Confessions of a self-builder: Part 2

James Mason’s self-build project is in its early stages and this month he’s juggling quotes, an asbestos report and managing the discharge of conditions – as well as hospital appointments for a sprained ankle. You can catch up on the first instalment of James’ self-build blog here.


It’s been quite a hectic and stressful few weeks – I can’t lie. Unfortunately, I have been in hospital as I sprained my ankle. Damaged ligaments aside, it feels like things are progressing nicely with our self-build project. But you can never sit still as there’s so much to do…

Last month we finally completed our land contamination survey after a few delays and thankfully everything looks fine. The one recommendation from phase two of the report suggested that there may be some asbestos in the garage that is currently sitting on the land. I’ve since arranged an asbestos report but unfortunately we aren’t able to demolish anything until the report has been completed. This report sets us back another £300 – it never stops! If I could prove that the garage was built post year 2000 then I wouldn’t have to do the report.

Asbestos became a prohibited substance in the UK in 1999, so any property that was built after 2000 will not contain asbestos so no survey will be required. But asbestos was used in buildings for around 200 years before that so there is a high chance that if you are looking to buy an older property, there will be asbestos present. When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air, and when these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases so it’s important to conduct a survey.

I had to look through my building plans but was unable to find out when the garage was constructed. I’ve employed a trained person to conduct a report to prove to the council that there are no hazards present before we can demolish. I’ll keep you updated on the results in my next blog – fingers (and toes) are firmly crossed.

Now that the land contamination report has been accepted it can be discharged with no issues so that is a massive relief as this really was the ‘showstopper’! So, discharging the rest of the conditions should be a formality.

What exactly does discharge of conditions mean? We explain all in our blog - read more here.

tree in a field

I was really worried about delays as the planning permission for our site expires on 9 February 2020 and it can take up to eight weeks to conclude the discharge of conditions, but now these have been successfully concluded, we can make a lawful start.

We’re now at a stage where we have final drawings from the architect and have submitted the discharge of conditions for the site. Before self-building I wasn’t aware of ‘discharging conditions’ and what these meant. Essentially, every planning consent has conditions attached to it and these are effectively what you must do to comply with the building being constructed. If these are not ‘discharged’, you could be breaching your planning application and forced to stop works.

You basically have two types of conditions: pre commencement ones that must be agreed and put in writing to the local authority before any work can start, and the other conditions that bring the site to a finish before you can move in. Some of these are required to be submitted and agreed in writing by the council before they become lawful; others can be advisory.

For example, a pre commencement condition could be that you must put a construction method statement together to show how you will control the site when the house is being built (obviously this needs to be done before you start). Or maybe you have to produce a contamination report before starting. An advisory one might be from the landscaping plan in which you’re advised to plant certain bushes. This can be done then you notify the council once completed – there’s no need to get their approval in writing afterwards.

The ownership and responsibilities of discharging the conditions lie with you as the developer, so I would advise any self-builder buying land to ask to see these conditions and discuss with an architect before agreeing to buy any plot – you don’t want any nasty surprises or bills.

Our architect has been fantastic and I would suggest you pick their brains and take time to fully understand your responsibilities when it comes to buying land as the architect can advise you but it’s your money at risk. They can just walk away and you are left to deal with it all.

Sourcing self-build materials

Elsewhere, I have received a few quotes from suppliers for foundations and the timber frame. Groundwork quotes are coming in at around £18,500. Our timber frame will cost around £50,000 and another £11,000 on top for plasterboard, stairs, architraves and skirting.

The timber frame has (on average) an 8-10 week lead time. We also just arranged our 10-year structural warranty cover and site insurance with Build Zone, a structural warranty provider, and this cost us £2,400. I used Build Zone on my last project and it seemed a hassle-free option. I looked at other quotes but they were pretty much the same.

timber frame home

I’ve also gathered quotes for connecting all of our utilities. We’re looking at around £8,000-£10,000 for gas, electricity, mains water supply, sewerage and phone lines. I also want to future proof the house where possible so I’m investigating the idea of installing electrical car charge points in the garage as this seems to be the future. We are now so close to completing the sale. The mortgage is currently sitting with the underwriter. Fingers crossed we can begin breaking ground in the new year – I’ll keep you posted!

Read about the next part of James' self-build journey in Confessions of a Self-Build: Part 3.

Land Materials Planning