With the cost of buying a new or second-hand house as high as it is you might like to think about building one of your own. Although it might seem like a daunting job to either build your own house or even just project manage the building of one, it isn’t difficult so long as you have it all planned out and the finance available.
The cost to construct an average self-build house can be anything from £1000 to £4000 per m2 and as you can see there is a large variation in this price. The price of land makes a big difference with land in London and the south of England costing many times more than anywhere else in the country.
The cost of building a house is quite open-ended and depends on a lot of different factors, such as quality, type of glazing, size and location. We’ve put together some rough estimates below which may help you decide on the best way forward. We’ve assumed averages for size and derived both professional fees and construction cost. Professional fees include project manager, quantity surveyor, architect, structural engineer, and local authority fees.
|House Type||Average Cost Per Square metre||Average Square metre||Professional Fees (15% of total)||Total Estimated Cost|
|2 bedroom house||£1,750 to £3,000||80 to 90||£27,000 to £42,000||£180,000 to £280,000|
|3 bedroom house||£1,750 to £3,000||102 to 116||£36,000 to £54,000||£240,000 to £360,000|
|4 bedroom house||£1,750 to £3,000||124 to 141||£43,000 to £66,000||£290,000 to £440,000|
|5 bedroom house||£1,750 to £3,000||136 to 155||£48,000 to £72,000||£320,000 to £480,000|
|Bungalow||£1,750 to £3,000||90 to 160
|£27,000 to £83,000||£181,000 to £552,000|
Factors affecting new house building quotes
The main question is how much do you want to be involved in building a new house? There are four routes you can go down and each one will require a different amount of input from you. Obviously, the less input you have, the more expensive the self-build will be.
With this method, you handle most of the organising and building yourself. There will be some specialist tasks worth employing professionals for, such as an architect and a structural engineer. Some specialist manual work you can do yourself as long as you get a professional to check the work against the regulations and issue a certificate; electrical and plumbing work is included in this. You can do all the other construction work as long as you comply with the Building Regulations and follow the plans that have been passed by the Planning Authority. Obviously, some building knowledge is essential if you are planning on making it a DIY project.
Using this method, you will hire professionals directly. You buy the materials yourself and just hire professional labour. It is your responsibility to make sure all the professionals are on on-site on the correct day and that their respective materials are on site as well. Remember that sometimes you will need two or three contractors on on-site at any one time. You will also be responsible for ensuring the Building Control officer knows when he is meant to be on site for inspections otherwise the work cannot continue to schedule. You will need to have some building knowledge to understand what the professionals are talking about and to be able to liaise with the Building Control.
Main Contractor with subcontractors
Employ a main contractor or a timber frame package supplier to build a watertight structure. It is then your responsibility to either do the remaining work yourself or hire subcontractors to work alongside. You provide all the materials and manage the project once the main contractor has completed the shell.
You employ the main contractor to build your house. The contractor will be responsible for buying materials and hiring specialist professionals as needed. This needs the least input from you. Basically, you approve the plans with the architect, pay the money and move in when the job is completed.
To what standard must the house be?
This one is simple to answer. It must be built according to the architect’s drawings, the plans that have been passed by the Planning Department and must comply with the Building Regulations. Assuming that the workforce will always work to the best of their ability, it is the quality of the materials that will govern what the finished house will look like.
Once the house is completed, you will spend most of your time inside your new home. It is here that the build quality will have a large effect on the average building cost. Depending on your budget and your preferences, you have three basic quality standards available and it is up to you to decide which is the one you want. Don’t forget that you can mix and match from the various quality levels if you want. For example, you could have a standard style bathroom but have a luxury kitchen, or studwork partitions and underfloor heating. You probably get the picture.
This is the basic build quality and will be the lowest that will be acceptable to Building Control. This is the style that will be offered by a typical housing developer.
- Cavity walls with facing bricks or stone as an outer skin, cavity wall insulation and 100mm blockwork or timber frame as inner skin.
- Concrete interlocking roof tiles.
- Softwood joinery, windows and doors.
- Internal studwork partition walls.
- Standard kitchen units, aluminium sink and 25mm thick worktop.
- Standard bathroom fixtures and fittings.
- Oil or gas central heating with radiators in every room.
High-quality developers will offer this. It is over and above Standard Quality.
- Cavity walls with facing bricks or stone as the outer skin, cavity insulation and 100mm blockwork as inner skin.
- Feature clay roof tiles.
- High end, softwood joinery with hardwood external front doors and windows.
- Internal blockwork partitions.
- Good quality kitchen units, resin sink and 50mm thick worktop.
- Mid-range bathroom fixtures & fittings. Separate shower stall.
- En-suite shower room.
- Separate WC downstairs.
- Underfloor heating downstairs, radiators upstairs. A ground-source heat pump or air source heat pump.
This is top of the range and very expensive.
- Cavity walls with bricks or stone as the outer skin, cavity insulation and 100mm blockwork as inner skin.
- Clay roofing tiles.
- Hardwood joinery throughout.
- Internal blockwork partitions.
- Custom built kitchen.
- High-quality bathroom fixtures.
- En-suite shower rooms for each bedroom.
- Family bathroom and separate WC downstairs.
- Underfloor heating in all rooms. Ground-source or air source heat pump.
What about the land?
To construct a self-build home, you will have to own the land. You might be lucky and have some family land you can build on, or you might be like the rest of us and have to buy your own. There are two routes you can go down to buy building land:
- Buy a plot of land and apply for Planning Permission to build on that land. You have to be careful here that you only buy land that has already been approved for building by the local authority (Known as Outline Planning Permission). This means that they have approved the general concept of using the land for building. Whether your particular plans will be approved is something else entirely and must be sorted out when and if any problems arise.
