Protect your self-build dream

Building your own home can be the ultimate expression of your personality, providing the opportunity to create a lasting impression. While few things last forever, a building will survive for generations, becoming part of the constant evolution of the surrounding landscape. A self-build can be demanding, but with planning and protection, it can be an enduring memory for all the right reasons.

Making a statement

seashell houseThe concept of making a statement through architecture is nothing new. Historically, building a property was often an expression of wealth and power — doing it just to show you could. In modern times, however, building your own home is less about status and more about creating something that reflects your personality. With self-build projects growing in number (1), and becoming more affordable year on year, this is a realistic way of making a lasting personal statement.

So, what does self-building a house say about you as an individual?

Whatever style of home you build, self-building says that you’re passionate, unconventional and something of a risk-taker. You haven’t ignored the risks; you’ve weighed them up and you’re comfortable with them. You’re breaking the norm, and it’s unlikely you’d embark on a self-build project without having these qualities.

Managing the risks

contemporary houseThe things in life that excite us and create lasting memories - a parachute jump, taking the stabilisers off for the first time, or proposing marriage – are rarely risk free. However, with each of these there’s often advanced planning, a guiding hand and a safety net. Well, except for the marriage proposal… Let’s look at some practical steps that will help ensure that your legacy doesn’t become a large hole in the ground where your home should be.

Budgeting and planning

Formulating a budget and a plan are critical, and they’re inextricably linked. Your budget needs to take in numerous factors, including legal and professional fees, planning fees, services (for green-field sites), surveys, land, materials, contractors, plant hire or purchase, temporary accommodation, storage, borrowing costs, appliances, furnishings, paving and landscaping. Good practice includes a contingency of at least 10%, and should take into account the potential impact of delays. If you need to raise funds, consider approaching lenders before looking for a plot, as this can put you in a stronger position.

Looking for a plot

At this stage, you may not require specialist self-build insurance; however, you may have purchased equipment, materials or fittings in preparation. If so, you should make sure you have an insurance policy with sufficient cover, in case of theft or damage.

Owning a plot

Once you’ve acquired the land, you have insurance liabilities. People visiting the site, with or without your permission, could be injured. Without public liability insurance, you could be financially liable for injuries while on your site. Self-build insurance can be purchased once you’ve started the process of applying for planning permission.

The build

Once work starts, you have an increased need for self-build insurance. With builders, suppliers, materials, tools, plant and machinery potentially all on site, there are a lot of considerations. The new building itself will start to have a value as well and should be insured prior to completion.


While some self-build projects go like clockwork and finish on time, delays do occur. It’s worth choosing an insurance policy that can be extended in case this happens.

Completing the build

As you move through the final fix and decorate and install appliances, your thoughts may well move towards moving in. As the value of items within the property increases, be sure to check that everything is covered and that limits are high enough.

Moving in

You’re finished! You should now consider putting buildings and contents insurance in place. Some self-build policies automatically provide a level of home insurance cover, so be sure to check before you buy.

After completion

Once finished, a structural warranty policy is designed to cover the costs of making good if the build was defective due to design, materials or workmanship. It’s worth arranging this early, as mortgage lenders usually require this prior to lending.

Self-build insurance to consider

The key risks that you should make sure you’re covered for include:

Injury to members of the public

Whether passers-by, visitors to the site or even a trespasser, it’s your responsibility to have public liability cover in place.

Injury to workers on site

You have responsibilities for workers that you employ on the site, and the law requires you to have employers’ liability insurance in case these workers are injured while working on site.

Personal accident

Consider protecting yourself should you sustain a permanent disability, such as the loss of a limb, while on site.

Personal belongings

If you’re storing any of your belongings on site while you complete your build, you should make sure these are covered too, but you’ll need to maintain appropriate security to prevent theft.

Theft of tools or plant from the site

Whether these are owned by you or have been hired-in, they can be expensive to replace. Of course, a high level of site security is also expected.

Contract works cover

This protects the property while it’s under construction, including materials on site. Accidental damage, storm damage, vandalism, flooding and fire are all risks to be aware of.

Legal disputes

Make sure you have protection against any potential legal costs arising from contractual disputes between you and your contractor, utility companies, or even squatters, during the course of the build.

Top self-build insurance tips

top tipsGet self-build cover in place as soon as you have a plot and have begun the planning process, as you may be liable for damage, loss or injury occuring on it.

Don’t assume that your contractor’s insurance will cover the whole project. This is not the case. Contractors’ public liability insurance doesn’t cover your property in the event of storms, fire or theft, or injury to visitors.

Make sure you have comprehensive cover that includes public liability, employers’ liability, building works, legal costs, on-site temporary structures and all machinery/tools.

1: Self-build and Custom Build Housing Sector (House of Commons Library)