Your solid brief

write a brief for your extension project

A solid brief is important In order to avoid wasting time sourcing the wrong site and/or completing the wrong self-build project. The main issues to consider are:

How long are you prepared to look for a suitable site? What are the implications for you and your family if it takes 2 years, 5 years, 10 years to complete your self-build? If it takes you 5 years to find a plot and build the house, does this affect your decision where to build a house?

What if it takes 10 years? How long do you plan to stay in the house once it is built? If you are building a house in an environment new to you, perhaps in the countryside, how certain are you that you will adapt to that environment?

What is the reason for wanting to do a self-build? If you have always wanted to self-build, perhaps you can scratch that itch by building a holiday home or by building an investment property. This might work out well if you are happy where you currently live. You could earn income by letting out the self-build and decide later whether you want to live there.

If the reason for a self-build is to to build your forever home, it has to work for you at different stages of your life. The house needs to be designed for ground-floor living, in readiness for the infirmity of old age.

Location of the self-build
Once you know why you want to do a self-build, it’s easier to consider the location. You will have different considerations for a holiday home location and a permanent home location. Is the self-build an opportunity to relocate? To a new town, a new region or even a new country?

Budget for a self-build
It’s essential that a budget is calculated before the project starts. If not, you run the risk of not being able to afford to complete your house. Setting a budget is not an easy task; you have to anticipate the price you will pay for a site and then estimate the cost of building a house that has yet to be designed. There are so many unknowns. Your carefully-balanced budget could be thrown wildly off course by unexpectedly fragile ground conditions or by problematic service connections in a rural landscape.

It’s important to distinguish between your needs and wants so that you know what features you are prepared to compromise. You will need to question whether you are willing to relocate to get cheaper build costs. Can you do some of the work yourself to save money? Have you checked that you are eligible for a self-build mortgage? Finance options are available from companies such as BuildStore, Ecology and others. Do check out alternatives.

Your budget will need to include the following items:

  • Plot
  • Design
  • Planning
  • Demolish?
  • Utilities
  • Build
  • Project Management
  • Temp accommodation
  • Fees, consultants, taxes, insurance etc
  • Contingency
  • Fit-out
  • Landscaping
  • Risk Management
  • Risks associated with the Project include:
  • Interrupted source of funding
  • Sale of an existing house
  • Salary from current employment
  • Funds locked away


Unexpected Ground conditions
Even where exploratory boreholes have been dug, there is always the possibility of surprises when excavation starts. A groundworks contingency fund is always a good idea.

Unacceptable contractor/product performance
You can avoid many of the problems associated with poor performance of contractors by doing your due diligence. This means taking the time to obtain recommendations, obtain several quotes for each job, asking for references, visiting their previous work etc. If you don’t allocate the time to do this, you are relying on luck to avoid future problems.

Delayed completion
A delayed completion could be due to a number of factors, including adverse weather conditions, poor planning, unavailability of materials, unexpected additional works, funding problems etc. This can be mitigated to an extent by excellent project management, Fixed Price contracts and a Completion bonus or penalty.