National Self Build & Renovation Centre Logo close Menu
Book Free Now

Self Build Research

Read our guide to the various elements of a self build project, from planning permissions to self build systems and Government support.

What is a self build?

A self-build home is a home designed and commissioned by a person to be built on land that they own. The individual must design and commission the home directly for it to be classed as a self build - they don’t have to construct the home themselves.

While the design and commission of a home is a key part of the self build definition, self builders can bring a variety of professionals on board to turn plans into reality, including architects and builders. Self build projects are growing in popularity in the UK - 13,000 self build projects were completed in 20221, which was a 1,000 increase on 2016 figures - as more people are seeing the attraction of commissioning their own home.

Plans are afoot to further increase those numbers, too. The Bacon Review is an independent review by Conservative MP Richard Bacon, carried out at the request of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “develop a plan for a major-scaling up of self-commissioned homes – across all tenures – to boost capacity and overall housing supply”. It’s hoped that this will help to boost self build numbers to 40,000.2

Why self build?

There are so many reasons to undertake a self build project. For many people, the main reason for taking the self build route is to build a truly unique home that meets every single requirement. According to our July ‘22 survey, the top three motivations for self-builders are:

  • A home designed to specific needs
  • Improved energy efficiency
  • Better build quality than large developers


The term ‘self build home’ often conjures images of sprawling Grand Designs-style mansions, but the self build approach doesn’t always mean breaking the bank. There are countless examples of beautiful self builds constructed on a modest budget - you can find plenty of them in our case studies section.


Better build quality

If you’re building your own home, you’re unlikely to take any shortcuts when it comes to quality. Many self builders go to great lengths to maximise energy efficiency, ensuring things like insulation and air-tightness are of the highest standard. This helps to minimise energy consumption, future-proof their homes against any cost increases and contribute to the ongoing fight against climate change. It’s important to focus on ‘fabric-first’ principles: focusing on the materials, insulation and air-tightness of your home, so that you’re effectively designing a reduction in energy use.

Eco benefits

With a blank canvas, you can build your dream home and make it a sustainable one, too. From the very start, you can incorporate eco-friendly features into your plans, whether that’s using sustainable construction materials or implementing energy efficient technology into your home. Whether its restricted-flow taps or solar panels to power the property, there’s plenty you can do to increase your home’s energy efficiency, lower your carbon footprint and reduce your energy bills.

Planning for the future

As well as future-proofing against things like energy costs, building your own home means you can also plan for changes in your personal circumstances. If you have a young family, for example, you can incorporate designs, features and functions that’ll cater for your children’s needs as they get older, rather than upsizing or paying for costly renovations in a home you’ve bought. For ‘empty nesters’ - parents whose children have left home - mobility needs can be considered, such as designing plumbing for an accessible bathroom on the ground floor.

What’s more, incorporating energy efficiency measures, your favourite design features and catering for the future in your self build home can improve your physical and mental health, helping you to live a happier and healthier life.

What are the steps in the self build process?

The self build process is a long one, so we’ve broken it down into stages here.

  1. Research
    An absolutely crucial step. You must do the appropriate research before embarking on your self build journey - how a self build project works, the amount of input you would like to have, and the legislation around self build projects, for example.
  2. Budgeting
    You’ll likely have a budget in mind for your self build project, but it’s important to do your research first, as the research phase could identify budget requirements that you may not have considered before.
  3. Finance
    As well as your own savings or cash, you can apply for a self build mortgage to fund your project, and there are also a few Government-backed schemes available, such as Help to Build. Our Guide to Managing Money course will give you all the information you need about financing your self build project.
  4. Finding land
    One of the most complex parts of the journey, you’ll need to identify and secure your plot of land well ahead of time. Click here for our Finding Land Guide.
  5. Planning permission
    You’ll need planning permission to get started. Planning permission applications can take months to complete, and it’s advisable to speak to your Local Planning Authority to discuss any design and build restrictions.
  6. Design and build
    When all the research, finance and planning is in place and you know of any design and building restrictions, you can get a clearer idea of what your home is going to look like.
  7. Building control
    An inspection of your site is required, where your site will be checked for a variety of points, from foundations to water installations. This can be done by your local council or an independent company if you prefer.

For more information on the self build process, read our guide here.

Types of self build systems

There’s a variety of self build systems for you to consider when choosing how your home will be constructed. They have their own benefits and drawbacks, and the suitability of each system will depend on your plans.

