There has never been a better time to start planning your self-build home

Slef Build Timber Frame Houses

With lockdown a strange new reality, many of us have found ourselves staring at the same four walls and thinking we’d much rather be somewhere else! For some, a garden offers an escape route to the outside world, beyond the one-hour ration of daily exercise. They are the lucky ones. For others, the only option for a change of scene is to move from one room to another.

In these times, when we’re scrutinising our homes to the nth degree, who hasn’t started to dream a little? To envisage what a difference that home gym would make? Or seen the value in a playroom? Or the absolute requirement for a second bathroom!

Recognising the limitations of your existing four walls and mapping out your ideas for the perfect floor plan is the stuff that self-build dreams are made of. And, if you’re one of the thousands who have signed up to your local authority’s right to build register, or you are consuming grand designs via on-demand TV, then now really is the time to start thinking about what’s possible.

The average self-build house project takes between 8 – 12 months. When you factor in the research stage, finding a plot, getting your finance in place, the design stage, and planning, the overall timespan stretches closer to two years, although each project is different.

This post outlines the stages and a rough guide to timings if you choose a timber frame structural system.

Research (6 months – 5 years +)
Unless you’ve been in the building trade, self-building involves a steep learning curve and research is crucial. We usually find that the best self-builders are the ones who have undertaken the most extensive research. There are tons of useful resources online to help you get started.

Finding a plot (How long is a piece of string?)
If you’re planning to build on land you already own, you’ll save time here. Otherwise, it will come down to the right site being available in the right location for the right price. This can take time, or you could get lucky!

Designing your home (Another moveable feast but allow 4-8 weeks)
Even before you start to look for an architect, chances are you’ve already sketched out floor plans for your perfect home. But finding the right partner to help you realise your vision can take time. There’s also a question around how long it will take to achieve a design that you are ready to commit to as the final version. Our free timber frame house design service offers a highly cost-effective way to navigate the design process and get you started.

Financing your build (12 weeks)
This will depend on your personal circumstances and we are yet to see how coronavirus will affect the mortgage sector in the months ahead. If you do need to secure finance, pre-COVID-19 the timescale for achieving a mortgage offer was 8-12 weeks, but as with most things, timescales are dependent on how responsive you are when it comes to returning documentation. is a great source of advice on mortgage-related questions.

Securing planning permission (14-16 weeks)
In an ideal world, you will purchase your plot with the appropriate planning consent in place; however, you may wish to make alterations to the design which will involve submitting a new planning application. Alternatively, if you are hoping to build on land you already own then you will have to engage with planners. Most local authorities offer an 8-week turnaround on submission of plans but preparing your application will push the process out to approximately 12 weeks (if your application enjoys plain sailing). Planners can request ecology reports, flood risk assessments or air design concerns all of which can result in delays. Allowing 14-16 weeks offers a good cushion to navigate this process. Our free planning service is a great way to tackle what can be a tricky stage if you are new to self-building.

Building warrant / Building regulations (12-14 weeks)
In England, you can start on-site once you have secured planning permission by giving your local authority a building notice and address building control requirements as you go. Alternatively, English self-builders can take a full plans approach, securing building regulations in advance of the build phase. This is similar to the Scottish process where a building warrant is required before breaking ground. You should allow 12-14 weeks for the building regulations stage; our experienced team are always on hand to guide you through this process.

Groundworks and timber frame manufacture (6-12 weeks)
Distinct from a traditional masonry build, with timber frame the manufacture of your kit can take place while you are busy with the groundworks. While you work on your footings and excavate drainage and service runs our construction design team and engineers will prepare the construction design drawings for your project before it moves into our factory for prefabrication. During busy periods lead times can stretch to 12 weeks, but it is possible to achieve this stage within a tighter timeframe. Regular communication and updates will help ensure we can meet your target date.

Erection to wind and watertight (2-3 weeks)
One of the benefits of timber frame house construction is the speed of erection. Depending on the size of your home, it can be erected to the wind and water-tight stage on average within just 2-3 weeks. When you consider a masonry build usually runs to 2-3 months, you can see how the speed of off-site construction can have a positive impact on your build schedule.

Follow on trades (3-4 months)
The first follow-on trade to attend your site is likely to be your roofing contractor followed by plumbers and electricians. Your plumber can start to position waste pipes and install heating systems and your electricians will be installing the wiring needed for power, lighting and connectivity. Floor screed will be laid and plastering complete. Staircases, kitchens and bathrooms will be installed, and 2nd fix joinery items fitted. Your preference for the exterior of your home will also start to take shape with the help of your building contractors. Finally, painting and decorating will leave your home feeling ready for moving in.

Landscaping (2 weeks +)
The finishing touches to your home will come with the landscaping of your driveway and gardens.

With so much to research and plan, now is a great time to explore how to turn your doodles of your ideal home into a real-life self-build project. Check out the self-build resources on our website, download our brochures and feel free to get in touch with our team by phone or email. We’d love to help you get started!

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