5 step guide to building your own home

ACJ’s Simple five-step guide to building your own home

There’s a lot to think about when building your own home. It can feel overwhelming. 

You’ve watched Grand Designs. You’ve seen Kevin McCloud shaking his head wistfully as elaborate self-build projects run over budget and over time. You’ve seen couples spending endless winters in caravans as the contractors let them down yet again, their dream home standing half-built in a blizzard.

It makes great telly, but it doesn’t have to be like that!

ACJ can take a house from foundations to wind & watertight, fully insulated in as little as 2 days. Let’s face it, when you’re used to working in the Scottish weather, you really don’t want to hang around any longer than you have to!

We’ve helped plenty of people self-build, from just initial advice and concept design, design and supply of the kit home, to the fully managed design and build service.

We have the experience and expertise to help you too.

Here’s our simple five-point guide to getting it right the first time.

1 – Imagine

The first step to building your own home is the easy bit. Since you’re reading this you’ve probably already spent a long time thinking about your dream home.

You’ve pictured walking through your front door, putting the keys on the side, kicking off your shoes and padding through to the spacious kitchen. 

You know what you want to see when you look out the generous windows. You’ve considered how many bedrooms you’ll have, whether they’re all en-suite or just the master. 

You know it’ll be warm but not stifling, cool but not draughty. Probably filled with light and surrounded by green.

Most people never get past this point.  But you can.  And we can help.

2 – Plan

Budget

Do you know how much you can afford?  Are you selling your current property to finance the next? Do you need to secure a mortgage?

Avoid getting into financial trouble further down the line by working out a realistic budget at the start and sticking to it.

Self-build mortgages can be complex, usually releasing funds at different points in the build.  We can put you in touch with specialist mortgage brokers familiar with self-build financing.

You may qualify for funding or specialist loans, such as the Highland Self-Build Loan or Renewable Technologies Incentives.  Speak to our advisers and we’ll be happy to look into it.

Brief

Let’s revisit that dream home.  What are your priorities?  What are the non-negotiables and what are the ‘nice-to-haves’?  Think about the layout, the plot, the utilities. 

Investing upfront in energy efficiency and renewable technologies will save money in the long run by making your home cheaper to power and heat, and it could be eligible for government funding.

At this stage, talk to our designers about creating a design concept. These aren’t yet full plans, but they’re enough to visualize your self-build and start to get some ballpark figures for your budgeting.  Our architectural technicians can work within your budget to create a concept design that ticks as many boxes as you can afford!

Timeframe

How soon do you want to be in by?  Do you need to find land or sell your house first?  What other circumstances, personal, financial, legal or professional which could affect the timescales involved?

Talk to ACJ and let’s work out a realistic timeframe for your self-build. Some companies will promise you whatever you want to hear to get that order, but at ACJ we find that setting honest, realistic expectations is the basis of a good working relationship.

3 – Design

Design

Many people assume you need an architect to design a self-build home but choosing ACJ’s Design to design your timber frame kit home means you’ll not only save money, but you also save time and gain peace of mind. 

Our in-house professional team of architectural technicians have designed a wide range of plans for many different styles of house design, each of which can be remodelled to suit your requirements, or we can create a bespoke design from scratch.

Our designers plan every aspect of your self-build.  We precision model each project on the latest 3D computer systems, provisualisation of your design, so you can make informed decisions upfront, eliminating waste and costly errors.

Working so closely with the manufacturing and installation teams means we’re uniquely placed to select the right materials and construction methods to ensure your home build is flawless.

Using a single design source for means you have a full set of version-controlled drawings throughout the build process; concept, architectural, structural, building warrant, SER, etc, means you can be confident that changes are reflected across the full set of plans, so no nasty surprises further down the line.

Plot

One of the best things about building your own home is putting it in a great location. You may have already bought a plot of land with the right permissions, in which case great, let’s crack on with the project. 

But if you’re still searching, come in and talk to us about what you’re looking for.  ACJ Group has secured a number of plots across Moray which are ready to build on.  Alternatively, being familiar with the local property market, we can help you locate something suitable.

Planning permission

Planning permission is often the biggest headache for independent self-builders unfamiliar with local planning regulations (or local planning officers!)  Even the smoothest application can take a couple of months to complete, and a lot longer if it’s rejected or requires amends.

