Building a Home from the Ground up: What you need to know

Building your own home from the ground up is a big deal. It will challenge you in ways you don’t expect, and it will reward you in many ways, too. If your heart is set on building the home of your dreams, here’s an overview of what you need to know.


Poor planning and ill-thought-out budgets are where most home-build projects meet problems. Running out of money is the most common headache experienced by self-builders – avoid this by pricing up every detail of the journey, from earthworks at the beginning through to the construction phase, to every light fitting and door handle. There will always be nasty surprises, which is why a contingency budget is essential – but even when everything goes smoothly, budgets are rarely adequate and compromise is a familiar friend.

Where you live now

 You may know what you want in a home, but are you equally clear about what you don’t want? Often it’s the case where identifying what you don’t want results in you achieving your ideal home. What don’t you like about where you live now? Are there too few bathrooms? Not enough light? Nowhere to park your car? Kitchen too cramped? Not enough office space? Too expensive to heat? Focus on the negatives of where you live now and work out ways of ironing these issues out of your plans for the new house.

Hired help

Many self-builders employ main contractors to manage the day-to-day running of the site. They will manage everything from deliveries, to ordering materials, to following design plans, and erecting the structure. Construction firms that take over the whole project enable you to take a hands-off approach, leaving you free to get on with your life. Usually, inclusive terms are agreed, and staged payments tied to performance and completion of different phases are hammered out.

Alternatively, you could be on-site every day and project manage the build yourself, engaging contractors directly. Although this is hard work, if well executed, it will result in reduced costs. Using self-employed construction professionals to undertake the bulk of the labor is a popular method for self-builders, using specialist freelancers that work under an umbrella company, which simplifies payments and minimizes bureaucracy.

Perfect plot

Finding the perfect plot is key to a successful self-build project. Some people free up land at the bottom of their garden, others buy specific land parcels that already have earthworks, drainage, and utilities in situ – whatever you choose to do, focus on the outlooks and views the house will have. Identify where the sun rises and sets and where it shines at different parts of the day – this may determine where conservatories, breakfast rooms, etc., are situated. How a home sits in the landscape – if it is in harmony with the curve of the land, it will ultimately feel more rooted in that spot – is something that inhabitants subconsciously respond to in positive ways.

Building your own home from the ground up is brave and adventurous, and when you get it right, it’s a life-changing joy. Research and plan, and you’ll avoid common pitfalls and headaches and achieve the ideal home you deserve.

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