How to Design Your Own House

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What You Need to Know

  1. Designing your own house allows you to put your own ideas and dreams into practice and gives you the chance to live in your perfect home.
  2. Before you get started on the design process, you should identify a suitable plot of land and then apply for planning permission from the relevant local authority.
  3. You will also need to draw up a budget before you begin, taking into account things such as legal bills, materials and labour. It’s also a good idea to factor in the fact you’ll probably end up spending more than you initially planned.
  4. Think twice before taking on the design work yourself. It’s often best to leave the design work to a skilled professional and work with them to turn your dream into a reality.
  5. If you do opt to employ a professional architect, it’s a good idea to check if they are RIBA-certified.
  6. Keep on top of the paperwork. Even if you employ a project manager, it’s still wise to have copies of all the relevant legal forms and design blueprints yourself.
  7. Be aware from the start that designing and building your own home is a long and stressful process and may put a strain on your personal life.

Advantages of Designing your Own Home

Soaring house prices, the lack of individuality in many modern buildings and the popularity of TV programmes such as Grand Designs have all helped encourage many Britons to take on the daunting project of building their own home.

Going it alone rather than buying a new-build or older home can have its advantages. Above all, it allows you to live in your perfect house, giving you the chance to make your dreams and ideas a reality, while it can also work out.

cheaper. However, you must be prepared for a long and stressful process. You have to find and buy your plot, often beating established house builders and developers in the race, negotiate planning departments and find an architect you trust.

The size, shape and aspect of your plot should determine your design. Don’t assume your plot will be flat, or square. Inner city plots are often sloping or triangular in shape. Don’t let this put you off, however. Oddly-shaped plots can be the inspiration for good design!

How to Get Started

You will need planning permission from your local planning department. Contrary to popular myth, planners are not the enemy and you need to get them on side as soon as possible in the process. They are committed to buildings that enhance the local area.

At the same time, you should also draw up your budget. Take the time to consider everything you’ll need to pay for, from buying the land, covering the legal fees and, of course, funding the construction process for the property. Your budget should influence your every design decision and you should realise from the start that you cannot have everything you want. A simple rule is that if you want to build cheap, build simple.

It’s good practice to add a fair bit more to your budget than the total of all the individual parts of the process. However hard you try to keep on top of a project, it’s likely you’ll end up spending more than you initially anticipated and so not having some extra in the bank could lead to building work coming to an abrupt halt.

Choosing a Designer

The next fundamental decision is who should design the house. The golden rule: it shouldn’t be you.

The first option is to employ an architect with experience in one-off house building projects. They can come up with plans and supervise the build. They are usually paid a percentage of the build cost, between 5 and 12 per cent. Visit the RIBA website to find one in your area.

The second option is to use a designer who for one reason or another is not entitled to be called an architect, (a term protected by law) often because they haven’t got the appropriate qualifications. They can produce attractive plans based on your ideas. Some builders and structural engineers can do the same thing, and may well be cheaper than an architect.

When it comes to your input, be realistic with your hopes and expectations and be ready to be flexible. Design magazines and homebuilding TV shows can be good sources of inspiration, even though following others’ examples may take away from the individuality of your home.

Packaged Home Option

The last option is to buy a package or frame house from a package company. Potton, the most popular timber frame supplier, has a set of standard plans that can be adjusted to suit your needs. In fact, they claim never to have built the same house twice. Many of these companies have talented in-house designers who are used to the needs of self-builders.

Expect to pay a fixed fee for a set of designs from between £1,000 to £3,000.

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