The Personal Cost and Reward of Self building

The Personal Cost and Reward of Self building

The Personal Cost and Reward of Self buildingNothing comes easy, and while you will reap the joy of your self build it comes at a high physical and emotional cost. These are the lessons I have learned from taking on a self build.

  • Enjoy doing it, otherwise it will be hell

You need a greater motivation than saving money if you intend to self build your home. Self building is hard graft in most cases, not only do you need to learn new skills but you have to implement them to perfection.

A self build project draws you in, and soon enough you will be obsessed, eating sleeping and drinking your project. Make sure to pull yourself away from time to time to maintain your life balance.

Expect long hours, things normally take twice as long as you think. You’ll need to keep focused, and endure the hard times to maintain the building momentum.

  • Pick your battles wisely.

Extreme self builders choose to do everything from physical construction to project management. However, most self-builders focus on their innate skills and experience choosing to project manage other specialist or physical activities.

Identify the time you can give your project and choose the parts of the projects that are inside your skill base and that you will enjoy doing. Choose skills to learn that genuinely interest you and that you will enjoy learning and implementing.

Finish what you start; it is easy for your mind to drift leaving a trail of unfinished jobs. Finishing one job at a time will motivate you and keep you enthusiastic till the end.

  • Never forget your budget

It is difficult to be objective if you’re in the thick of working every detail. Every project has its unknowns and contingency monies can run out quickly. While you can list and price every nut and bolt you need there are always extra bits and bobs, lost tools, labour run-ons that pile on the cost.

Taking time to overview your ongoing and projected costs regularly will make the process less scary and give you control. I have found that budget constraints bring the best out of you, make you more creative and open your mind to other solutions that you may not have thought about.

Limit your expectations to achieve less and have some money to spare; this will save you living on a building site till you earn the money to finish the job.

  • Only help is paid help

Unless you’re a charity you can’t run a self build on goodwill. Don’t rely on friends or family, no matter how good their intentions are. This is hard work and if they are not used to it, you will spend your time having cups of tea and chats and get no work done. It is better to pay someone and know they will be there to get the job done.

Some tasks just cannot be done alone or in short bursts and it is important to identify those you can physically do yourself and those you should manage. Demolitions and ground works are painful work but low skill and relatively easily done in your own time under an Engineer’s guidance.

Painting decorating, tiling, timber flooring, timber joinery are skilled jobs, you can take the time to learn them or strike a deal to be the professional apprentice so you can do it your self next time.

  • Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Prepare a realistic construction program before you start. Factor in time to research technical issues, heating systems, windows, types of flooring, and kitchens. Try to complete this research before you build so you don’t burn the candle at both ends.

Project your income stream and prepare a payment schedule. People who get paid on time will always prioritise you if there is a problem. Factor in your family commitments, holidays and parties. These are great motivators and will be great milestones for finishing jobs.

Have a good professional team to assist you; depending on the scale of your project you may need an Architect for a design and construction details, and Engineer for structural works and supervision, and a Quantity Surveyor to manage your budget.

Despite the emotional and physical roller-coaster, self building is an infinitely rewarding challenge which gives you an unbreakable bond with your home.

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Derek Trenaman,
Ceardean (Registered Architects and Self Builders)

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