Planning – unsurprisingly this is vitally important. The project management was really tough and we did not realise just how much was involved, nor the importance of the order of the tasks.
Experience – our friends were six weeks ahead of us on the project, so it has been helpful to learn from them. You may not be that lucky with your own project but try to speak to people who have been through it.
Finance – while the price of the mortgage is important, what we found vital is having someone you can work closely with. Someone very close to the project who understands what you are trying to do has been a life saver when the pressure is on.
Be available – if you are not paying for a project manager you need to be available on site to make quick decisions and ensure everything is as you expect it to be.
Tradesmen – once people knew it was a self-build they were very helpful. All have been brilliant and very accommodating, so make sure when you explain the project and that you assess whether those involved share your desire to get it right.
Be resilient – over Christmas there were three heavy snow falls which made things difficult. We had no choice but to crack on and keep the timings on schedule.
Relationships – build a relationship with your local timber and building merchant. Not only can they offer advice, but when you suddenly find yourself short on materials or the wrong thing is delivered, they will often pull out all the stops to help you out. This can avoid costly delays.
Accuracy – get a quantity surveyor to look over your plans. Knowing the right amount of materials to order is vital and will help with timing and budgeting.
Internal – make decisions on kitchens and bathrooms early. Although they won’t be fitted until towards the end, the location of services is often based on the fittings you plan to purchase.
Involve the whole family – it’s very easy to get bogged down with the daily stresses and decisions on site. Most weekends our children came to view the house and see their bedrooms, for example. It helps them to feel part of the project and reminds everyone of the end goal.
Building control – speak with your local building control officer who is there to help rather than catch you out. Our inspector has been invaluable in sharing knowledge.
Costs – be prepared to accept that some things will cost more and some will cost less. It’s a balancing act and sometimes you have to rein in the luxuries a little.
Energy efficiency – for us, investing in renewable energy sources and insulating the house to the highest level we could afford was really important. The fabric of the house cannot be changed easily, but changing the bathroom suite or upgrading appliances in the kitchen can all be done in the future if required. Installing solar panels or underfloor heating for example needs to be incorporated during the build not afterwards.