Who Should You Turn To For Self-Build Advice? 

July 2, 2021

Building your own home can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things anyone can do, spiritually, practically, and financially. It would also be fair to say that if it isn’t handled in the right way, it can be one of the most challenging and overwhelming things you can do., Even if you’re experienced in the world of construction, there are a lot of things to consider if you’re working on a self-build. You’ll likely still need to seek out advice at a number of stages of the project. But who can you turn to?

With so many variables and moving parts, knowing who will be able to provide the most pertinent insight, advice, and assistance can be a challenge. To help you demystify this process, we’re going to explore some of the best ways self-builders can approach this hurdle.

First things first: Break down your knowledge gaps

Throughout the various stages of a self-build, a number of challenges and hurdles present themselves; from initial planning to construction, having a ‘brain trust’ you can turn to is invaluable. To curate this shortlist of information providers, you need to work out where your knowledge gaps are, and what issues are likely to arise along the way.

Take a step back during the early stages of planning to create a shortlist of things that could become issues down the line - categorise potential problems, knowledge gaps, or general uncertainties you have by topic or theme. These can include things like budgeting and cost estimating, practical concerns for the construction process (broken down into subtopics by trade or skill), and more.

The main goal during this stage is to be frank with yourself about the things you are least confident about, and then working out where you’ll need experienced or professional insight. With this list compiled, you can start to reach out to people who might be able to assist most directly.

Who can offer you the best self-build advice? 

There are many places you can turn to to provide invaluable advice for your self-build project, and the decision as to which you make use of will come down to your own requirements and challenges. With this said, there are a few avenues that stand out as particularly useful:

  • Professionals

Almost everyone embarking on a self-build for the first time will need to enlist the help of a professional at some point. One of the biggest benefits of employing someone to assist with the various elements of the process is that they’ll be able to provide you with the very best advice about their area of expertise, and will take responsibility for solving many of the challenges you face. The downside to this is that while professionals can either provide - or completely eliminate the need for - advice, they’re usually one of the more expensive parts of the self-build process.

Fortunately, there are services that offer a hybrid between professional expertise and insight, and the convenience of an online tool. These include things like online estimating services, which can provide you with detailed and accurate cost breakdowns for your build as well as a personal and professional insight into the budgetary elements of your build.

Professional services also extend to things like local councils and government agencies that may be able to provide insight about things like land purchasing, estate agents, landscape gardener and more. Whatever area your questions fall into, there is almost certainly an expert you can turn to - and if you do plenty of research, these don’t always need to involve employing someone!

  • Online tools & resources

Sometimes, the questions you need answering are simple, straightforward, and are merely things that need double-checking. For these kinds of queries, search engines and other online resources - from Google to YouTube and WikiHow - can be invaluable. There are all kinds of resources online, and plenty of useful advice for building a new home. It’s usually a good idea to check in with a couple of places to confirm the advice is consistent across multiple sources, and ensure you can rely on the answers you’ve found.

You can also consider enlisting in an online forum. There are forums on many self-build websites, and numerous sites entirely dedicated to facilitating discussion in the construction industry. By listing your question on one of these platforms, you’re likely to get a variety of expert advice quickly - with the benefit of being able to provide context, forums are a great way to get advice for your specific project, rather than more broad insight.

  • Family and friends

What was it the Beatles said about getting by with friends? While a self build project may be riddled with complex construction processes and jargon, it is, at the end of the day, a personal project. Like any other large undertaking, it can be stressful, costly, time-consuming - and sometimes the advice you’ll need won’t necessarily be specific to the construction element of the build.

If you need advice that isn’t particularly build-centric, such as how to effectively budget, manage the timeline of your project, or simply aren’t sure about whether one element of your plan looks good or not, then it can be easy to forget that often the most valuable people to turn to are you own family and friends.

It’s always worth reaching out to loved ones when you’re unsure about something - Your personal network can be a great source of reassurance, and it’s surprising just how much people you know may be able to assist you. It may even be the case that people you are close with have their own experiences of similar projects, or have dealt with similar challenges in the past - the added bonus here is that people already in your ‘inner circle’ are likely to be more personally-invested in helping you to solve any problems you might be facing in your self-build journey.

Final Thoughts

A self build project is a large undertaking, and no matter how prepared you are before getting started, there are bound to be occasions along the way when you need to seek out some advice. It’s invaluable to start thinking about the different avenues you can turn to when these occasions do arise as early as possible - that way, when you do need a bit of support, you won’t have the additional stress of figuring out where you should be looking.

From budgeting to picking the right kind of concrete, there’s always something or someone that can help - once you’ve armed yourself with a shortlist of these avenues of support, your project is sure to run more smoothly.

Oliver Wilcox

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