Building a house

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 girlymonkey 15 Oct 2022

I'm sure some on here must have self built houses, given the practical nature of the parish. 

Firstly, are you pleased that you did? Was it worth the hassle?

We probably have a house move coming up, and there might be the possibility of getting some land with planning permission (it looks good on the website, not seen it in person yet).

I have looked at Hebhomes, and their stuff looks lovely and initially seems very cheap. However, once you look at the price of the "turnkey" package, it becomes much pricier. 

I have no idea if it's the sort of thing that a group of very practical friends and family can do, or if we need to buy their package. 

So, any experience of building either Hebhomes or something similar? Other types you would look at? Or just forget it and buy a house ready to move into?

 wintertree 15 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

No direct comment on building a house, but is the planning permission tied to a specific size/shape/type of house?  IIRC you're in Scotland and I'm not familiar with the rules there, just flagging it up as a possible consideration.

OP girlymonkey 15 Oct 2022
In reply to wintertree:

I haven't managed to find that out. The listing had a reference number for the planning permission on the council's website. I went and looked at it just said it was for a residential dwelling. I couldn't see anything else specified. I would guess it is more specific, but not sure yet where to look! I presume the estate agent selling the land could tell us

OP girlymonkey 15 Oct 2022
In reply to wintertree:

In fact, I just read it again. It states it has "outline planning permission", which presumably means the size is specified, but not so much the design?

 wintertree 15 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

That’s my understanding for England - outline is more generic, full is very specific on the actual house.

 gethin_allen 15 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

The real savings probably only come if you have any significantly valuable skill to add to the project. The people I know who have built their own houses have been owners of building related companies, one a general builder and roofer the other a carpenter.

 doz 15 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

Anybody with a practical mindset can learn  the skills needed to build a house...the hard bit is the will all take longer/cost more than you think it will at the outset! I've built a good few over the last four decades and  my main role usually becomes managing folks' stress and marriages😉

I'm in the Northeast...give me a shout if you want some general advice!

OP girlymonkey 15 Oct 2022
In reply to doz:

Yes, I am very sure the headgame will be hard. I already know that I would hate the process, but rationalising it that it would mean that we get the house we want so might be worth it. 

The area has no mains gas and most current houses are on oil heating. The chance to build with better heating etc is appealing. 

But from the moment we thought about doing it, my thought has always been that I would hate the process!!

 Rob Parsons 15 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

> Yes, I am very sure the headgame will be hard. I already know that I would hate the process, but rationalising it that it would mean that we get the house we want so might be worth it.  ...

> But from the moment we thought about doing it, my thought has always been that I would hate the process!!

Not a good start, lass!

Sage advice I was once given: "If you don't like what you're doing, get the f uck out!"

OP girlymonkey 15 Oct 2022
In reply to Rob Parsons:

Sometimes, an unpleasant process can be worth it for a good result! If we really feel that we can get something much better by building than is available to buy, then I can put up with the process. 

I guess that's why I am asking, I want to know if folks really did think it was worth it. And also whether the kit style houses are actually as much less hassle as they would seem. If they are much less hassle, and quicker, then the process will be much less unpleasant.

 jamie84 15 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

We're in the Highlands, finished about two years ago. A lot of it's doable if you're enthusiastic. Musings:

-we massively underestimated the amount of work involved. Once you've started you need to finish, so be prepared for not being able to do fun stuff like climbing for a while. Between researching, ordering and doing there is no spare time.

- figure out the bits you want to do/can do and pay someone to do other stuff. For example unless you have a friendly spark who'll sign off your work I'd pay an electrician for all the electrical work.

-Some people will turn a profit self building but I reckon it's rare. Land is priced according to finished house prices so view the opportunity as a way of getting the house you want rather than a money making scheme.

OP girlymonkey 15 Oct 2022
In reply to jamie84:

How long did it take you? 

We won't know anyone in the area to sign stuff off, so sparky type stuff will need to be done by professionals. We can probably convince several practical members of the family to help out though when professionals aren't needed. 

Did you live on site in a caravan during the process or did you wait until you finished to sell your old house?

 jamie84 15 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

About 1.5 years from chopping the first tree to living in it. The first year was pretty much full time working on it, then paid work slowed things down.

 Another year or so to getting building control sign off, delayed due to kiddies arriving (wouldn't recommend this).

