DIY or hire the Professionals for my Self Build? Allan Corfield’s comment
One of ACA’s projects was featured in the Grand Designs Magazine several weeks ago. This article strived to address an interesting dilemma which every self-builder faces: what can I do myself (DIY) and what is best left to the experts? We thought it would be useful to provide a summary of this article, supplemented with our personal advice for every brave person who takes on this challenging, but rewarding task of building or renovating their dream home.
The article is divided into four stages. At each stage the self-builder will have numerous opportunities to use their own talents to effectively contribute to building their house. Some people may have handyman skills, so can carry out manual tasks, other will feel better with managing the whole process or just using their creativity to contribute to the design. In order to put your stamp on your new home, it is crucial to carefully consider where your skills can be used.
In the initial stages of your Self Build, there are several parts in which you should definitely use the help of professionals. One of them is an architect or architectural designer, who will be able to take your design ideas and create a project which can be built. It is important to conduct in-depth research in order to find a suitable architect who has experience in designing similar projects to your own. Remember that it is crucial to be on the same page as your architect – as at the end of the day, they are the one’s who will have to interpret your ideas.
We would always suggest interviewing 3 suitable architects, by suitable we mean – architects who regularly design self-build one off homes, architects who can design to your budget and architects who have experience in designing energy-efficient homes. We do not mean choosing your local architect because he is local and cheap! Remember this will be the single biggest investment you may ever make, so you need the right professionals!
When your plot is in a conservation area or you can predict potential problems that may occur in achieving planning approval, it is vital to invest in a planning consultant. They are often able to tip the balance towards getting the final approval, therefore saving you a lot of money and stress in the long run.
Planning consultants can be expensive so you must budget for this in your total costs, however if there are potential stumbling blocks which they can overcome – then their involvement is priceless!
For more information on what a planning consultant can assist with and when they are required, check out our recent interviews with some of the top planning consultants in the UK here (England) and here (Scotland).
Project management skills are very important throughout the whole homebuilding process both off and on site. In order to perform this role effectively you will need to understand the importance of co-ordinating the work of others. If mistakes are made, you will need to appoint people to repair it – this will generate more costs for you to cover.
Taking over the project management aspect of the project is one of the main reasons that Self Build is a more cost effective alternative to the traditional main contractor route. You are effectively taking over an element of the project which may equate to 5% of the overall construction costs. However, we would only advise that you take on the project management role if you have the time available. On an average self-build house (250 sqm) we would expect that you would need to be on site at least twice a week and dedicate at least 2-3 hrs per day (or in the evening after work) to co-ordinate the project. This will fluctuate during certain periods of the on site works.
We would suggest reading Vince Holden’s book on Project Management to educate you on what is actually involved. You can get it here.
If you have particular skills that you want to use during the construction phase, such as carpentry or skills in plumbing, make sure that it is scheduled and everyone knows when and what you are going to do. There are some jobs that are more dangerous to take on, and it is therefore wise to leave them to the professionals. For example, in order to get a completion notice from your local authority, all electrical work must be checked and a compliance certificate obtained from a competent electrician.
A lot of our self-builders are resilient types and really get stuck into jobs on site that they have never taken on. This ranges from going on a plastering course so you can skim coat the internal stud walls to going on approved installer courses for Catnic Standing Seam roofs – this includes becoming an approved installer and giving yourself a 10 year warranty!
One key fact to keep in mind, is that if you are in a well paid professional job then it is a false economy to save money on doing a low skill, low cost item yourself within your project.
Many self-builders take on various tasks during this stage, many want to add a final personal touch to their home. Some of these tasks are relatively simple, and homeowners can also save some money by doing it themselves. The key to doing it properly is not to rush, It is crucial to plan all tasks with sufficient attention to detail. For example, if you want to do the final painting, make sure the walls are completely cleaned and vulnerable areas taped off to avoid drips, use protective floor coverings, and apply undercoats etc. The same advice applies when laying flooring and tiling walls. Make sure that you have suitable tools and remember that if it is not done well it will look cheap, and in order to repair it you will have to spend more money.
The finishes on your home are the things that people will notice first and will always bug you if you mess them up. Again our advice is if you are going to take on finishing then make sure you research, go on relevant training courses and practice, practice, practice.
The typical self-builder is a resilient, driven type of person who if given the right time and information can turn their hand to (almost) anything!
If you have any questions for Allan and the rest of the team, send your suggestions to us via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or social media using #asktheselfbuildexpert.
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