Self Build Guide

Do you fancy organising the construction of your own dream home “yourself”.

If you plan to build a new home why don’t you organise the construction yourself. Most people hire the services of a contractor to undertake the building construction phase. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, if you can afford it, but just think of the satisfaction you will have when you tell your friends that you organised and supervised the construction of your new dream home yourself. It just takes a bit of forethought and planning and you will save yourself a lot of money, maybe up to 20-25% of the build costs. If you are particularity good at planning or organising in your work day to day then you could easily apply this to planning the building of your home.

It’s simply all about planning and being organised!

Construction Pre-Planning

This Self Build Guide will provide you with some assistance to building your own home. Contour Architectural Belfast is here to help you develop a self build plan and guide you all the way. We have done it lots of times and will get you to a position with all the necessary statutory approvals, ready to go on site.

The building control approved drawings that you will receive from Contour Architectural will indicate the various materials, such as brick types, roof materials, timber sizing, steel beams, plasterboards, insulations etc. etc. allowing you construct your house. However, not every finish internally for your home will be indicated on the drawings e.g. doors types, skirtings, kitchen fittings, bathrooms fittings etc. A lot of this will be down to personal taste, for you to select as you go along. You do, however, want to have a general overall idea at the very beginning of the types of fittings and finishes that will be installed in the new house. It is very important to establish early on for example the locations of electrics, plumbing services, the kitchen layout etc, that will be installed which may have an impact on the construction. The last thing you want to do is start removing parts of the construction later to allow fittings to be installed.

The selection of finishes for second fix, such as doors, skirting etc can wait until later on in the construction phase. Most external finishes are generally established at the beginning for planning approval processes. The planners are not really interested on internal finishes.

Schedule of Material Costs

As part of the initial organising you want to establish a schedule (or list) of costs from suppliers for materials that will be used in constructing the house shell e.g. timbers, fixings, blocks, brick , concrete, cement and sand etc. Prepare a comprehensive schedule of the materials that will be needed. You could use Microsoft Excel for this. This list should be sent to 3–4 suppliers requesting them to provide unit costs for every component. Don’t send them a copy of the drawings and ask for prices based on the drawings. They will provide all inclusive prices for e.g. the complete roof structure. By all means send them some drawings to give them an indication of the potential orders that could arise during the construction of your house and they can price accordantly. The schedule will provide you with individual unit costs for all the materials required. An example could be the cost for the supply 1 sheet of plywood or 1 meter square of insulation board. When you need these materials you multiply the quantity ordered by the cost. This method will mean that you are in control and can order what materials you need, when you need it knowing that the costs are fixed. You will use this list for cost control throughout the project. When you have agreed prices for every component on the list with a supplier then open up an account with them. All materials ordered can be charged to your account and you pay for them around 30–60 days later. You will find this very useful for cash flow. You will end up with a number of accounts as no one supplier will be able to supply everything you need.


Before starting any actual work, or allowing tradesmen onto your property, make sure you arrange appropriate insurance. There are insurance packages available for self build projects which protect you against claims from the tradesmen and members of the public coming onto the site. Each of your sub contractors should have their own employers and public liability insurance. Insist that they produce a copy of their policy.


There will be trades men available for every part of the construction. Some will specialise in the site works, foundations, bricklaying, drainage, floor screeds, joinery, electrical, plumbing etc. Each will have their own way in pricing, but you will want the price broken down as much as possible. Try and obtain prices for individual components of the overall works. This is useful if you want to delete or change a section without having to renegotiate. Never pay up front for any works. Arrange payment terms weekly, monthly, various agreed stages or simply upon completion.

Health and Safety On Site

Health and safety is a very important consideration. Keeping a tidy site for instance will help towards possible tripping hazards. When obtaining costs for the various trades make sure they agree to tidy up after each day’s work. If you don’t agree this with them, they will assume you will do it and generally leave the place in a mess. Scaffolding will be required and the bricklayers will guide you as to when it will be required. Make sure no one removes sections of the scaffolding after erection unless it is reinstated immediately.


The above are some of the areas you must consider in preparing for the construction phase. Preparation is everything. If you are not prepared do not start. You are better delaying for a week or so to get everything in place. We at Contour Architectural can help you get organised so please contact us and we will be only too glad to help you out.

For a FREE consultation please call 02890 692 444 for assistance with the construction phase