SelfBuild & Design
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Tip of the week

Get involved with everything – break the project down into components and become as knowledgable as you can about each and every element. It’s the only way to stay fully in control.

Ken Martin, who has built a spectacular energy-efficient home in Sydenham Park Conservation Area. Case study A Home Among the Trees

Finding a builder

This can be a single contractor, who takes over the whole project, or a series of subcontractors - groundworkers, bricklayers, roofers etc, or companies providing those services - hired on an ongoing basis. But who will supervise all these tradesmen? How will I know if they're doing things properly? Remember self build is all about taking control. You decide how much or how little you exercise, though, generally speaking, the more you give up, the more expensive it is.

The costliest approach, therefore, is likely to be the 'turn-key' operation, in which you hire an architect or a design and build package company to handle everything. They find a plot, design your house, source a contractor, project manage the build and hand over the finished property on completion.

At the other extreme, DIY self builders will do much of the labour themselves using what building skills they already have, learning new ones and working alongside tradespeople hired for specific jobs. This is the cheapest approach to self build, but also the hardest. Most selfbuilders fall between the two, buying, for example, a timber frame design off a package company who erect it, but then hiring in subcontractors to clad it, roof it and fit out the interior.

Many selfbuilders manage their own projects. Others, less confident or experienced, prefer to hire a professional project manager. Certainly, it is advisable to have access to someone whose expertise and judgement you trust - if only for reassurance.

Traditionally, architects have fulfilled this role, but other building professionals, such as a building surveyor or a retired building inspector, can also help. Professional project managers - some former selfbuilders - exist and often advertise in our classified section. Many selfbuilders, however, are perfectly satisfied with the single contractor they hire - often on the basis of having worked with them before, or having seen them work for a relative or friend.


For ideas and inspiration from SelfBuild&Design take a look at our Case Studies