Heating a self build project is a key part of the planning process, but how can the structure of your build dictate this?

floating log burner stove - how the structure of your home will dictate the way you heat it - self build - granddesignsmagazine.com 

Image: Focus Fireplaces

Take a 'Fabric First' approach when considering how you will heat your self build. The structure of your home will, in large part, dictate its demand for heating.

The Grand Designs magazine team spoke to architectural designer and Passivhaus consultant Joe Stuart who offered his advice.

Concrete build

A concrete build will take longer to heat up, but retains heat for longer than one constructed from a lightweight timber frame. This slower reacting material acts as a ‘thermal mass’ and can help hold a comfortable internal temperature for longer.

Conversely, a timber-framed building will reach a desired temperature faster, but it will be harder to maintain. These differences will inform your choice of heating. In a concrete house, you may want to use underfloor or in-wall heating, whereas in a timber house, heating the air using mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) might be appropriate.


The type, thickness and position of insulation plays a huge role in how well the heat generated by your home is retained. The most important thing is that your insulation forms a complete and unbroken seal around your house. Pay close attention to connecting areas to avoid ‘cold bridges’. 

Read more: A guide to insulation for walls and floors

log burner heating self build - how the structure of your home will dictate the way you heat it - self build - granddesignsmagazine.com

Image: Jones Homes

Air tightness

Be aware of gaps across the external envelope (walls, roof, windows, etc). Even small holes can contribute to heat loss so, regardless of the type of building material used, the level of air tightness will contribute to how efficient your chosen heating is.


Well-placed windows can help to capture the sun’s heat, but poorly sited ones can cause overheating. Upgrading to double or even triple glazing will reduce heating demands. When planning your self build, be sure to consider this when considering the placement and size of your windows and glazing.


For more project inspiration, read Grand Designs magazine digitally for free now by registering your details

read a free issue of grand designs magazine


5 of best self build projects using timber 2020

Kitchen extension ideas to improve your home

Eco friendly ideas for home building in 2021

Kevins Column

Grand Designs Live Online: Self Build & Renovation Weekend 31 July – 1 August 2021

Discover free home project advice and product recommendations from the comfort of your own home. Register now to express your interest.
Self Build Homes

Create your dream eco home with modern post and beam

For a state-of-the-art eco home at a reasonable price, choose a high-quality German modern post and beam or closed panel construction
Self Build Homes

10 stunning period home renovations

Learn how the owners of these period properties made contemporary changes whilst retaining and respecting their original character and charm.
Self Build Homes

Inside the future of sustainable prefab homes

Inside a modern prefabricated homes factory, designing and producing unique and sustainable modern homes
Self Build Homes

When to consult a structural engineer for your self build or renovation

A structural engineer is an important part of a self build, extension or renovation. Here's what you need to know about their role in your...
Self Build Homes

Making distinctive dream homes a reality

Discover why any self-build home needs architectural inspiration, planning knowhow and service that puts you first.
Self Build Homes

6 self builders who carried out the building work themselves

To beat budget restraints, these have-a-go heroes rolled up their sleeves and tackled the construction of their homes themselves.