A beginner’s guide to self build

So, you’ve watched Grand Designs on TV; seen the beautiful properties created by others in Build It magazine; compared them with the uninspiring schemes on offer from the massmarket house builders; and thought to yourself, “I wonder if I could build my own dream home?” Well, around 13,000 projects every year are successfully completed and the number is rising, so the answer would be a resounding “yes” from anyone already living in a bespoke house.

The big question is where to start. In this month’s article, I’m looking at the basics of self and custom build, with a beginner’s guide that will tell you whether they are right for you – and if they are, how to set offin the right direction.

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Build It
February 2017

Other Articles in this Issue

Editor’s Letter
Last month, I reported on the new Right to Build registers.
Modernist transformation
Heather Nevay had a clear vision for how this derelict barn could be transformed into her perfect home; and her partner, John Burke, knew exactly how to make it work
Fast track
Chris and Sheila Marwood’s new prefabricated German kit home took just twelve weeks to build, despite their sloping Cornish site
Sea change
Having relocated to the coast, Jane and Andy Hearn decided to convert and extend a dated property to create a light-filled gem of a home
Highland haven
After a fruitless search for their perfect home in
A code to follow
Set in a stunning green belt location, Tamas Rigo and Andrea Szaradics’ self built family home features interesting architectural details, while respecting the local authority’s conservative restrictions
8 hot ideas for stoves & fires
Keep warm and create a dazzling focal point with these smart designs, says Emily Brooks
Kitchen design for renovators
Whether you’re completely replacing tired units and worktops or simply making a few well-chosen updates, a new kitchen should be both beautiful and functional, says Emily Brooks
Flat roof design basics
Emily Smith weighs up the pros and cons of flat roofs, and explains how to select the right specification and materials for your project
Building a log home
Building a log home They’re known for their in-built character and rustic appeal, but log-based structural systems can be used to create a rich modern living experience, says Rebecca Foster
Staircases - what will it cost?
The right flight will bring your home’s entrance zone to life – but what can you get for your money?
6 great staircases design ideas
Looking for the ideal focal point for your home’s interior architecture? These stunning flights could fit the bill
Choosing rainwater goods
An efficient guttering system is your home’s first line of defence against the elements. Mike Hardwick advises on how to specify a setup that’s right for your house
Getting room sizes right
Achieving a home that flows properly, with the right balance of rooms to match your lifestyle, is all down to good preparation. Julian Owen explains how architects approach space planning
Dealing with conditions
Building materials, parking arrangements, landscaping and the welfare of wildlife are just a few of the areas where restrictions could be imposed on your planning permission. Here, Mike Dade explains how to tackle them
Adding value sympathetically
Heritage homes are full of character and historic interest, but making alterations, whether structural or decorative, could have a negative impact on their market value. Here, Alan Tierney takes a closer look at how to maximise the potential of an older building
Working with trades: Landscapers
All too often left until last in a self build project, a landscaping scheme is incredibly important for making sure a home blends in to its setting. Tim Doherty sets out the main considerations you need to account for when planning your outdoor space
Self build mortgages
Looking for funding for your self build project? Each month we round up the best deals from leading lenders – and update you on what you need to know about securing the right finance
Ask the experts
Essential advice on your problems with building, budgeting, DIY & planning from the most experienced names in the self build industry
A family abode
PLOT WATCH: Mike Dade investigates
Making a statement
Pilot’s House
News round up
Housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell has revealed
What’s on?
Industry news
Have you signed up to your local authority’s self build register?
10 ways a visit to Build It Live can help make your dream home happen
The year’s most inspiring self build and renovation shows kick off in February with two information-packed exhibitions in the South East and North West. Build It editor Chris Bates highlights 10 reasons you can’t afford to miss out
Product news
Great shopping ideas for your custom home project
Interiors notebook
It’s never too early to start looking for the finishing touches for your self build
Your views:
Got a funny story, a gripe or some superb self build advice? Write to us at or the address below for your chance to win a prize
Land for sale
It’s FREE to subscribe to PlotSearch – the UK’s premier land finding resource with over 8,000 genuine building opportunities, all with planning permission guaranteed. The plots collated here are a hand-picked selection, but you can find plenty more in the online database. To find out more and to subscribe call 0345 223 4499 or visit the website at
Next month…
March issue on sale 25th January
Focus on:
We speak to Jackson Moulding, director of the Ecomotive self and custom build social enterprise, about the organisation’s recent triumph in NaCSBA’s annual Self Build on a Shoestring competition