Starting your self-build journey is a big move – whether you have experience in construction/renovation or you’re totally new to it. Each step can feel like a monumental one, and the first step is often the most daunting.

To try to make things a bit clearer, and hopefully less intimidating, here is the Frame Technologies guide to self-build. This includes the answers to some of the questions we most frequently get asked by self-builders, as well as important factors to consider on the journey to building your dream home.

 

So firstly, what does self-build actually mean?

Self-build is the act of creating a bespoke home that is tailored to your design requirements and suits your lifestyle, as well as your budget.

Research from The National Custom and Self-build Association (NaCSBA) shows that 1 in 3 people are interested in self-building in the UK, and it’s easy to see why. The benefits of building your own home are numerous, but perhaps the biggest advantage of building your own property is the ability to design a home to meet your exact specifications, as well as creating a home that can adapt to meet your current and future needs.

 

Plan your budget

calculator and coins stacked up on white table for self-build mortgages

The first questions you’re likely to ask yourself are ‘how much is this going to cost me?’ And, if you haven’t considered building your own home before, you might be interested to know that on average, self-build is cheaper than buying from a housebuilder. This is because you will be keeping what profit the developer would have made for yourself. 

When considering your budget, a good place to start is with expert mortgage advice, which will give you a clear understanding of your budget and borrowing options. We recommend BuildStore Mortgage Services, which is the UK’s leading mortgage brokerage specialising in mortgages and finance, designed specifically for homebuilding projects.

BuildStore’s specialist mortgage advisors can recommend and tailor solutions to your financial circumstances, design and build specifications, and payment schedule. The business has built solid relationships with lenders and has created more than 40 exclusive mortgages, designed specifically to solve the common issues faced by individual homebuilders. These unique funding solutions set them apart from other mortgage brokers, and this allows them to help many customers who otherwise may not have had the chance to build their dream home.

BuildStore will also have all the information you need about financing a timber frame home.

 

As each self-build home we work on is unique, the cost to build a timber frame house varies according to your specific needs.  However, as a guide to work out the build costs, we estimate that you could expect to spend anything between £225 and £275 per square metre of floor area.

There are a number of other costs which will need to be factored in, including how much work you plan to do yourself. Things like the location, number of storeys, shape and layout, and the specification of your products will all have an impact on the price, and this should be considered as part of your budgeting.

 

Think about your build system

 

When building your own home, there are lots of options of build material, including brick and block, timber frame, oak frame, SIPs or even straw bales. The material you choose will depend on the design you have in mind, environmental credentials, the finished look of the building, ease of build, sourcing and supply, availability of contractors, and budget. You may also want to seriously consider the benefits of offsite build over traditional build in terms of quality, speed and energy-efficiency.

Once you’ve done your research and know which material you want to build with, make sure you select a quality system. If you choose to build with timber, you can choose from an open panel or closed panel timber frame:

  • Open panel systems are structurally engineered panels that form the inside load-bearing leaf of the external wall, comprising studs, rails, sheathing on one face and a breather membrane. The open panel system is made from treated softwood timber framing, over which a structural sheet material of either Ply or OSB board is fixed.
  • Closed panel solutions are made from studs, rails and insulation, with sheathings and/or linings on the faces of the panel. A vapour barrier is also provided on the warm side of the insulation and a breather membrane on the outer face of the panel.  Closed panels can also include fitted windows and internal service zone battens. These solutions have been designed to deliver excellent thermal and airtightness properties.

At Frame Technologies, we design, manufacture and install a wide range of timber frame solutions, including our own TechVantage™ Systems, which deliver exceptional energy-efficient building envelopes. The TechVantage™ range includes a super insulated panel system, a super insulated breathable closed panel system, and a super insulated breathable twin frame panel system.

Make sure you focus on quality

With offsite construction, you can opt for a system that comes with warranties to satisfy the requirements of lenders, insurers and, importantly, Building Regulations.

When investigating a timber provider, always make sure you look at companies that are members of the Structural Timber Association (STA). This guarantees that the business has been independently audited for the STA membership and quality standards scheme, offering reassurance that they follow industry best practice.

We’re increasingly seeing Local Authority Building Control (LABC) pushing for STA Assure Gold in order to get a warranty, so it is well worth considering. This third party accreditation demonstrates quality, safety and experience. Building your own home is a huge investment – make sure you buy with confidence.

 

Find your plot

Finding a location is an important part of the self-build process

You can’t build a house without some land to build it on. You might have a specific location in mind, or you might just know the area you’re hoping to live in. Not every plot is right for every home, so there’s a lot to consider when looking at land.

