At the very beginning of your self-build project, before you turn a sod, you will need to go through these ten steps.

1. DETERMINE THE BUDGET

Consider if you have or can raise the funds to finance all of the following:

  • Site investigation/survey including percolation – this is an upfront cost you will have to bear at the beginning of a new build project on a greenfield site, unless you have connection to mains wastewater.
  • Professional fees including design professionals, structural engineer, BER/EPC assessors, etc.
  • Statutory fees – Planning – Building Control – Water service, electricity, broadband/telephone line – Council development levies
  • Finance charges (interest and mortgage protection)
  • Legal costs
  • Accommodation costs (rent while building)
  • Insurance/warranties
  • Shell build cost
  • Insulation and airtightness
  • Systems (heating, ventilation)
  • Kitchens/Bathrooms/Fixtures/ Finishes
  • Health & Safety
  • Extras, e.g. well
  • Contingency (typically 10 to 20 per cent of the build cost)

2. DEVELOP THE BRIEF

What you want in terms of style, number of bedrooms, heating system, finishes, landscaping, etc. Put together a scrapbook and ideas on layouts. Decide on what build route to choose – project manage yourself, hire a project manager, hire a contractor or a mix of these.

3. CHOOSE YOUR PROFESSIONAL TEAM

  • Personal references
  • Fees
  • Design alteration costs
  • Terms of appointment
  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • Assignments: clear tasks to be fulfilled

4. SECURE PLANNING PERMISSION

Full planning permission must be secured on your plans before proceeding; this process can be time consuming.

5. RAISE THE FUNDS

Approach your mortgage provider early in the process; they will require proof of planning permission and costings which will often be done by your lead designer or quantity surveyor.

6. ACQUIRE THE SITE

If finances allow, this can be done at an earlier stage of the project. It is best to buy a site you know you will be allowed to build on, so a pre-planning meeting before the purchase is often a good idea or in NI, securing outline planning permission. Physical aspects to consider include trees, slopes, ground conditions, access to services. Legal aspects include covenants, rights of way, visibility splays and boundaries.

‘Based on the realities of the budget, review your wish list, design, build route and management ambitions.’

7. DEVELOP THE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION DRAWINGS

Based on the realities of the budget, review your wish list, design, build route and management ambitions. Then it’s time to put together construction drawings – the more detailed they are, the less confusion on site. The Health & Safety regulations also kick in which means you need to appoint an H&S manager for the design stage who will put together an H&S design plan for your build (you can do this yourself but must be competent to do so)

8. PROCUREMENT

Tender process to appoint builder / line up tradesmen. Deciding on finishes early on can help reduce stress later on during the build phase.

9. PUT IN PLACE INSURANCE AND WARRANTIES

There are self-build insurance products that cover the minimum legal requirements; insurance products include public liability and employer’s liability, all risks insurance, house and contents insurance and mortgage cover insurance (life cover, personal accident cover and redundancy insurance).

10. STATUTORY CONSENTS

In ROI register online on BCMS to state whether you opt in or out, and to file your Commencement Notice. In NI get Building Control Approval Green Form – regular site visits will take place by your local inspectorate. In both cases appoint a supervisor for Health & Safety at construction stage and have your H&S plan in place dealing with all aspects of the build (you can do this yourself but must be competent to do so).


Project management:  Deciding whether you project manage the build yourself, giving you full control of the build, or leave it to a professional is a key decision to make. Hiring all trades yourself is a very time consuming exercise and, for the uninitiated, a difficult one.

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only, always seek advice from construction professionals for guidance.


Selfbuild Live is the ultimate showcase for people who are building, extending, improving or simply decorating their home. Selfbuild Live Belfast, 16th-18th February 2018 takes place in the Titanic Exhibition Centre.