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Building Your Own Home

In a series of articles, David Smailes, managing director of specialist construction company, Smailes Construction, will share his considerable knowledge of construction to provide guidance and point out the possible pitfalls when building your own home.

Many dream of it but few do it

Whilst the largest number of new homes being constructed in the UK  each year are not self-built, many of us dream of building our own home.  Of course most of us will never do it, leaving it instead to the professionals. However, every year, some 13,000 people embark on a self build adventure.

Now, in my opinion, there are self-builds and there are self-builds! What I mean is there are enthusiastic amateurs, extremely competent DIYers and individuals with a background in construction  who will undertake most aspects of the building work themselves.  And then there are those who have neither the skills, the time, nor the inclination to attempt the work, preferring to appoint a reputable contractor to undertake the work on their behalf.

Whichever way you choose to go, the process and the stages of construction will be the same. However, either option will bring benefits and challenges which will become apparent in different ways as the project develops.

Doing it yourself

Typically, by doing all the work yourself the key benefit will be one of saving you money.

Of course saving money is great but without a large team of helpers who are willing to work free of charge it will take longer to build, especially if you have a day job to go to.

Budget control has to be your number one priority irrespective of the route you choose. Depending on the scale of your project you will also be liable to paying VAT, which incurs an additional cost of 20%

We’ve all watched programmes like Grand Designs, and whilst these undoubtedly produce some stunning results they are not without their challenges when it comes to having expectations that exceed budgets. This is where many self builds begin to struggle from day one. It’s really important that if you plan to manage the work yourself you understand the scope of works that you are about to undertake and the costs associated with achieving your desired finish.

Capturing the essence of understanding cost and value, art critic John Ruskin once said;

“It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you

bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run and if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better.”

What he is saying is, just because you have a cheap price don’t think that this is going to give you everything you have asked for. You need to be able to interrogate your cost base to ensure it’s deliverable within your budget and initial scope of works. Inevitably, you get what you pay for.

If you are going to embark on the self build route my advice is to employ a competent Quantity Surveyor to assist you in compiling a robust scope of works that can be priced and will give you a basis for managing and controlling cost as the project develops.

Managing the project yourself will take time. You need to ensure that you have the time to dedicate to the project, rather than relying on tradespeople managing themselves by day and you trying to pick everything up in the evening, as you also juggle family life!

The self build route will definitely save some money.  However, unless you seek competent cost advice at the outset the saving will be immeasurable as you won’t have a basis upon which to assess the investment in your own time and lack of professional knowledge against that of a competent, dedicated contractor.