A few of the most commonly used systems include:

  • Timber frames
    One of the most commonly used systems, timber frames can be used in conjunction with advanced membranes to improve insulation, air tightness and water tightness. They’re eco-friendly and contribute to quicker build times, but they are susceptible to rot and manufacturing delays.
  • Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)
    A very popular system, the main benefit they provide is high-quality construction. Although they tend to be slightly more expensive than other systems, they do reduce the need for costly trades on site.
  • Insulated concrete framework (ICF)
    Consisting of hollowed-out blocks made of either polystyrene or recycled compressed timber, ICF is often likened to 'adult lego'. The blocks interlock and are then filled with concrete - they're conducive to a quicker build and they have fantastic insulation properties, but they're considered by some to be a less eco-friendly option due to the materials used, and the high-reliance on concrete.
  • Traditional masonry
    Using insulated blocks and mortar, this is another very common method. It’s one of the cheaper systems, and all UK builders are well-versed in it, which is a bonus if you’re planning on using professional assistance. A potential drawback is that the quality of the finish depends entirely on the builder’s skill level, so there’s a possibility that you’ll end up with a sub-standard finish.

Certain systems entail a higher cost than others, some are more suited to eco-focused builds, and some are subject to stricter planning regulations than their counterparts. Our in-depth guide to self build systems tells you everything you need to know.

The cost of self build

Of course, the cost of a self build project depends on a number of factors, such as size, style and the features you’re planning to include. A large home with the latest technology, most advanced materials and extravagant features will cost more than a simple, modestly sized home, for example.

Self build mortgages

Budgeting for your self build project is different to budgeting for purchasing a house. One of the most common types of funding is a self build mortgage; in principle, it’s similar to a normal mortgage - it’s a loan you pay back over time - but it has some marked differences.

The main difference is that the money from a self build mortgage is released in stages as you move through the building process. One of the reasons for this is so you don’t run out of money before the project is finished, and it also acts as extra protection for the lender.

The stages at which the money is released can vary between lenders, but it can typically follow this order:

  • An instalment when the land is purchased
  • An instalment when the foundations are laid
  • An instalment when the build is at eaves level
  • An instalment when the roof is watertight
  • An instalment when interior walls have been painted
  • An instalment on completion

BuildStore have developed the ‘Accelerator Mortgage’, which offers Advanced Stage Payments to help self-builders manage their cash flow more effectively. You can read more by clicking here.

Help to Build mortgages

Much like there’s a Help to Buy Scheme, the Government’s Help to Build scheme is designed to make it easier for people to start their self build journey. With the scheme, builders can borrow up to 5% or 20% of the land costs (or up to 40% in London) - you can then get a 95% equity loan from a lender registered with the Help to Build scheme.

To find out more about Help to Build mortgages, click here. For more information about self build costs and for advice on how to stay on top of budgets and plans during your project, visit our costs page.

Getting started with your self build project

If you’re ready to take the next step and start your self build project, then there are plenty of resources at hand.

National Self Build and Renovation Centre

Firstly, the NSBRC provides a variety of workshops, courses, and shows, where you can watch, listen and learn from the experts. What’s more, we’re always developing and expanding our Knowledge Hub to provide you with useful content. You can find out about what’s on offer and more about our upcoming events here.

Right to Build Register

You also need to sign up to the Right to Build Register. The Register helps local authorities stay informed about the demand for land in their area, as well as helping them make better decisions about which applications to approve. Click here to learn more.

National Custom and Self Build Association

The National Custom and Self Build Association (NACSBA) helps to shape policy around custom and self build homes, as well as raising awareness and sharing knowledge to make self build projects a more mainstream option. Visit their website.


BuildStore can help you with finding the right plot of land for your project and sourcing finance such as self build mortgages, bridging loans and project insurance. They also have a wealth of guidance and inspiration available for all stages of a project.

Self build schemes

As we’ve already mentioned, there are Government-backed schemes available to help you begin your self build project. Through the Help to Build Scheme, successful applicants will have the opportunity to build their own home in a community of their choice, needing just a 5% deposit towards land and building costs, rather than the 25% that is traditionally required. You can find out more about the scheme here.

Self build projects are also exempt from VAT - under the ‘DIY housebuilders scheme’, you can apply for a refund on building materials and services if you’re building a new home. You can make one claim under the scheme. Read more here.

You are also exempt from paying the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) if you’re building or commissioning the building of a house, and you occupy that house for three years after the building has been completed. You can read more here.

In Wales, the Self Build Wales scheme is designed to make it easier for prospective self builders to find land and builders. Successful applicants will be awarded a loan to cover 75% of the cost of the plot, and the full building costs. More information can be found at

There are few things more rewarding than moving into a home you built yourself, and we hope this guide helps you understand some of the finer details of self building and the various aspects of the process. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today and we’ll be happy to help.



Before you Build your Home…Build your Knowledge with the NSBRC!

If you are contemplating building your dream home, or planning to improve your existing home, why not attend one of our NSBRC Training Courses first to build your knowledge and confidence?

Check out our range of in-person and virtual courses!