If you want to build your own house but you are short on time and aren't all that experienced with this type of project, you still have options. Self-build kit houses are becoming a popular option, and they are suited to a wide range of people.
The package build route is still a big investment, but many find that it works well for them in terms of the options available, completion times, and cost.
The way your home will look is fully specified during the design stage; even the off the shelf options can be tailored to suit your needs. Alternatively, you can create an entirely bespoke option depending on what you like. In fact, in the UK, custom build is growing in popularity; 10% of all new builds are a custom build.
Here, we will guide you through the process, giving you ideas of what may be possible for you, how to begin your project, and what to expect.
Kit houses come in a variety of sizes and styles. You could create a modest cottage or a luxurious 3000 square foot space. It all depends on your preferences and your vision for the build.
Below you’ll find just a few ideas that you’ll likely be able to choose from as you explore your options:
When it comes to design, there are a few approaches you can take. The cheapest option and usually the easiest is to see which package companies you like the look of and pick an ‘off the peg design’ that they have available.
That being said, many people who choose the self-build route want to design their own bespoke home, which is where a modified off the peg design can be beneficial.
You can take a look at the companies design book and work through basic features, layouts and materials you might like to use, and then adapt the design as you see fit. This means that there will be fewer homes out there that look like yours, which can sometimes be a downside of selecting an off the peg design.
Alternatively, you can grab a piece of paper and use the in house architectural design service (if there is one) to create your bespoke project for you. The main advantage of this is that there won’t be another home like yours out there.
Some people also choose to use the plans of their own architect, and in this case, the majority of house package companies will give you a quote, providing they are able to create the design of the architect using their methods.
With the various options and styles available, there is usually an approach to suit everybody.
There are numerous benefits of self-build kit houses - they are attractive due to their fast build times, but you likely already knew that. Plus, as many of the components and parts of your home will be made in a controlled environment, so the variables that can often cause delays with traditional build methods are taken away.
All of your materials are readily available in stores, there will be no weather delays, and it’ll be so much easier for you to predict the cost of the project. You’ll also likely experience:
Reduced manufacture times.
Minimal disruption to your neighbours.
Improved build quality.
Fast on-site construction.
Reduced production costs.
Reduction in weather delays.
You should be well informed of the complexities of your chosen project, budget limitations, and any limitations due to where you are locating your self build
Below are some pointers that can help you to decide whether a self-build project is really for you.
Do your due diligence so you can figure out exactly what your project entails. Ideally, you’ll have a good idea of the sort of project you’d like to take on, the sort of company you’d like to work with, whether you want an architect, and how involved you’d like to be. Do your research and read other people’s accounts of their own projects so you are properly prepared for what’s to come.
Just bear in mind that your project will vary depending on a list of factors - you can read hundreds of accounts and still end up having a totally different experience to other people.
If you don’t already have finance but you know this is something you’d like to go through with, get it ready. In general, high street banks and lenders may not be the best choice for something like this, so you’ll want to explore all of your options and see what financing is available for you. It’s a good idea to have a little more available than you think you’ll need.
A good architect and a skilled designer will be able to talk with you about your ideas and let you know what’s possible. You should be well informed of the complexities of your chosen project, budget limitations, and any limitations due to where you are locating your self build.
Your priority should be to build a house that is safe, aesthetically pleasing, and works for your lifestyle needs. If you try to build something too complex, it might be difficult to live in, and making it safe can be a big challenge, so you can expect this to cost you more initially.
Think about the specific things you’d like to achieve with your self build. What are your main goals? Perhaps you’d like to build a home that’s energy efficient and will be for years to come, or maybe you’d like a low carbon build.
The materials you’ll use will have a huge impact on the standard of the home built. If you want your home to last for 60+ years, then you’ll need to use high quality, durable materials that will stand the test of time. The techniques used during construction will also make a difference.
You should make sure you have professionals check out the area you plan on locating your self-build so you can be sure of what foundations will be required before the real work begins. This will ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises for you to deal with at any stage.
A self-build is still a substantial investment, so you’ll need to have a good plan for how you’re going to protect this investment right from the beginning of the project. Site insurance is important, and you’ll also want to look into a structural warranty.
Talking to your neighbours and letting them know what to expect will ensure you don’t have any disgruntled people getting involved during the construction phase. It’s only polite and will ensure better relationships with them in the future. The last thing you want is to have issues with your neighbours before you’ve even moved into the house!
That being said, with these types of projects there is rarely the kind of disruption that will annoy your neighbours.
Make sure you clearly establish who will be doing what as early on as possible. This will help you to determine your budget, as well as any other professionals you will need on board for your project. You may want to manage the project yourself, or you might decide that you simply want to take care of the finalising decor elements when the project is near completion.
There will usually always be problems to contend with, no matter how well you research and plan. Hopefully, they will be mild issues that you can move past in no time, such as materials not being delivered on time.
It’s a good idea to keep a sense of humour throughout the project so you don’t end up going grey!
You’ll probably already have an idea in your head of what you would like your self-build kit house to look like. In this case, you should probably look up companies available that can provide you with a self-build kit house, and then research each property that the company has designed and built in the UK.
If their style of property fits in with your vision and what you would like to achieve, then you can go ahead and work with the company.
Don’t forget that you can still work with a company even if you have an architect draw up the plans for your self-build kit. You will just need to discuss this with the company and make sure they are equipped to build what the architect has designed.
There are a few things you should think about when you’re going to spend your hard earned money on a self-build kit house. It would be beneficial if you found a company with an in-house design team, so you know that they have the experience and technical knowledge needed to design something that will help your home to turn out the way you want it.
