More tips for self-builders

PA Photo/thinkstockphotos
PA Photo/thinkstockphotos
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Financing a self-build isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s certainly possible. Selling your home, or releasing the equity in it, is one option - ideal for buying the building plot, for example - but many self-builders need a loan for the project.

A self-build mortgage is a popular choice, as the money is released in stages as the building work progresses.

To qualify for a self-build mortgage, you’ll have to provide more information than for a standard residential mortgage, such as the plans for the new house, the projected build costs, and proof of planning permission. If you haven’t sold your home and want to continue living in it during the build, you should be able to have a self-build mortgage alongside your existing mortgage, providing the figures stack up.

As with any big building project, it’s important to have a sizeable contingency fund in case anything goes wrong with your finances or the build. Self-builders can claim back the VAT on building materials and services, so building a home has financial advantages. The building materials and methods you choose will have a big impact on the cost of the project, although there are, of course, practical and aesthetic considerations as well as financial ones.

Timber frame houses are popular with self-builders because they can be erected quickly. Wood is also natural, environmentally friendly and visually appealing. And it’s more durable than you might think - softwood frames can last around 200 years. Frames made of softwood, such as Douglas fir, are cheaper than those made of hardwood, such as oak, but oak is commonly used and can be expensive. Another disadvantage is that a timber frame can restrict the design of the house, as the structure has its limitations.

An alternative to a timber frame is a steel one. Steel frames allow more flexibility with the design and are strong, resistant to the weather and quick to put up. Other building materials and methods include brick and block, where houses have internal blockwork walls and external brick or stone ones; straw bale, where the bales are typically covered in render; permanent insulated formwork systems, which are a quick and practical way of building insulated walls; and cob, where a straw, earth/clay, sand and water mixture is used for the walls.