One place to consider is BuildStore PlotSearch, the UK’s premier land-finding resource. Ample time should be taken to identify the best location for your self-build home and Plotsearch can make this process much easier.

Using this PlotSearch, you can source your perfect plot of land for free. When you’re signed up, you will have access to the UK’s largest and most accurate database of self-build opportunities for timber frame projects.

Don’t forget to register with your local authority under the Right to Build. This requires local authorities in England to keep track of the demand for serviced plots in their area.

 

Planning permission

Without planning permission, land cannot be used as a building plot. A key benefit of using PlotSearch is that planning permission is guaranteed with all of the building plots. This is an important part of the service because an empty piece of land does not necessarily make a viable plot.

The cost of submitting a full planning permission application varies depending on where you are in the UK.

In England, the cost of submitting a full planning permission application for a new single dwelling house in England is £426.

In Wales, the fees are slightly higher: £460 for a full planning permission application on a new single dwelling house.

In Scotland, both a full permission application on a new house and an outline application costs £401.

 

Engage with suppliers early

You should get in touch with a timber frame supplier as early in your project as possible. These suppliers can assist with design, building regulations and planning challenges, so if you take your questions to the specialist from the outset, it could prove to be much more cost effective.

Your project will be unique to you, so provide as much information about your objectives as possible. In the planning stages of your project, you should give suppliers early planning drawings, elevation drawings and floor plans to get a budget cost.

If you’re in later stages of your project when you send your enquiry, and your build has received planning approval and it’s at building regulation stage, suppliers will require dimensional drawings, section elevations and site plans.

At this point, you should be clear about your budget, as well as any specifications that you would like to incorporate into your build, such as sustainability levels or design features.

Make sure you tell your supplier how much involvement you’ll need from them. You might just need the frame supplying, or you might be looking to work closely with the supplier at each stage – just let them know from the outset.

Choose your suppliers

After you’ve had discussions about your brief and specifications, the supplier will offer you different products to suit your individual requirements.

When considering the quotes you get back, make sure you’re comparing like for like. Some suppliers will simply provide an overall cost, whereas others will contribute a more detailed document to show exactly what you are paying for. Make sure you know what each quote covers before making your decision. Things to look out for include:

  • Some companies do not include mechanical handling fees (cranes and forklifts) in the price so check this has been included. And if it has been included, ensure this covers offloading as well as installation.
  • Check whether anything ‘structural’ for your timber frame is included in the quote, such as steelwork. The structural steelwork cannot exist without the timber frame and vice versa so if it’s missing, that means it’s extra.

It’s crucial that you read your quotes carefully and question anything you don’t understand. It’s also important to get an idea of timescales early on as this can have a major impact on the overall project.

It’s sensible to get quotes from at least three timber frame suppliers to compare costs and understand what your money buys.

You should always ensure suppliers are members of the STA. You should also look for the STA Assure logo; this means the business has been independently audited against quality standards.  Asking to see the factory will also be a worthwhile exercise, and make sure you read reviews online.

It’s also worth remembering that value is not just cost effectiveness; you are paying for confidence in who you will work with. Find a company who supports your vision for your dream home and matches your passion!

Get started!

When you’ve agreed a fixed quote with your timber frame supplier and negotiated the specification, the design will be frozen and you’re ready to go.

They will start work on building regulation drawings if these are still outstanding. You should expect to get these back within 4-6 weeks.

Never get started on site or start digging foundations until you have the soleplate or setting out drawings. Once these are approved, the supplier will first run up preliminary drawings, followed by manufacturing drawings while the foundations are constructed.

In terms of timing for your timber frame, the turnaround from order placement to delivery is, on average, 10-12 weeks.

Claim back your VAT

Don’t forget to claim back the VAT on your new build house under HMRC’s DIY Housebuilder’s Scheme. If your project is eligible and you keep all the necessary receipts to submit with your claim, you could reclaim the 20% of the total project budget accounted for by VAT.

To be eligible, the project has to create a new dwelling in its own right (so extensions and refurbishments don’t count). Your home must be lawful, for personal occupation by you or a family member, and evidence of completion must be provided.

Enjoy!

It’s an incredible opportunity to have a home designed to your personal desires and needs, and even more to be able to say ‘I built this’. The journey will inevitably have its challenges along the way, but what journey doesn’t? It will be the most rewarding thing you ever do – what are you waiting for?! Get in touch today and see how we can help make your dream a reality.