October 2020

If you are planning on taking on a self-build project yourself, make it your business to become an expert. As the old saying goes – ‘knowledge is power’ so I’ve put together five things to consider, to make sure you set yourself up for success.

Work out a program for your build

There will be a lot of decisions to be made when tackling a self-build project from internal layout to the location of lighting to design and style of windows etc. It can be a bit overwhelming, especially once the build starts on site. This kind of pressure can lead to hasty decisions that you will later regret.

Having a realistic program for the build will help you to stay on track and give you plenty of time to make critical decisions. Identify items with long delivery lead times such as windows and plot their delivery date into your program. Make sure you schedule in plenty of time for ordering, as delays for these kinds of critical items can have a detrimental impact on your build if ordered too late.

Get some professional advice

Getting the right kind of professional advice can make all the difference and remove much of the stress that goes hand in hand with these kinds of projects.

There is a misconception that hiring professionals is expensive. Still, as long as you are upfront about what you have to spend, you will find that most professionals will have services that will suit your budget. Even employing someone on an hourly basis will help you to avoid potentially costly mistakes, thus saving you money in the long run.

An architect will provide you with a detailed set of drawings and specification for your project. This kind of input is worth every penny as these drawings will be your blueprint for the build so the more detailed this information is the easier your task of building will be.

A quantity surveyor will be able to price the drawings. Their input will give you an accurate idea of what each part of the build should cost. Having a firm idea about your budget early on in the process is critical to your being able to stay on top of costs. You will be able to use this initial budget guide to give you an indication of what the quotes for items like windows should be coming in at.

Use images to communicate

It’s a good idea to compile a little scrapbook of inspiration clippings for interior and exterior ideas that you would like to replicate in your home. Sites like Instagram, Houzz and Pinterest are fantastic for this as they allow you to create pinboards and idea books. These are a great way to communicate your ideas. Take these images with you when visiting showrooms to share with sales staff. You’ll find it’s a much easier way to explain what you are looking for than having to describe it.

Research Tradespeople

When it comes to picking subcontractors and tradespeople for your project – do your homework. You want to make sure that they are reliable and capable of delivering on time and within budget as well as producing good quality workmanship. Only ever hire subcontractors that have been recommended and who are registered. Picking a tradesperson without references is not a good idea.

Weigh up the cost

When you are taking on a self-build project, or have limited funds, there is a lot to be said for doing the work yourself but be wary of apparent cost savings. If you have to take time off work to do it, how much has that cost you? Work out what your own time is worth and weigh it up against the cost of hiring a project manager, for example.

A project manager will coordinate all of the trades and subcontractors and will save you a considerable amount of time and energy. Managing a self-build project whilst holding down a full-time job can be challenging even for the most organised of people. Decisions will need to be made every day so either get some help or make sure you schedule in time each day when you can visit the site and take phone calls.


Denise O’Connor

Managing Director Optimise Design, B.Arch. RIAI RIBA
& Senator’s Expert Design Consultant
This blog post is sponsored, but the views expressed by the author are her own.

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