, celebrating Christmas with 6 kids in a caravan. It’s enough to make the hardiest Self Builders run for the hills right?

Do not fear. It REALLY doesn’t have to be this way. I mean that. (Well, you might choose to celebrate Christmas in a caravan, you can fill your boots on that one) But honestly, if you make sure you know where it could go wrong, you are in a MUCH better position to prepare for those stages and mitigate your risk accordingly.

Let’s get started. I’m going to take you through the most common Self Build pitfalls, and don’t worry, I’ll also tell you how to avoid them.

1. Skimping on Design.

Quite simply, do not skimp on this essential part of your project.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people on Self Build forums ask the question; ‘Do I need an Architect to design my house?’ and been given the answer ‘No of course not! I drew mine myself!’ The thing is, this is your home. For many of you thinking of taking this step it will be your Forever Home. Not only will you be spending a considerable amount of money on this project, but an even greater amount of time LIVING in it after it’s finished and, you could potentially be living in a house that does not work for your family. You could end up with niggling bugbears that could have been ironed out at Design stage, or you may end up having a home that is not suitable for your changing needs over time.

A registered Architect will know the questions to ask in order to get the very best out of your home, not just for your current needs but for any future needs too. Architects have EXTENSIVE training in Design, and our mission is always to translate the way you want to FEEL in your home, into bricks and mortar. It is never just about the drawings. (take a look at this really useful video to find out exactly why) Simply put, employ someone trained in design to design your home – you won’t regret it.

2. Purchasing a plot that you can’t build on.

Unfortunately we see this too often, and it really is such a shame. Most commonly it is because the house will not achieve planning on the plot. This could be for a number of reasons. If you would like to know the type of site to look out for, take a look at this handy guide for a plot checklist. The moral is though, do not purchase a plot without making absolutely sure that you can build your desired home on it.

3. Not having the correct drawings.

There is a BIG difference between Planning drawings and Technical drawings. At Planning stage the drawn information is much more simple, and focused on the material aspect of the build. The Planners are most concerned with what the house will look like and do not need to see (unless there are special circumstances) how it is built.

I have seen people trying to use their Planning drawings to build from. There are significant issues with this;

  • Planning drawings do not contain sufficient detail to fully price from.
  • Due to the lack of information it is very difficult to administer a Building Contract alongside them.
  • They do not contain enough information to build from.
  • There is likely to be insufficient information to procure Building Regulations Approval.

If you want a fully costed project, built to the specification and quality that you desire, make sure you have a full set of technical drawings and specifications. Find out about the different stages and what they mean here.

4. Failing to define your budget.

We totally understand that it’s really easy to get carried away, we know that you want to get the maximum return from your pot of cash and why wouldn’t you? But essentially, you MUST be realistic. Work out your construction cost by working backwards. Read about exactly how to that here. If you would like more help managing your budget, hire an Estimator to give you peace of mind on costs throughout. The important thing to remember is that if you do not define your budget, how will you ever manage to control it? Remember the quivering wreck in the caravan? Don’t let that be you!

5. Failing to engage the right professionals.

Understanding what you can and can’t do yourself is key to the success of your build. There will be points along the way where you will need to consult with the right professionals to help you with your project. These may be Ecologists, Structural Engineers, Planning Consultants to name a few. Failing to engage the right consultant at the right time may end up costing you both time and money. Download this guide to get the checklist of Consultants that you might meet on your Self Build Journey.

6. Thinking that you won’t need a Building Contract.

I am always amazed that anyone would hand over HUGE amounts of money to someone based on faith only. Not only is this a massive risk for you, (and all parties actually) but you have absolutely nothing to control the quality of your build. A Building Contract is absolutely vital. It will control three main aspects of your build. The TIME that it will take, The COST of the project and the QUALITY. If you have spent months designing and daydreaming of your perfect home, that is exactly what you want it to be at the end. There is so much more to say about Building Contracts. Read more about them here.

7. Your Project Programme.

There is a logical route to working through the stages of your project, and as tempting it could be to just get started with the build, overlapping stages can have cost, time and even legal implications. The key to a successful project is to work through the stages in a timely a thorough manner. Ironically, overlapping and starting stages before you should can actually mean your project takes LONGER overall. Patience and preparation is key here! There is a great programme in this guide for you to use.

Time to get started then!

All that is left to say is, have the best time ever! Building your home should be an exciting step in your life’s journey. They’ll be ups and downs, possible disappointments, but remember to take note of all the above points, stay calm, stay positive and imagine yourself in that beautiful Forever Home.

To get loads of handy tips for getting started, Download our ‘Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Self Build or Renovation’

If you would like to know more about the stages and how we work here Download the BBD Brochure to find out more.

Happy Dream Building!

Written by Verity Lovelock. Verity is an Architect at BBD Architects, based in Romsey, Hampshire. She is passionate about self-build and renovation and arming self-builders with the knowledge to build the home of their dreams.