Which build route should you take?

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The build route you choose depends on the level of involvement you wish to have in your project. Let's look at some of the common approaches.

Self Build Package Company

Your involvement:

More often than not package companies are specialists in timber frame houses. They usually offer standard, customised or one-off home designs and can provide support services to assist you with any aspect of your self build.



Choosing this build route and using an experienced self build company like Potton or Custom Homes can remove most of the stress from a self build project. In addition to their design and manufacture service they can assist with plot finding, planning and builder selection or provide a full project management service for the entire project.

A full project management service removes most of the involvement of the self builder. All that remains for you to do is choose your design and watch it take shape.

Although there are many good companies out there, there are also some who use 'self build package company' as a label to charge a premium for their regular house building services. As with anything, proceed with caution and always do your research!

Main Contractor/General Builder

Your involvement:


Using your plans and specification, the main contractor will take control of your site and will project manage the build to completion.

They will generally use their own labour force supplemented with additional subcontractors. All materials and equipment will be purchased by them and called off to site as required.

A final price is agreed based on your plans and specifications. Payments are made in installments at the satisfactory completion of various stages of the build.

Appointment of a main contractor early on is a good idea. Their experience and advice can be useful during the design process.

A degree of monitoring will be required by the self builder just to make sure that the main contractor is progressing satisfactorily.

Builder and Tradesmen

Your involvement:

  • Purchase a plot.
  • Appoint a designer and complete a design package.
  • Obtain planning permission and building regulation approval.
  • Select, coordinate and manage the builder and tradesmen.
  • Purchase materials and call off as required.
  • Organise any equipment required.

In this case the project management is down to the self builder. This is not something to be taken lightly and will require a considerable amount of time and commitment. A self builder will often employ a builder to complete the excavation, foundation work and the watertight shell of the building.Tradesmen are then hired to complete the remaining sections of work.

DIY and Subcontractors

Your involvement:

  • Purchase a plot.
  • Appoint a designer and complete a design package.
  • Obtain planning permission and building regulation approval.
  • Select, coordinate and manage the builder and tradesmen.
  • Purchase materials and call off as required.
  • Organise any equipment required.
  • Complete some sections of work on a DIY basis.

Again, project management is down to you.

For a lot of people, ourselves included, this is a romantic approach to self building with maximum involvement from the self builder and the possibility of big savings.

It does however require large amounts of time, hard work, determination and stress. Although you'll make a saving on labour costs, if you've given up a lucrative job to do it , then you are probably looking at a false economy. Especially given the extra time each task will take as an amateur.

That said... If you've weighed up the pros and cons, are a skilled tradesmen or it is a labour of love then go for it! Be sure to enlist the help of friends. Especially handy ones!

When it comes to decoration. Painting parties are a nice idea which the reality often don't resemble the reality. Use the wine and BBQ as the reward after the work is completed

Most work can be carried out on a DIY basis as long as it meets the building regulation requirements. Electrical work must be installed or inspected and certified by a Part P registered electrician. Gas work must be carried out by a Gas Safe registered installer.

Summing Up

Generally the more you do, the more you save but the longer it takes. You need to weigh up costs involved with the increase in project time and the use of your own personal time as opposed to using professionals when deciding which build route is best for you.

The build routes covered above are typical approaches and are by no means set in stone.

You may wish to:

  • Use a project manager to manage the whole project or just to be on hand to advise you from time to time.
  • Use a builder and separate tradesmen but want the builder to include building materials in his package.
  • Set up an account with a builders merchant and have your builder call off materials from your account.

The variations are endless but whichever build route you choose, discuss your ideas with the parties involved and ensure that they understand your needs.

It is very important from the outset that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in the project. This is the best way to get the project off to a good start. Regular and good communication is vital!

Other things to consider before you decide to embark on the journey to build your own home can be found on our introduction page.




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