Didn't know that many local folk. One of the things that worked well was getting a good local joiner who recommended other folk locally, they all knew each other so we rarely needed to coordinate anything as they just sorted it between themselves.

We had a touring caravan on site, rented a local Airbnb over winter for a few months.

In reply to girlymonkey:

There’s a Facebook group for people building Heb Homes. It’s called HH Self Build Help & Support. There’s also the U.K. Self Builders group which is both inspiring and daunting.

After last summer’s heatwave I’m interested in how well this type of new home which has low thermal mass and a lot of insulation copes in the heat, especially if they have a lot of south facing glass. Anyway, good luck!

 Billhook 15 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

I've built a whole two storey extension  which included shower, toilet dressing room, living room in Eire.

I had no building experience when we moved but I ended  up working for a builder and stayed with him for just over around 10 months. We did everything from small renovations, to extensions.   I learned joinery from his 17 yr old son, and everything else from his dad.

You need a bit of confidence, Probably the most important skill was measuring.  Near enough was/is not good enough.  Oh a spirit level is the  most important thing to get right, and a decent,. but not complicated book on how to build a house.  The Irish had a House Building Manual based on the irish building regs. which made sure you didn't cut corners. 

One of the biggest costs of house building using traditional construction & materials is the labour costs so the saving is considerable.  With prefabricated/modular construction it is probably the other way around

Good luck. 

 Sealwife 15 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

Self-building really common where I live, the house I live in was a self-build (but not by me). Quite a few of my friends and most of my neighbours have done it - the guy across the road it STILL building after about 20 years.

Folk seem to either become serial house builders, they’ve just got in, got comfy and next thing they’ve bought another plot and they’re back in a caravan again, or they reach the limits of their sanity and marriages and vow  never again.

Having done major renovations and a big extension project largely by ourselves, I don’t want to build a house.  Other half was keen on the idea for a while but after getting a rotator cuff injury and elbow tendinitis on the extension project, has reconsidered.

If you are looking at getting a kit house, Scotframe are also worth a look.

 ExiledScot 16 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

You have to want to do it, not want to do it to challenge yourself. Build the smallest size you need, not the largest highest spec you think you can afford as costs only head in one direction. Don't bank on friends, a day in summer doing fun jobs followed by a bbq and beers are visualisation, but most days won't be like that, there can be a relentless slog having to do the same things many days in a row.

Are you prepared to skip all the fun free time stuff you do now in the outdoors for 1,23.. years. Unless you pay others to do lots or you work at it full time it won't be quick. 

Can you cope with stress and let downs, you'll plan a schedule: X comes this week prepping for Y, but then X calls in saying they are ill and everything is all over the place, as the truck arrives with materials for Y etc..

In reply to girlymonkey:

IMHO... Although not self build a house have had an extension recently, you would do well to pay a very experienced builder who does builds in your local area, to advise/consult. For example... getting the footings and drains etc right from the start.  I looked up how deep  footing needed to be for up to 2 stories (mine only 1 story) on virgin London clay and it was 750mm minimum. The builder dug 1000?? and out of nosiness I asked why he dug that, he said it's because that bit is very close to that shared drain which is depth 900 so the bottom of the footing needs to be just below it. Loads of little things to trip you up if you just go and lookup something up you may get miss some factor you weren't looking for. If you get some advice at various points like drains, footings, connecting up services,what points you need to pause work so the local building inspector can check before proceeding. It could save you a lot of time and tears in your self build.

Post edited at 08:18
 Fraser 16 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

You may already know this but as a heads-up, the process of building something and getting Building Control approval is very different in Scotland to England.

As the house owner, you are responsible for signing the Completion Certificate stating everything has been constructed to the relevant Building Standards. The Building Control Officer ('BCO' are local authority staff, not independent people, as they can be in England) then inspects to satisfy themselves that this is the case (as well as doing intermittent visits/inspections during the construction process) Depending on your L.A. and the officer dealing with your case, the BCOs can be very pedantic about getting proposals approved - sometimes coming down to their interpretation of a regulation, in which case you should argue your case - which must be done ahead of any work starting of site.

Also note that you can not legally occupy the house until you get the BCO's acceptance of your Completion Certificate. You need to develop a decent working relationship with the BCO or things can be awkward and they can make life very difficult for you. Self-builders need to have a good understanding of sequencing of works and when to programme key work-stages to allow the BCO to inspect when they need to.

