How to get a self build project underway

Matthew Charlton's avatar

Matthew Charlton | 2/05/19

Self-build projects account for 7-10% of new housing in England each year (around 12,000 homes) and research shows that more than half of the population would like to build their own home at some stage in their lives. (* quoted from  The joy of bringing your perfect home to life is an exciting prospect but it requires careful planning, a strong specialist team, and intricate budgeting.   

What is a self build?

A project is defined as a self build if the individual/homeowner directly commissions the design and construction of a new property to perfectly fit their exact requirements and tastes.

Finding a plot.

Garden plots, infill sites, and disused brownfield sites all offer potential locations for a self-build project.  For further guidance on locating and obtaining a self-build plot click here to be directed to the planning portal.


No matter how the project is to be funded it is likely a strict budget will be in place.  When cementing this budget take into consideration there are some factors which can have an effect.  Any changes to your home’s design during the build process is likely to cause an increase in cost; therefore, ensure your plans are exact before building commences.  It is advised a generous allowance is added for groundworks, in the unlikely event complications arise money will need to be available to overcome the unforeseen complications.  Overall a contingency fund of between 10-20% of the total build cost is suggested.


A design brief can either be created utilising an architect, architectural technologist, professional designer or potentially the homeowner.  Elements to consider when designing your home are terrain, shape, and availability of sunlight to your plot. Not only should terrain be a factor when designing but should also be placed into consideration at the build phase, including access to the plot location.  These two elements can alter the way a project can be run and built, especially if access is limited which in turn can affect the budget.


The local council is required to grant planning permission.  Detailed building drawings will need to be submitted to secure building regulations approval.  It is common practice for an architect to provide guidance through this process. Throughout the self-build project and upon completion the construction will be inspected by a council representative to ensure the conditions on which permission was granted have been met.  The contracted building project manager would manage these visits.

Finding the right builder for your self-build project.

Choosing a builder requires plenty of research.  This stage of your self-build process is extremely important, the build team will be turning your plans into reality, so it’s vital that you choose the right build team for your project and you.  

  • Get recommendations - speak to the design team, friends, building control and neighbours.  
  • Meet and interview the build team, discuss your project with them.  
  • Ask to talk to previous customers
  • Gain a detailed quotation - the more detail the better.  You want to be sure exactly what you will be getting for the price, right down to the type of electrical sockets included in the quotation.

For more information on how to choose a builder click here to read our blog.

Getting services to the site.

Services connections – electricity, gas, water, and sewage should be organised early on to prevent delays in the build process.  Although gas and electricity are not necessities early on in the build it can be advantageous to get these organised and it will be imperative to have a water supply on site.  If the self-build is a replacement dwelling, services are likely to already exist; however, providers would need to be contacted well in advance of demolition to make these services safe and provide the ability for reconnections to be made to the new property.


The Upright Construction team have undertaken many new build/self build projects in and around Surrey.  Click here to take a look at an Upright Construction new build detached property in Caterham.  To discuss your self-build project with a member of the Upright team contact us on 01737 245040.  

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