The A-Z of Self Build

A brief A-Z of some of the terms you’ll need to be aware of when you start on your self build journey.

A is for Architect 

As in – do I need one? Well, if you’re building from scratch, then yes, you almost certainly will. If you’re building with a Scandinavian Homes Log Home Kit, then no, all the architectural work has already been done for you at the design stage by our suppliers. The exception is, if you’re in Scotland, you’re likely to need an architect to help with your planning and building warrant.

B is for Building Regulations

Building regulations are standards that apply to all buildings to make sure they are safe for people living or working in them. In England and Wales, the regulations are a set of Approved Documents covering the technical aspects of construction work. Scotland has its own version, but the principle is the same. Your self-build is going to need to conform to these, so make sure you get good advice on this.

C is for Construction (As in – Method Of)

There are many, many different ways to build a house nowadays. As well as the ubiquitous British brick and block (often called traditional), there are Modern Methods of Construction like SIPs, or timber frame panel houses, and of course, log home kits. Which method you choose is a significant step in moving forward with your project, and it’s important to be sure it’s the right one for you.

A log house under construction

D is for Design

Arguably the most important letter of the Self-Build Alphabet. A good design is essential on every level – for planning approval, for meeting building regulations, for cost efficiency and energy efficiency, for future-proofing and ensuring that your house meets your needs. If you’re going with traditional methods of construction, you will almost certainly need an architect on board. Many companies using other methods can provide a ready made design for you straight away, and some can and will amend these designs to customise the house model to suit you.

E is for Energy Efficiency

Some building methods are more energy efficient than others. This is something to be taken into careful consideration when planning a self-build in the current financial and physical climate. A house that can be kept at a fairly constant internal temperature regardless of any extremes of weather shenanigans going on outside is going to be a sound investment for any family.

F is for Foundations

Good foundations of the right type are, of course, the er…, foundation(!) of a solid self-build. Finding the right company to advise and construct the rock on which your castle will stand is an essential part of your early preparation work.

Foundations for a log house

G is for Ground Conditions 

Once you’ve found a plot you like, you will need to look into whether there are any remediation issues (if it’s a brownfield site), or trees that will affect how you site your house on the plot. The type of soil may also have a bearing on the kind of foundations you need. You would be well advised to involve a reputable company in this process. 

H is for Heating and/or Hot Water System

There are many ways of keeping your new home warm, the most important being an energy efficient build. You may well need to think more about how you heat water rather than the house. Bear in mind that gas boilers may well be phased out, starting from 2025. 

There is a wide range of other options available – this article has some suggestions. Don’t forget that in England and Wales there is the possibility of a government grant towards installation of a heat pump (see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-may-be-eligible-for-the-boiler-upgrade-scheme-from-april-2022 for details).

I is for Insulation

An essential component in your build, which will have a lot to do with how energy efficient your new home will be. You have a unique chance right at the start to get this spot on, so make sure you talk it through with your designer or package company at an early stage. We like Rockwool products, but other manufacturers are available, and may suit your design better.

J is for Joiner 

Also called a carpenter, but the two trades are not quite the same (technically a carpenter would make wooden items such as furniture, whereas a joiner makes parts of houses such as door and window frames), but most people use the terms interchangeably. We think that this is a wizard who can magically turn pieces of wood into important bits of your house. Also invaluable for installing your dream kitchen.

K is for Kit House

Generally a Modern Method of Construction, where the parts needed to build the structure of a house are supplied to you by one company. Kit houses can vary from SIPS/panel houses to log homes to timber framed houses, and are frequently made of wood, although newer methods include modular homes made from shipping containers or fully factory manufactured and kitted out steel framed units.  

L is for Location, Location, Location

Finding the perfect plot of land on which to build is possibly the most pivotal point in your self-build journey. 

As well as considering all the usual things you would look at when buying an existing house – local amenities, transport links, is the nearest pub within walking distance and do the local takeaways deliver – you will need to make sure utilities can be supplied to the site (water/sewer, electricity, phone/broadband, possibly gas). 