It won't be an easy process and it's almost guaranteed to take longer and be more expensive than you anticipated at the outset (so have a decent contingency fund) particularly if your not familiar with the construction industry but it'll potentially be very rewarding.

The final key thing to remember is that almost all changes cost money and time.

 SouthernSteve 16 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

Watch three or four episodes of 'Grand Designs' and decide whether you have the mental capacity for so much disruption, even before considering the finances. We are living upstairs with the bottom the house uninhabitable currently as the builders make our very much 'mini-dream'. I know now I could never do a self build.

 henwardian 16 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

Outline permission is what you want. Assuming you are not looking at somewhere very prescriptive, you will have plenty of scope to choose what you want, within reason. You can't build with outline alone, you need to submit a full planning application after you have made all the plans and then you need to submit a building warrant application. That process alone takes several months minimum, so don't underestimate your timetable there. Then you also have processes of 3 to 6 months (or longer if it turns out to be a tricky case for some reason) for connections to electricity and water and sewage, though the paperwork for these can be run in tandem with your planning application.

Before you buy, get your hands on plans of the water mains layout so you can see where your water connection will be and whether you'll need to be digging up someone else's land to get it put in (I have no idea what happens if they decide to be awkward but I'd imagine that in the best case scenario it would put you back another 6 months). And where your nearest electrical connection point could be, you can get drawings of the electrical grid too but these are joke and you'll need to check where the lines actually go and where the poles actually are in reality before you can get an accurate quote. I don't know about the process for connecting to mains sewage but if you're putting in a septic tank then you really need to look at how you are going to put that in - can a soakaway actually fit on your plot? Can you discharge the final effluent to something nearby? Or are you going to have to dig a huge long trench? Across someone else's land?

There are a number of ways to go about building a house, you need to decide all sorts of things, for example:

- Are you going to project manage or do you want a builder to do that?

- Are you going to stickbuild (get joiners and a giant pile of timber and build everything on site) or get a kit (constructed in sections off-site and bolted together on site)?

- Can you live with being in a building site for a few years? Or do you want the construction phase to be complete in under a year?

There is a huge money question looming over all of this. The more you have to put into the project, the more you can pay other people to do things. If you have less, you can do more things yourself, or you can start cutting material costs (smaller or less high quality features).

Are you getting a self-build mortgage? Ideally you want to build without this because (at least according to my architect), that's about £10k extra in arrangement fees and associated inspections, etc. right there.

Constructing a house is supposed to be one of the most stressful things you can do in your life but at least as a climber you will be used to abject mortal terror and impending death and this will help.

Personally I've only done the initial parts of building the house, not the house construction yet, so I can't give a full appraisal of the experience but based on what I've done so far, just expect everything to take 3 times as long as you think it should and every little thing to take dozens of phone calls and e-mails.

Building a house is such an absolutely mammoth task that no post could even come close to articulating what it is like. Plenty of people have written thousand page books about the process and I'd recommend you read at least one of those and do a _lot_ of research before starting down the self-build path.

 gld73 16 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

I live in Inverness - I briefly considered buying a plot of land in the area and going down the self build route using a kit house like Heb Homes or Norscot, before accepting I was far too lazy to spend my days off dealing with construction issues! A colleague did go down that route though and now has a lovely house with land ... though it wasn't without problems on the way, and a winter living in a caravan with frozen water pipes wasn't much fun for him.

I found Norscot staff (based in Inverness) were quite pragmatic in their information. They do offer to erect their kit houses but also make clear it might not be the most cost effective method if you're not within daily commuting distance of their bases. A summary of their information:

OP girlymonkey 16 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

Thanks folks, loads of great information here. 

The good people of UKC are always a helpful bunch 😊

In reply to girlymonkey:

When you say self-build, how much of it are you actually planning to do yourselves? You're only going to save a decent amount of money if you can do a decent amount of the work yourselves.  I can fit kitchens, bathrooms, wire and plumb but I can't do roofs, windows or blocking.   So I would only save on the labour costs of those things.  Knowing tradesmen is going to be key for the things you can't do yourself.

 fmck 17 Oct 2022
In reply to Toerag:

Theres probably more skill required in those things you can do than the ones you claim you cant. 

