John’s Advice: Want to Build Your Own Home? Ask Yourself These Ten Questions First

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Ten self build questions

Renovating your home or building a new one can be one of the most exciting times of your life. It can also be one of the most stressful.

To ensure your project is a time you’ll never want to forget rather than a time you can’t wait to, here are ten questions which will have you better prepared for what to expect and what is expected of you.

1: What are your needs?

Whether you want to be practical or extravagant, the first step to planning your new home is to honestly and thoroughly consider your needs. It could simply be a matter of needing more space, or you want a home built around your personality from the ground up.

Think about how you would use the house and how long you’re likely to live there. Do you enjoy holding social events, or is it a space just for you? Will it be designed to satisfy the single life or do you want to fill it with a family?

By determining your needs early, both current and future, you’ll be able to plan every aspect of the design specifically for you.

2: How can those needs be addressed?

Every problem comes with a range of solutions, and those that seem obvious at the start are often not the most ideal.

Space, for example, is a commonly misunderstood concept. More is not always better, and clients are often surprised at how comparatively simple conversions to their existing homes can create a more open, welcoming environment.

It’s fun to think big, but it isn’t always practical. Whether you’re extending your current home or building a new one, consider methods of maximising space while minimising scale. Fewer exterior works will also make for an easier planning process.

3: Where do you want to live?

It’s common knowledge that location is an essential factor in choosing a home, but where you live needs to be considered even more closely when you’re building a new one.

Cities have many conveniences, amenities and lifestyle options, but all this comes with a hefty price tag on the land. Land in the countryside is cheaper, but facilities and schools may not be readily available and – depending on the area – the planning process may be onerous.

No matter where you choose to build, will you still want to live there in ten or twenty years?

4: Will planning permission be required?

Whether you’re modifying your current home or building a new one, the first step is finding out from the relevant authorities whether planning permission is required.

This is especially pertinent in areas with a lot of old buildings or a certain local character. There are specific conservation areas where significant deviations from the traditional style are all but impossible.

An architect with local experience will be able to work with local councils to increase the chances of having your plans approved.

5: How much can you invest in the project?

Where you live, what you build and what you build it out of is determined by how much you can afford to spend on the project. An extension is usually funded by savings, while a brand new house typically follows from the sale of an old one.

Very, very few houses are a no-compromise construction, so setting out a firm, realistic budget will allow you to figure out what features are most important to you. Costs also change throughout the project, so make sure you have enough to cover every stage.

Remember that a smart design can significantly increase the resale value of your house, so an investment now may make you a return in the future.

Maida Terrace – above – was only permitted a slight increase in floor area via extension, but the house feels much larger thanks to a more open interior layout.

6: What ideas do you have for the design?

How hands on you want to get with the design process varies from person to person, but if you enjoy sketching out ideas then putting pen to paper – or mouse to software – can help you to develop a sense of your spatial and functional requirements.

You may find you need to widen some walls to fit your prized furniture, or that the layout of rooms doesn’t flow as well as you expected. No matter how vague or precise your ideas are, the right architect will translate your imagination to reality.

7: What will the interior of the building look like?

Leading on from the layout of the house is the interior design. Much of this will be determined by the design of the structure itself: the height of the walls, the amount of natural light, whether it’s open plan or separate rooms.

But people don’t move into empty boxes. Think about how your furniture, fittings, carpets or tiles will complement the design of the house. Certain colours can create entirely different moods and transform from day to evening.

Some features – like the paint – can be changed easily, while others – like floorboards – require more judicious selection. If you’re planning entirely new furniture for your new house or extension, make sure to consider these costs in your budget.

8: What will the exterior of the building look like?

We all want to make a good first impression, and the same applies to our homes. Do you want to have a striking design which stands out or one which fits elegantly into its surroundings? Do you want a modern or a period look, or perhaps a combination of the two?

Remember when choosing exterior materials to consider how they will age, especially exposed wood or stone, as well as how they react to extreme temperatures.

Present your architect with some examples resembling what you want to achieve, but remember that planning permission will determine much of what is possible.

An architect with local experience can negotiate the design with the authorities, and can navigate local constraints without significantly compromising on your vision or your needs.

9: Who is required for the project?

Some architects will be involved in the entirety of the project and will supply project managers to oversee the construction and find contractors and suppliers, while others will provide only the design.

You may also not need the architect to be involved entirely, either because you can oversee aspects of the project yourself or you have separate professionals helping at different stages.

Make sure you’ve found the right people for every stage, including service engineers, CAD and party wall surveyors. Your architect will likely have their own recommendations for who to work with.

10: How long will the project take?

It’s much easier to deal with the long wait and disruption of building work if you have an idea of how long the project will take.

While you may want to oversee to process yourself to save money, an experienced project manager is obliged to deliver a project on time, saving you a great deal of stress in the process.

If you’re building a new home, make sure you’ve secured stable accommodation for the duration of the construction period and that you’ve counted the costs of this accommodation in your budget.

Ticked them all off? Get in touch

Working your way through the above steps will allow you to skip directly to productive discussions with an architect and reveal where there are gaps in your plans.

To start your journey to your dream home, email us now at [email protected] or call us on 020 3918 2893.

John Dyer-Grimes