Darren Lester on self-build projects

5 things to remember when taking on a self-build

  • 15 Dec 2015

Darren Lester, the founder of SpecifiedBy, outlines five considerations for self-builders, who are looking to keep their project as cheap as possible.

Self-builds can save up to 40% on costs when compared to buying a home; when built correctly, it can have further savings on utility bills. On paper, it looks like a building your home is a no brainer.

However, there are some considerations to keep in mind to ensure that it remains a cheaper option:

Get permission

Before you do anything, you need to make sure that you have permission to the build the property you want.

Once you have found the piece of land that you want to build on, you should ensure that it meets the required building regulations and seek planning permission.

You should wait until you receive planning permission before acquiring the land; otherwise, you may end up stuck with a piece of land that you can’t build on.

Be practical


When embarking on a self-build project, it can be tempting to try and create a huge house that you have always wanted to live in.

However, in reality, it makes much more sense to only build the amount of rooms that you will actually use.

Build with your comfort and needs in mind, but be aware that extra bathrooms and bedrooms will add to your building and maintenance costs. More rooms will mean more heating and electricity bills.

Building a smaller house doesn’t necessarily mean that you are settling for less. You can do a lot more with the space you will use, whilst reducing your overall expenditure.

Be decisive

A self-build project means that most of the decision making – from the big things, like the size and layout of the house, right down to the tiny details – will fall on you.

Therefore, it’s important that you learn to make decisions quickly: if you go back on them, you risk seeing your build lasting and costing a lot more than you had initially expected.

Think before you outsource

It’s rarely the case that you will end up doing all of the work on your own; you may need the help of an electrician, plumber or joiner at times.

When choosing who to work with, you need to ensure that they are reliable and up to the task. Many self-builders hire friends and family to help them in an attempt to save money.

This can often backfire: they may not be up to the job, or prove to be unreliable, particularly if they believe they are completing the work as a favor to you.

Budget smart

You might have a budget set side for your build, but the figure you have, how ever accurate, will be subject to change.

For this reason, it makes sense to avoid sinking all you have into the build. Try to keep some funds free for unforeseen problems and changes to circumstances. To get as close as you can to the right figure, you should ensure that you are as detailed as possible in your plans.

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