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DIY Building Vs Project Managing

Owner builder working on site:

Traditional Owner Building or DIY Building means you had to do all the work yourself, so you had to be a jack of all trades, and a quick learner or be a tradesman in one area of construction like a plumber, electrician or carpenter. They would use that experience and develop friendships or mates that would team together and build the home in the hope of saving money.

However, they quickly discover that working on your own home is very different to working as a tradesman on someone else’s home.

The biggest problem is that you are not being paid, so while you are working on your own construction you are losing income, so the saving money aspect is lost.

The second problem is when you are working for someone else, they have finance for the construction that pays your wages, whereas on your own home finance is much harder as bank and finance companies take a much harder view of owner builders that work on site as they have no invoices to confirm the works are actually done.

The third problem they found was when you have friends helping you build and working for free, they are also losing income from their normal jobs, so it is hard to get them to show up when you want them.

This results in your construction time blowing out. If you take a long time to build you are paying rent longer in the home you are living in while building, so again the costs savings are reduced.

The last major problem is quality of home finishes, again if you are working for free and friends are working for free the quality of finish starts to slip, as you can’t demand the best workmanship in this environment.

Working BEE Option:

A good way to solve some of these problems is to have “working bee weekends” this works very well on a number of stages of the home.

For example, when you are putting up the house frame you organize a working bee among all your friends and social media friends to have the frame put up in one weekend.

If you can have 10 to 20 likeminded people that would like to socialize in working environments with a BBQ and learn how to build a home frame this is the ideal situation.

You will need 1 or 2 professional/experts on site and the rest are there for pure labor, it becomes a fun place to be as well as a learning experience for others looking to build their own home. The frame will be built in a few days and if you take turns you can help others on their home. This will save you a lot of money plus reduce the home construction time as well as help you network with other owner builders.

Project Manage The Home:

I believe the best option of all is to Project Manage the construction, as a Project Manager you are acting as the builder/supervisor only, not the worker on site.

This option lets you save more money as you do not lose your normal income; you can still go to work and organise the construction as it only takes 1 to 2 hours a day.

Most of the time is after hours with a short 10 mins to 30 minutes visiting the building site to check on the trades.

Leave it to the experts to know their own trade, if you hire a carpenter let him do his job and you simply check the work when he is finished. If you hire a plumber, he is the expert and has spent many years learning his trade, all you need to ensure is that you do not pay them until there work is completed and meets quality inspection.

There are only 5 major stages to building a house:

  • The slab or base stage

  • Frame stage

  • Lockup stage

  • Fit-out or fixing stage

  • Practical completion stage

As a Project Manager you visit the site the day after the slab or base stage is complete, you inspect the work and if it is all correct and meets your quality inspection then you pay the trade for the work done only.

At frame stage this normally means the carpenter has completed the frame, the electrician and plumber have installed the wiring and piping prior before covering up the walls with wall linings and outside cladding. If all this is as per the construction plans and meets with your quality control then you pay them for that stage.

Note: as there are only the 5 major stages, if you are not confident that you can inspect the work and have the experience to know what to look for, you can hire an inspection expert as there are numerous companies that specialize in this area.

They are low cost, as an inspection only takes 1 to 2 hours and they will normally give you an inspection report and defects list, so you just pass the list to the trade and ask them to rectify the defect before you make the payment.

I cover this in our procedure manual and work book in more detail and provide you with check lists should you wish to streamline your construction.


Tips and common sense

  • Organizing a “Working Bee” will shorten your construction time and save money

  • Pay for completed work done only

  • Always inspect the work before making payment

  • Use a professional inspector


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