- Many construction companies have large estates where they are already constructing new build homes. Often, they allow a percentage of the plots to be self-build as long as the house complies with the overall look of the estate and is built according to one of a number of several plans.
The best way to buy a plot of land is to contact a few local estate agents and ask to be put on their mailing list. Estate agents always know how much a home will be worth in any specific location and they know the approximate cost of building a house from scratch. Subtract one from the other and you’ve got the price for which you can buy the plot of land. Remember that just because you’ve calculated the price to build a house as a certain sum doesn’t mean that that is the same amount the estate agent’s surveyors used in their calculations. There will probably be a certain amount that you can knock off the price of the land during negotiations, but don’t expect too much. Remember that from the agent’s point of view, there are always plenty more punters willing to buy for the asking price.
What about external cladding?
You can use many different external–facing materials to protect the house shell, instead, of brick. There are some parts of the country where brick wouldn’t be allowed by the Planning Authority because it wouldn’t be in keeping with the local buildings and wasn’t a traditional building material. In the UK, brick was only traditionally used as a building material in towns and villages near natural sources of clay such as slow-moving rivers. Furthermore, in places like the Cotswolds, Yorkshire, Cornwall and some parts of Wales, the traditional building material was the stone found naturally in that area. In places where sand and gravel were the natural material, you would find the houses made with concrete blocks and covered with render. You will have to be guided by the Planning Authority or your architect. They’ll know what to use in your area.
The following list of external cladding materials gives an idea as to the relative prices for different materials. Remember that these are only indicative and will vary depending on the location where you are building, what is traditional to that area and other factors.
|External Cladding Type||Cost per m2|
|Natural stone (native to the area)||£80|
|Rubble walling (Cob) or flint||£95|
|Pantiles (clay tiles fixed to walls)||£60|
|Concrete block with render||£30|
Note: Learn more about house cladding costs.
You can use many different types of roofing material. Just like the external cladding, some of them will be compulsory depending on what is traditional to your area, but others will be just a matter of choice and your budget. Remember these prices are indicative and show the relative costs.
|Roofing materials||Cost per m2|
|Cornish or Welsh Slate||£60|
|Re-used and reclaimed slates||£40|
|Handmade clay tiles||£70|
|Straw or reed thatch||£90|
Learn more about new roof costs.
Some people, when setting out on the self-build route dutifully remember to include the materials and the construction trades labour rates but forget all about the other charges that will have to be paid along the way.
This is a fairly good list of additional charges but please get proper advice to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. For example, if your area is known as a mining region you will need to have a mining survey done to ensure you aren’t trying to build on top of any old mine workings. Your local planning department will be able to advise you on the different types of survey needed in your area.
|Legal Fees||£500 to £1,200|
|Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) in England.
Land & Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland.
Land Transaction Tax in Wales
|Up to £125,000 – 0% SDLT
£125,001 to £250,000 – 2% SDLT
£250,001 to £925,000 – 5% SDLT
£925,001 to £1.5million – 10% SDLT
|This is based on the selling price of the house and will vary. It may also vary depending on what the government announces each year during the Budget statement|
|Land survey||£400 to £600|
|Architects Fees||5% to 15% of the total build cost|
|Drawings for Planning Permission||£2,500 to £3,500|
|Drawings for Building Control||£2,500 to £3,500|
|Planning Application||Contact local planning authority. Will vary depending on the type of house.|
|Building Control Fees||The local authority has its own fee scale. Contact them for advice.|
|Warranty||1% of the contract value|
|Self-build insurance cover||£500 to £1000|
|Utilities connection||£4,000 to £7,000|
House Building Cost FAQ
Is it cheaper to buy or build a house?
Definitely, it’s cheaper to build your own house rather than to buy. Not only do you get to choose exactly the house you want (within reason), but you also get to choose the quality of the build. There are also many government incentive schemes available for self-builders. You can also claim back all the VAT on labour and material costs, which is a big incentive. Your self-build home could also be worth up to 20% more than an equivalent sized and quality house and land cost.
How long does it take to build a house from start to finish?
It depends on how large the house is and many other factors. However, for a standard masonry house, it will take about 10 to 12 weeks. For a better quality home, you can expect about 16 to 20 weeks.
Is it better to build a house in winter or summer?
This depends on what type of weather your area expects each year. For example, in the UK, summers in the southeast tend to be very hot and the winters very cold. In the Southwest, the weather is usually windy with heat in the summer, but windy and wet in the winter. Some of the islands off the north coast of Scotland tend to be very windy all the year-round.
However, in general, it’s best to start the build in the spring when the daylight hours become longer and the weather milder. Summer is also good, but expect some delays if the build carries on into the autumn and winter.
Can you lay foundations in winter?
The answer to this question relies on a similar answer to the previous one. It isn’t so much whether it’s winter, it depends more on the ambient temperature. As water becomes colder, it starts to expand at around 4°C and finally freezes at 0°C. Therefore, ice crystals within the concrete and cement mortar matrix will seriously weaken its structure, leading to cracks and eventually structural collapse.
There are many routes you can go down if you wish to build your own house. It all depends on whether you are a DIY, hands-on type of person or whether you prefer to leave it to the experts. Many factors will affect your choices, such as how much spare time you have, the size of your budget and the complexity of the build.
Building (or even buying) a house is probably the largest investment that most people will make in their lifetime and you don’t want to make a mistake. If you are skilled in project management, know something of the construction industry and have the time then building a house can also be one of the most satisfying projects that you can do. If you have any doubts as to your skills it is always worthwhile asking a professional contractor to build the house for you. It will cost you more but you won’t have the worry and you will be guaranteed to have a finished house worth living in.