The clue is in the title – for many of us designing and building our own home is a dream. More and more people are opting to buy a patch of land and construct a house entirely to their specifications and to suit their needs, and the needs of their family. However, the process – while rewarding in many ways – is by no means an easy one. Hours of preparation, draft designs (and second and third drafts), consultations with experts as well as good, old fashioned hard labor are involved.
If you’re in charge you need to wear many hats – project manager, people manager, inventory checker, liaison officer (staying in touch with contractors and others) and budget manager to name but a few. But as they say, thorough planning is the key to success. Here are some tips to help you through the project and hopefully take some of the stresses and worries out of the process!
OK, so it goes without saying that you need to sit down and plan out your budget. So far, so good. Now, take that budget and make it bigger – almost all house builds run over budget in one area (or many!), so it’s best to work this into your plans. An estimate from a builder may omit certain details or materials, so make sure you try to get a thorough quote. Remember that when the house is built, you’ll have to decorate it throughout, think about things such as landscaping and fine-tuned details such as letterboxes and painting. Flexible and realistic budgeting will take a lot of the stress out later on down the line when hidden costs pop up suddenly.
Hand in hand with budgeting goes planning. Planning is the most crucial part of your build and should be as thorough as possible. Which direction is the house going to face? Where will the staircases go, and will they intrude too much on the floor space? You also need to think about dull things such as power points (always plan for more than you think) and where a boiler will be situated as well as the more interesting parts, such as the flow of the rooms and the general layout. Draw some inspiration from magazines or other self-build projects online – if you can get access to their plans, then all the better. Needless to say, a house built without a plan is always going to be a disaster.
Ambitious as it may sound, many choose to take charge of their own project fully. Of course, with no prior experience, it’s best to rely on professionals to construct your dream home; however, this needn’t be the case. Today a budding builder can study the relevant course designed to equip you with the proper knowledge (and in some cases a license) should you choose to fly solo. As mentioned before – be prepared to deal with a lot more than just the architectural side, you may be required to apply for specific permits from your local authorities, and you’ll have a lot on your plate managing all the contractors you’ll need to work with. If you’re putting some hard graft in as well, you may find that going the DIY route to building saves you time as well as money, and is extremely rewarding in the short and long term (think of all the boasting you can do to house guests). Some jobs are best left to professionals though, such as plumbing and wiring.
LOOK TO THE FUTURE
Remember, this is going to be your house for a very long time. So if you are in your early twenties when you’re building, make sure you project your future self into the home. If you keep fixtures, paint colors, carpets or flooring quite neutral they will be more easily adaptable to your tastes as you grow older. Sure, you can always redecorate, but after you’ve built your new home, you’ll probably need a bit of a rest (make sure your bedroom is big and comfortable for this).
As with your budget, you need to keep your schedule flexible. Contractors often take longer than they forecast to complete jobs and to get things done correctly, you shouldn’t rush. Remember, this home is going to last a long time, so it’s worth getting it right the first time around, even if that means sleeping on a friend’s couch or in a rented apartment for a couple of months longer. There are factors that are beyond your control, such as adverse weather, complications with the building process which hadn’t been foreseen at the planning stage, and many more. So be patient. Which leads us on to the next bit of advice…
DON’T MOVE IN UNTIL IT’S FINISHED
Moving into your home before you finish will mean you begin to relax into it. That unfinished basement or unpainted spare room can (and will) wait. Get EVERYTHING done before you inhabit your home; otherwise, your dream property will remain a work in progress far longer than you had anticipated! It is tempting, especially if you’ve been living in makeshift accommodation for a couple of months or longer, but resist!
Builders, plumbers, electricians come in all shapes and sizes. They also come with various levels of reliability, quality, and speed. Make sure you do research thoroughly, or get recommendations from friends or neighbors who have used their services before.
The building and construction of a home can be a nightmare unless you do it properly. So follow some of the tips above and avoid the pitfalls many before you have made. Soon you’ll be relaxing in the property of your dreams (and forgetting about the potential nightmare of the build).