On paper, building your own home can look like a great idea. After all, you can tailor its design to suit the particular needs of you or your household, and leave out spaces that would long be left empty and unused. However, all of this is simply “in theory”; you could still make the occasional slip-up.
This can be especially applicable if you have little building experience. However, if you remain intent on reaping the rewards of going down the self-build route, here are some mistakes that should be carefully avoided, but to which self-builders can be all-too-prone…
Having too much belief in their self-building ability
Kevin McCloud, the presenter of hit Channel 4 show Grand Designs, has seen plenty of self-build projects over the years. Therefore, his wisdom on self-build matters is worth heeding – and he believes that an insufficiently realistic attitude is to blame for the most common self-build blunder.
He has admitted that self-builders’ natural self-belief leads them to think: “This project is going to come in on time and on budget.” However, McCloud told House Beautiful that “I’ve never really seen a project do that”. Therefore, think carefully about whether self-building is really for you.
Assuming that they can build where someone else has
Before you can start building on a specific site, you need planning permission. However, with planning rules not quite set in stone, you shouldn’t assume that securing permission for a particular location would be a mere formality because someone else has previously built there.
A planning decision is informed by various circumstances, including the property’s planning history, the policies in place at the time of application, and the site’s immediate surroundings. All of these factors can be in flux, making a planning application’s viability far from a foregone conclusion.
Not planning sufficiently carefully for their needs
What are your lifestyle and habits? How long do you intend to live in this new home? Can you foresee how your way of living might change throughout your stay? You need to determine answers to questions along these lines as you draft the plan for your self-build home.
Failing to provide for enough lighting
Given how often we are all urged to do our bit for the environment, it ought to go without saying that natural lighting, as far as possible, should serve as your home’s illumination. Therefore, you should arrange to put windows – of the largest practical size – in every single room.
You could also consider integrating skylights – but, where Mother Nature wouldn’t provide all of the lighting you need, you can always make up the loss by adding electrical light fixtures and outlets.
Building rooms destined to be left “wasted”
This is where the importance of careful, diligent planning especially comes into play. Yes, you might like the idea of adding a games room or home gym; however, ask yourself how many members of your household would likely use it. What if only visitors are avid gamers or regularly exercise?
Freshome warns that, often, “an unused room becomes a dumping ground to place those things that never get used.” However, the site adds that you could avoid ending up with a largely redundant room if you focus on making “a room that can transition well from one type to the next.”
Stuffing the planning application with excessive details
You might be brimming with ideas about what your new-build home will include, but we urge you to resist including every single one of those details on the planning application. Here, we refer to both the drawings and, on the forms, the description of this project.
Let’s assume, for example, that you seek to build a detached house with an indoor swimming pool and gallery space. You wouldn’t need to mention either the pool or gallery space in the application. If you did, you could test the patience of the planning committee; don’t make their job harder.
Designing the home before buying a plot
Don’t throw yourself into designing your future abode until you have decided exactly where that residential building will go. That’s because your home should be designed in a manner complementary to its setting’s individual shape, character and surroundings.
Were you to instead design the house first, you could too easily struggle to find a suitable plot for it. On top of that, your planning application’s chances of success would be in serious jeopardy.
Changing course from the approved project
Once you have secured planning permission, build the structure exactly to the approved specifications. Making amendments afterwards – unless you obtain formal consent for them – would technically be a violation of the terms of the planning permission.
Assuming that planning permission would arrive in just two months
While it’s technically true that planning permission should be settled upon within eight weeks, the broader process remains much more time-consuming than this.
It would be a good idea to approach the council for pre-application feedback on your draft ideas. That could be an eight-week phase in itself, while you should also make time for finalising the details which you will submit as completed forms and drawings.
The permission-seeking process could also be held back by the need to discharge particular conditions before work goes ahead. For example, you might be required to agree to use a specific product for certain elements, such as roof tiles or brickwork.
Underestimating the project’s expense
The planning process alone can be surprisingly expensive. Build It acknowledges that the local council might charge you just £385 for an application; however, the authority might also charge for pre-application advice, as many indeed do.
If the building is your business, you could risk inconveniencing members of the public who subsequently decide to sue you. Keep in mind that a builders insurance policy from Tradesman Saver will automatically include public liability for helping you to fund compensation payouts to the public – phone us on 0800 121 8748 for more information on this point and how you can obtain a policy.