Kevin McCloud - dos and don'ts for self-builders

Kevin McCloud’s dos and don’ts for self-builders

Kevin presents his advice for building your own Grand Designs while avoiding the common pitfalls

By Jenny Mcfarlane |

Our editor-at-large Kevin McCloud shares his tips for building the home of your dreams while avoiding the pitfalls that come with creating a Grand Designs inspired house.

What you should do

Plan, Plan, Plan

Spend three years planning your project and putting everything in place in advance, and chances are you’ll be on site for six months. Spend six months planning and chances are you’ll be on site for three years.


Adding a discretionary 20% to your budget is a good way of covering unforeseen costs that almost always crop up.

Professionals are key

They do this for a living, so employ as you can afford, starting with a great project manager and builder, use recommendations, and always check references.

Go Green

The building stage of a house is the best time to start cutting your long-term costs – add insulation, incorporate solar panels, think about the sun in relation to your windows, where will you get the best light? Could adding that sky light cut your electricity bills? Adding a water butt could save on water bills…the possibilities are endless.

Enjoy the build

This is many people’s dream, you get to plan your home from the ground up and live your vision.

kevin mccloud standing in a field at sunrise or sunset for Grand Designs The Street on Channel 4

Photo: Channel 4

What not to do

Think you can do it yourself

I see this a lot, people who can put up a piece of flat-pack furniture think they can build a house, people who run their own business think they can run their construction project. An experienced project manager will know the ins and outs of building, for example, digging a trench for pipes and cabling will mean starting negotiations with utility companies at least a year in advance, while pipes and cables need to be ordered at least eight weeks in advance.

Avoid trends

Don’t go for the latest trend, or something you’ve seen in all the magazines – incorporate elements that you know will make you happy, and add value to the life you’ll live in your new home, not just value to the asking price.

Don’t throw away

Once you’re in your new home, don’t throw away all your old furniture to buy everything new. Our possessions are our autobiographies, and you’ll be surprised what a bit of varnish or a lick of paint can do to an ancient piece of furniture.

Don’t go wild on the exterior

Remember that the outside of your home is part of other people’s lives. Your home will become part of a landscape or townscape, so give your architect, landscape designer and planner room for movement here, your dream home may be someone else’s eyesore.

The perfect quote for this instance comes from planner and building colourist Jean-Philippe Lenclos: “If you want to paint your front door, get your neighbour to choose the colour.”

NEVER rely on a costing produced by your builder or your architect

You will soon learn that the construction industry is occupied by idealists. Get the build costed a professional Quantity Surveyor.