Cutting down costs on a self-build project requires attention to detail, micro-management and being disciplined with your time and resources. Many self-builders want to know how to keep costs down, often aiming to keep them to around £1,000/m². It’s challenging, but it can be done.
There isn’t a one-plan-fits-all solution for this – every project has its own individual problems that affect the bottom line. But our seven pieces of advice are things that can be applied to keep costs down, as well as paying attention to detail within each aspect of the self-build process.
Hire a structural engineer early on
At some point you’ll be paying for the services of a structural engineer – as their fee is based on the overall build cost, it makes sense to hire them right from the start. They are in constant contact with your architect and can smooth out the structural problems, ensuring your design and planning is thoroughly thought out before building work begins. Your design must be completed before starting any building work – changes on paper are cheaper than changes on site!
Utilise rational geometry
The design of your home will have a massive impact on your budget, so intelligent architecture will keep you on track. At NJ Architects, we will be firm with our clients if their budget won’t cover their ideas.
Utilise rational geometry – go for a more traditional design, such as a rectangular or square building, featuring several internal walls in a “racking” structure. This can result in being more cost-effective than a home built around an open plan design, where wide spans will require more structural support and careful planning.
Consider the long-term running costs
Always try to invest your budget into the fabric of the building. This approach can have a long-term, knock-on effect regarding how much you spend on other aspects of your self-build. Having a highly energy-efficient build method can save you further on materials such as insulation. What’s more, the more heat your home keeps in, the less you have to pay out for heating it.
Don’t build a bungalow
Build a one and a half storey or two storey house to maximise cost efficiency – try to avoid building a bungalow. They have the same foundation cost, the same roof cost, and usually the same cost for the ground floor walls. The only different part is the first floor walls, so it makes sense to build a house twice as large for just slightly more.
Project manage yourself and thoroughly plan to avoid costly delays
To keep your self-build costs down, become a project manager and take responsibility for your project. Subcontract out as much work as possible, to eliminate the main contractor’s profit, meaning you can make your budget go much further.
The main key to project management is creating a thorough project time scale and plan with all your chosen professionals together. Coordinating time on site can minimise delays and save you a lot of money, whilst keeping your team happy can effect productivity. Being a reliable client, or project manager, will motivate your team to work that little bit harder for you – avoiding costly mistakes.
Be aware of the hidden costs
Be savvy with the less known costs – the more time spent on site, the more you will pay for site facilities, insurance and more. Depending on how long you plan for your build to take, consider buying a set of scaffolding then selling it on after, instead of hiring it for the duration of your project. This tip can be applied to other things you might hire, such as diggers.
Shop around for materials
Be sure to consider every avenue for getting your materials, and always take the time to get a range of quotes from numerous suppliers. Look into auctions and online stores; you also might find some materials are cheaper to import. Every penny you save can be put into a “wow” feature for your home, so it’s vital that you make the important decisions. Be organised and choose all the fittings early on to eliminate costly on-site delays.
Keeping your costs down to £1,000/m² is very challenging, but it is possible if you are focused and disciplined with your time and resources.