If you can find out things like the measurements of standardised wall panels and windows that a company usually works with, you’ll be able to make sure that your build remains cost effective and within your budget.
It’s also worth noting that a fully prefabricated property often requires more time for the initial design process than other types of the build project. This is because the final details, such as light fittings and plug socket placement, need to be decided before the component parts are made in the factory.
The initial groundwork for your project will often be taken on by a contractor that is separate from your project, and they will usually be employed by you. However, most manufacturers will be happy to recommend somebody suitably. They will also liaise with them over what is required so that everybody involved with your project is on the same page.
The amount of time it takes to complete your self-build home can vary, but it remains the best choice if you’re short on time. You’ll usually have to start with a few meetings with your architect and project manager so you can talk about your ideas and finalise your plans.
Once the groundwork is completed, it should only take 2-3 days for a prefabricated house to be erected on site and made water/weather tight. When the shell is in place, finishing teams will begin the final stages of the project, including the interior.
This can take three months for a smaller home to six months for a larger home. It will all depend on the size and your specifications, but that is a general idea.
You’ll need planning permission and building regulations approval before you can even begin constructing your home
When it comes to planning this project, you’ll, of course, need to ensure that you have the appropriate approvals and requirements. You’ll need planning permission and building regulations approval before you can even begin constructing your home unless you want to have to tear it down after spending a ton of money and a decent amount of time putting it together.
Having a structural warranty in place is also necessary, and most manufacturers will have arrangements with warranty providers, so all you usually have to do is enquire about this.
Remember that not all manufacture companies are created equal. There are many companies providing various styles and types of kits, so you’ll need to explore your options and the benefits before starting out. You might even want a consultation with your shortlist before you decide.
Some suppliers will even give you a professionally prepared build schedule you can work from
Knowing the sort of company you want to work with for this project will help you to finish with the home that you visualized at the start. The right company can do everything for you. They can offer pre-planning advice, provide designs for your home, manage planning approval, buy the materials, and do absolutely everything else you can think of.
They’ll even tell you when it’s time for you to move into your new build! This is known as the ‘turnkey’ option and is suitable for those who may not live nearby to be readily available when the project calls.
However, some people don’t like this as they want to get stuck into the project themselves. If it sounds too ‘hands off’ for you, then you can simply have a company that will share their expertise with you while keeping you involved in the project every step of the way.
It’s actually not that difficult to act as your own project manager if this is something that you’d like to have a go at. You’ll have to take care of things like arranging contractors and ordering materials, but working with a packaging company will take a lot of the unknown factors out of the situation. They’ll be your safety net.
Some suppliers will even give you a professionally prepared build schedule you can work from. You can refer back to documents like this throughout the project and they should help you to stay focused and on track with the project.
If you’d rather not be your own project manager, then your package company will be able to appoint one to your project, or you can find one off your own back. If you decide to do this then you won’t have to take care of things like arranging contracts and keeping an eye on the quality of workmanship, but you’ll still be involved when it comes to choosing materials and making payments.
You will be paying extra for a project manager, but it could be worth it - especially if they have an expertise that could help you to source materials for a cheaper price, negotiate with contractors, and spot issues before they become too difficult to fix.
Want more choice? That’s no problem either. You could also go for a ‘part finish’ package, where the basics of the interior work will be completed for you, but you’ll still be able to deal with things like finalising the decor.
Most companies can be as involved or as flexible as you need them to be, and if you decide you need more support later on down the line than you initially thought, this should not be a problem
You should note that some companies don’t have in-house builders, especially if they are a nationwide firm. In this case, your build will usually be subcontracted out to a local contractor affiliated with the packaging company, or you will be given a list of recommended contractors from the company to choose from.
You will be able to complete a self-managed project for a lower budget, but a turnkey build will often go beyond the average price
The costs associated with self-build kit houses don’t vary too much from classic self-build houses. You could likely build a mid-spec house on a budget of £900-£1,100 per m2. Something with higher quality materials and energy efficiency as a focus will demand a larger budget.
You must remember that the level of service you select will also have an impact on the overall cost of your project. You will be able to complete a self-managed project for a lower budget, but a turnkey build will often go beyond the average price. You should expect costs of anywhere from £1,300-£1,400 per m2 for a turnkey package.
If, for example, you want to build a house for under £150,000, you will have to build a smaller one. The bigger your home, the more materials used, and the more it will cost you. Keeping it small is the best way to stay under £150,000.
Below you’ll find some pointers that will enable you to keep your self build within budget:
Keep geometry simple - a fussy plan will always bump up the overall cost of your project. For each part of your project consider how complex it will be to build.
Consider construction method and materials - the method and materials you use will be impacted by how long you’d like to live in the house. If you want to live there for 20 years, it may be very different to what you would use if you envision living in there for 60. Spending less money now may mean spending more in the future.
Labour costs - labour accounts for a large portion of overall costs, so you might want to do as much as you can yourself to bring those costs down if you’re on a budget.
Be more efficient with your floor area - chatting with your architect about ways to reduce the footprint but still get your wish-list will help you to keep your floor area as efficient as possible.
Space planning - an open plan space can give you more useable space and natural light. It can give your build a more airy feel too. However, it can be costly due to the additional structure required, usually in the ceiling to keep things stable.
Find a great architect - a great architect can help you to find all kinds of ways to save money. Their cost can be more than worth it when you take into account the amount of money that they can help you to save.
Mix both basics and luxury - as you decide between your materials and the elements you want to include in your build, you don’t have to go all one way or the other. You can definitely mix both basics and luxury so you can create your ideal space while keeping in your budget limitations.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate - be smart when it comes to buying materials and practice your negotiation skills.