• Carmel Homes

How to Design and Build Your Own House

There is nothing quite like the sense of achievement that comes from designing and building your own home. Being able to move into a space that you had a hand in creating is a truly special feeling. And knowing it has been designed to meet your unique requirements should give you complete peace of mind.

But managing the actual design and build activities can be challenging, particularly if you have not done it before. There is a structured process you need to follow and many, many decisions to make along the way. A multitude of things can go wrong, no matter how carefully you plan everything out.

That said, knowing what to expect at each stage will make the whole process much easier to navigate. To help you with this, we want to walk you through the steps involved and what each broadly entails. We also want to share our top tips for nailing your design and keeping your build on track.

Design and build your own home in 9 simple steps

There are literally thousands of things that need to be thought through when designing and building a home. However, these can be summed up in 9 simple steps that will take you from vacant land to completed house:


1. Secure your site: Before you start thinking about your new home’s design, you first need to know where you will build it. This could be land you already own (i.e. you could knockdown and rebuild) or a block you have bought. Either way, the size, shape, and slope of your site will influence your design and need to be known upfront.


2. Work out your wish list: Once you have the land, you can start planning what you want to build on it. Make this process a little easier by taking the time to list out everything you want in your new home. Also, consider which of these features are absolute must-haves and which you would be willing to compromise on.


3. Come up with initial concepts: Now that you have a rough idea of what you want, you can work on fitting all of that together. As with any design process, it is easiest to start with broad strokes then add in the details. This usually means placing your key areas, then refining the floor plan, then thinking about the more decorative touches.


4. Finalise your design: Chances are that you will need to go through several iterations before you land on the perfect plan. Use this process as an opportunity to challenge your design decisions and consider all the available options. Also, try to look for new and creative ways to fit in all the features you are after.


5. Submit your planning application: Building works cannot begin until after the local council has reviewed and approved your design and development plans. As part of this, they will check that your new home meets the area’s planning requirements. So, to avoid any delays or surprises at this stage, it is worth researching local planning requirements ahead of time.


6. Select your builder: If you have not done so already, engage your builder once your design is finalised and approved. When choosing who to work with, it is important to confirm that they have the right skills, experience, and qualifications. You should also carefully review their contract and make sure you understand and are happy with their terms and conditions.


7. Monitor building works: While your builder will do the actual work, you will still play an active role during the build phase. You will need to be available to answer questions, make decisions, and help solve any problems that arise. You will also need to keep a close eye on your budget and make sure work is tracking to schedule.


8. Complete the handover: Once building works are complete, your new home will be cleaned

and presented to you as a finished product. As part of this, you will have the opportunity to inspect the property and call out any finishing touches required. Then, once everything is to your satisfaction, you will make the final payment, and the builder will provide the keys.


9. Move in and start enjoying your new home: With everything now complete, you are free to move in and start living the lifestyle you always wanted. And, as your new home will be covered by a warranty, the builder will be responsible for fixing any defects. In Victoria, the warranty period for new homes is six years for structural defects and two years for non-structural defects.

Tips for getting the most from your design

While new home designs can vary greatly, the process for developing them is broadly the same. There are also a few tricks anyone can use to make sure their new home will work for them. This includes:


  • Being clear about your current requirements: When designing a home, it is easy to get caught up in the aesthetic choices (tiles, tapware, benchtops, etc.). However, it is the structural choices you make that will ultimately determine how liveable your new home is. That is why we recommend defining your practical requirements upfront and keeping these in mind throughout the design process.

  • Thinking about your future requirements: If you are planning to live in your new home for a while, the design needs to grow with you. As such, it is important to think about what you are likely to need in the future, as well. For example, if you are planning to add to your family, additional bedrooms and bathrooms may be required. Or you may want to minimise the number of stairs to cater for any future mobility issues.

  • Considering how you want to live in the space: Your house should reflect your lifestyle and allow you to go about your day as easily as possible. As such, when reviewing draft plans, imagine yourself going through your daily routine and moving between the different spaces. This should help you to focus on the functionality of the design and identify any potential pain points.

  • Using real-world examples to validate your design: If you are having trouble picturing how a room will look, use your current home as a reference point. And if you are worried some spaces will not be large enough, mark them out and see how they feel. Open homes are also a great source of inspiration and a good way to check how certain design details actually look. If that doesn't help, check out Carmel Homes 1-to-1 walk throughs.

  • Engaging an experienced designer: While it is possible to do most of the design work yourself, it is well worth getting some expert advice. More than just producing the required architectural drawings, a good professional house designer will help you refine your plans. They will also help you to articulate your dream home design and recommend creative ways to bring that to life.

Tips for a stress-free build


While you may not be on the tools, you still have an important role to play during the building phase. In fact, many people find this stage the most challenging and time-consuming, as most things require urgent attention. To help manage this, we recommend you:

  • Finalise your design before beginning building: Taking the time to fully think through every element of your plans during the design phase always pays dividends. While it may be possible to make changes once building works have begun, this can significantly impact your budget. Depending on the scale of the change, it can also blow out your timeline and stretch the friendship with your builder.

  • Look for a builder with relevant experience: Ideally, you want to find a builder who has significant experience on similar projects to yours. This should mean they know what to watch out for and can help you predict and avoid most issues. This is also particularly important if your design includes any unique architectural features or unusual material, as these may require specialist skills to install.

  • Maintain an open dialogue with your builder: Given building works can take upwards of 12 months, it is preferable to have a good rapport with your builder. While you do not need to be best friends, being able to converse easily will make the process more enjoyable. It should also mean they will feel comfortable coming to you with any issues or ideas for improvements.

  • Keep your end goal in mind: Building your own home can be tough, and it is easy to let the stress get to you. To help combat this, make sure you have a clear mental picture of yourself enjoying life in your new home. You can then revisit this when things go wrong, or it feels like it is all getting too hard.

  • Check in on your budget regularly: The last thing that you want is to not be able to finish because you run out of money. While good planning will help reduce the risk of this, there are some expenses you simply cannot predict. However, by staying on top of your outgoings, you can make sure these do not derail your whole project.

Want to discuss this further?

If you need help designing or building your new home or are not sure where to start, contact Carmel Homes. We are one of Melbourne’s leading luxury custom design and build companies and can guide you through the whole process. We are also experts in developing truly tailored designs and have built our reputation on the quality of our finishes.

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