Then there’s access to the site (can you easily get deliveries to it?), and the condition of the plot itself. For example, will the ground require remediation (brownfield sites), are there trees that could cause problems, is it on a significant slope? All this is vital information at the earliest stage in the process. More thought son this in our blog post.

That perfect plot!

M is for Mortgage 

Not everyone needs one, but if you do, there is now a much wider choice available than there used to be. Many building societies and banks now provide specialist products for self-builders, and some even offer discounted rates for highly energy-efficient homes. 

N is for Needs Not Wants

As part of your planning, you will be considering the practicalities of everyday life, and probably futureproofing your new home. 

Try to think ‘fabric first’ and spend upfront on the building rather than the interior – you can always upgrade fixtures and fittings later, but upgrading the house is hard! By all means, plan to leave some space in the garden for the hot tub and sauna, but make sure you’ve budgeted for a decent kitchen and bathrooms before you add those items to the ‘essential’ list.

O is for On Site or Off Site accommodation while construction is underway? 

If you’re knocking down an existing house to build a new one, or you’ve sold your home to finance the new build, you may need to consider where you’re going to live. Past clients of ours have lived in a caravan on site, gone to their holiday home for the duration, or camped in the loft above their brand new extra large garage until the house was habitable! 

P is for Project Manager 

A completely unflappable human being who achieves the apparently impossible before breakfast. If you’re not going to be on site for the build, and not using a package build company, you might want to consider getting yourself one of these amazing creatures, for the sake of your sanity and the integrity of your build.

Q is for Questions 

You will have many, right from the start. Don’t be afraid to ask, even if you think they’re stupid questions. You’re paying people to help you build your house, and that includes explaining things to you.

R is for Right To Build 

This is the Government scheme to bring more self-build plots to market. Local Councils now have an obligation to provide plots in their area. You can read more about this at https://selfbuildportal.org.uk/register-for-a-building-plot/ 

S is for Shell build 

A shell build is where a company does all the construction work on a house up to the point where it is watertight, and then you do the interior fit out, including plumbing and heating, decorating, lighting etc. Make sure you discuss this in detail with your supplier so that you’re all crystal clear who is responsible for what.

A partially built log home

T is for Turnkey

A turnkey build is where a company literally does everything for you, so that all you have to do is move your furniture in. You may need to make sure that the services are registered in your name, and also get your new address registered with the relevant local authority.

U is for Utilities

Absolutely vital part of your build, and getting these sorted at an early stage is key – it might take weeks or months to sort out. It may be best if you register for all the relevant utilities yourself, but your builder will be able to advise.

V is for Vehicle access to plot 

When planning your self-build, you’ll need to consider how practical access is to the plot. Can you get a delivery truck to where you need it, or are you going to have to handball everything from the main road? If you need a crane – for example for a SIPS or panel house build – will you be able to get it close enough? 

W is for Warranty

A structural warranty isn’t a legal requirement and not all of our customers have felt it was necessary. If you have a mortgage, the company may want you to have one, but it’s a good idea to have one, especially if you think you might sell your home in the future.

You could take a look at https://www.protekselfbuild.co.uk/ for further information.

X is for eXceeding your budget 

A thing you really don’t want to do, if at all possible! Set your budget and try your hardest to stick to it – although having some contingency is always wise. Using a package build company can help reduce the risk of this, as you will agree an overall price for the build before work gets underway. As long as you don’t then try to change the specifications afterwards, your costs will not be at risk of creeping upwards.

Y is for hYgge 

Well, as a Scandinavian Home company, we could hardly miss this one out, even if it was a stretch to include it. Hygge is a Danish word that “describes a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being” [Oxford Languages definition] and we think neatly encapsulates what most people want to feel on that first evening after moving into their self-build forever home.

Candles and Hygge – photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

 Z is for Zoom. 

A great way to keep in touch with your crew on site if you’re not actually living there during the build, and even for ‘meetings’ earlier in the process to go through your ideas and choices. Other video call apps are also available.

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