Fitting a window is ridiculously easy. Inside finishing is the hardest part. 

 jkarran 17 Oct 2022
In reply to Thugitty Jugitty:

> After last summer’s heatwave I’m interested in how well this type of new home which has low thermal mass and a lot of insulation copes in the heat, especially if they have a lot of south facing glass. Anyway, good luck!

Can't comment specifically but it's something I'd worried about as I've been gradually retrofitting insulated plasterboard into our 20's cavity-built house. It's too leaky to risk insulating the cavity.

The only properly finished and lived in room that has seen a whole year is my daughter's: corner room, one decent sized SE facing window, pretty well insulated above and to the outside (65mm foam, less than current regs but space is at a premium), there's little thermal mass remaining. It's currently hovering around 18deg at bedtime (3-4deg degC above downstairs/north side). We open the curtain and close the door so it pumps up a degree or two during the morning, there's no central heating on yet but the woodburner in the room below currently gets lit a few hours a week. So far so good for staying pleasant with negligible additional heat input.

Over the summer it ran warm (low-mid 20s IIRC) but so did the whole house because the ambient average was getting up that way. Her room was no worse than the rest and it was easily kept under control using the curtain to keep the sun out and opening the window/door for a breeze when it was cooler outside.

It works but I would try to design the need for active management out of a newbuild.


Post edited at 12:34
 Uncle Derek 17 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

A cost that I would consider is all my free time for 2 years (?). Personally that would not be something I would have been prepared to do. 
I suspect building a house can be very satisfying, but it will become for a certain period your entire life to the exclusion of all other interests, such as climbing, running, cycling etc etc.

 montyjohn 17 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

A mate of mine has almost finished a self build, and his comment was that he was signing checks left right and center for things which were not originally budgeted for.

He also said everything seems to be a thousand pounds when it's unexpected.

He listed a dozens things which were all extras but the only one I can remember was:

  • Ecology survey states that there might be bats living there, bat survey and mitigation plan = £1000.

The impression I got was if your reasons are purely to save money, then it may be a stressful ordeal as you spend way more that you've budgeted for.

If doing it for the dream home and you've got lots of access to money so you can pay your way through all the issues that arise then it's probably a great choice.

In reply to SouthernSteve:

> Watch three or four episodes of 'Grand Designs' and decide whether you have the mental capacity for so much disruption, even before considering the finances.

Also remember most people on 'Grand Designs' seem to be able to find a spare £100k down the back of the sofa when the build goes over budget.

 kathrync 17 Oct 2022
In reply to girlymonkey:

Dad self-built an extension. It wasn't a kit, but it was steel-frame with timber-clad walls. He got someone in to erect the steel frame, and did everything else himself (local friend signed off the electrics).

The full process took about 2 years - but Dad was also working full time and commuting about 2 hours each way, so most of it was done only on weekends. Mum project-managed. Most of the physical labour was done by Dad, me and my brother-in-law.

Dad enjoyed it. Mum hated the process. I think that if they hadn't been able to keep it separate from the main house by not knocking through until late, she probably would have given up and demanded that Dad get the professionals in.

 SouthernSteve 17 Oct 2022
In reply to Ridge:


 Maggot 17 Oct 2022
In reply to Ridge:

There's one in the Lakes, with a fancy domed roof, that the programme revised several years later ... it was a derelict wreck. The new owners recovered it properly.

In reply to Thugitty Jugitty:

>  I’m interested in how well this type of new home which has low thermal mass and a lot of insulation copes in the heat, especially if they have a lot of south facing glass.

'Solar gain' is a big thing in planning applications - over here we have a planning policy about conservation of heat and power and applicants push the solar gain thing quite heavily. However, it is a problem in summer and there's a fair bit of retro-fitting of aircon.  A carpenter friend has done numerous jobs of replacing warped doors and internal woodwork that's got too hot. He spent time in NZ and says you need large soffit overhangs in order to shade the windows in summer, but allow the low winter sun in.  There are standard calculations available to architects to get the right dimensions.

 wintertree 17 Oct 2022
In reply to Toerag:

> ... solar gain ...

> says you need large soffit overhangs in order to shade the windows in summer, but allow the low winter sun in.

Or external shutters.

This problem was solved centuries ago, which is why our local planning people's attitude to shutters is so maddening.  By happenstance I found a photo of our place from the 1960s with... external shutters.  When I have the energy for it I'm going back to them with that.

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