We have plenty of experience in dealing with planning applications and keep up to date with all the latest legislation, so if you need advice, talk to us, or for complete peace of mind, leave it all to us and we’ll represent you, keeping you informed throughout.

Planning permission mainly considers the exterior of the property, you’ll also need to apply for a building warrant certifying that the building structure is compliant with the latest domestic building regulations. Again, don’t worry, we can get you all the appropriate drawings and documentation and take you through the application process.

Project planning

At this stage, you have a complete set of designs. We ship throughout the UK, so you can choose to buy the full kit home ‘off-plan’ have it delivered to site and use your own builders to construct it,

There are many, many processes and trades involved in constructing a house, and keeping independent external contractors on schedule can be extremely difficult.

Luckily, the great thing about working with ACJ Group is we have you everything you need from conception to completion managed all under one roof.  So, if you’re local, we can co-ordinate the design, manufacture, delivery, construction and finishing to the highest standards, keeping you informed throughout and delivering your dream home on time and on budget.

4 – Build

Energy-efficiency

It makes sense to run an energy-efficient home, both for the environment and for your pocket.  With self-build ACJ homes, energy-efficiency is built in as standard.

All our timber frames used in the construction of the property are pre-insulated.  You choose the level of insulation during the design process.

Our leading ‘Therm-u-Wall’ product offers the highest rated insulation in the industry.  This is the product we use in our passive house range. Passive houses and low-energy homes are ultra-low energy buildings that make use of the sun, internal heat sources and heat recovery and therefore require little energy for space heating or cooling.

Construction

Bringing all the above processes together is when your dream home takes shape. 

Timber-frame kit homes are like giant gingerbread houses! The beauty of this solution is that the entire property has been designed and rigorously tested on advanced CAD systems before manufacture, so once your foundations are in place, the parts are sent from our Elgin manufacturing base to your site when you’re ready to begin and construction takes minimal time, you already know everything will fit together beautifully.

If you’re using your own builders, all our kits come with detailed plans, full instructions and a helpline to call with any queries.

If you prefer, you can instruct ACJ to handle the entire construction process, safe in the knowledge that you have an efficient team of professionals on the job.  Our skilled tradespeople are fully qualified in every aspect of homebuilding, we’ve been doing it for over thirty years.

From fitting your windows to fitting the bathroom, tiling your roof to painting the walls, we have everything you need under one roof.

Completion

You’ll have chosen the finish way back at the design stage. Features like flooring, fitted furniture, lighting start to turn your new house into your dream home.

By the time you get the keys, you’ll already feel like you know it inside out.  Our handover process is a thorough walkthrough of every detail, from window locks to the stopcock.  We’ll leave you with a folder of documentation and useful phone numbers to call if you’ve got any questions.

5 – Enjoy!

Customer Service

Working with a single supplier means a single point of contact throughout, and singular accountability if there are any issues.  We pride ourselves on consistent high-quality customer service from the very first contact throughout the life of your property.

We want you to be completely thrilled with your new home, so if you’ve any questions at all, contact us. 

Warranties

All our new-build properties come with a 10-year warranty as standard and are backed by leading insurers for structural or latent defects.  We’re confident you won’t ever need it, but most UK mortgage lenders insist on this insurance for new properties, so it’s one less thing to worry about.

We’ll be in touch over the first few weeks to check you’re happy with everything.  After a year, we’ll be back in contact for an annual review to see how you’re getting on.

Servicing

Now that you’ve got your dream home, keep it safe and functioning well with annual servicing for your boilers, heating and electrics.  Keep on top of any little maintenance jobs that need doing. Some of these you can do yourself, but some, like electrics or plumbing you’ll need to call in the professionals. You know where we are.

If your property is likely to be rented out then you’ll have additional responsibilities as a landlord. Call ACJ for whatever trades you need or talk to us about annual maintenance contracts.

If you need us for emergency repairs, we’re on call throughout the year. 

Conclusion

And that’s it, ACJ’s simple five-step guide to building your own home: Imagine, Plan, Design, Build and Enjoy. 

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Not when you’ve got experienced professionals taking care of you and guiding you through the whole process.  Stick with ACJ, we’ve got everything you need, all under one roof.

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