Becoming an owner builder

So you want to be an owner builder...

Building your own home can be challenging at best and it is common for unexpected things to arise, complicating the course of works. This guide provides you, the novice owner-builder, a simple check list to guide you while building your own home from the design stage through to occupation.

Become empowered!!    (This is "important stuff"...)

Who ever said that "knowledge is power" must have worked in the building game as this is one of the golden rules of owner-building

Have you ever dealt with a tradesperson and felt you were totally out of your depth? Felt like an idiot? Or thought "they are the experts they know best"?

As an owner builder don't ignore your gut-instinct. If a statement made by a tradesperson does not sound right, question it. The tradesperson may be right, but you would be amazed how often they are not. Beware the tradesperson who says "It can't be done", this is often a sign of laziness and/or incompetence.

Women owner-builders are generally more vulnerable in the construction industry as 'the trades' are dominated by men, but women also have an uncanny gift of knowing "what looks and sounds right or wrong". Don't ignore this voice - you need to question everything you don't understand. Don't be afraid to ask 'what may seem like' silly questions and don't let anyone rush you into a hasty decision that you may regret.

Getting Information

Where can you get all the information you require to become a "confident and well adjusted" owner builder?

(1) Council

Think of council as a wonderful resource that is in business just to answer all your questions. Speak to the Customer Service Desk first, and then, if they can not help you, or you require more information, speak to the "On Duty Building Inspector" at your local council. They can answer questions about construction requirements, boundary fence issues and bathroom surface falls, etc.

(2) Trades

Ask lots of relevant questions where ever you go, bathroom retailers, hardware stores, kitchen manufactures, plumbers, carpenters etc. If they want your business, and they usually do, all these professions and more will give you all the information you require.

(3) Books

There is a great book they handed out in my first year of university. It's called "Building Your Own Home" (by George Wilkie and Stuart Arden). This book is clearly written, easy to follow, and aimed at people who know nothing about building. I have seen this book for sale at both Bunnings and Home Hardware.

There is a great book that I came across in my first year at uni. - it's called "Building Your Own Home' (by George Wilkie and Stuart Arden). This book is clearly written, easy to follow, and aimed at people who know nothing about building. I have seen this book for sale at both Bunnings and Home Hardware or you can purchase the book online at for $57.00 Australian dollars


Your budget!

Oh yeah this is the worst bit! - realising that construction prices always 'end-up' costing more than you anticipated. There are ways to minimise the shock and prepare you mentally as well as financially for the process ahead.

Firstly take a good look at a Construction Cost Estimator. Note that the results vary greatly depending on many things including size of the home, quality of finishes, building complexity and site conditions. While using the Construction Cost Estimator you will be provided with suggested sizes of rooms, so 'get handy' with a tape measure and compare the suggested sizes of spaces with spaces you can relate to in your current home.

1. Do these size spaces feel large enough? Remember don't over compensate with space it will only cost you more than you may want to spend.

2. Measure the furniture pieces that will go into your new home - will they fit into the spaces and shapes of the new rooms

You can save dollars...
You can reduce the construction costs of your home with a few of the following tips.

  • Go to building supply auctions - advertised in your local paper or listed in the yellow pages.
  • Never take the first quote - shop around and talk them down. You will be surprised how much suppliers will move on price if you ask, you have nothing to loose.
  • Seconds outlets - scout your yellow pages for these under white goods, kitchens, tiles, etc.
  • Cash and Carry outlets - these shops can sell everything from strawberry jam to ceramics basins, tiles, door stops, kitchen sinks, nails and hand tools... and the list goes on.
  • Name brands - name brands are generally more expensive than lesser know brands and not always better quality. Shop around and be well informed before you bye.

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