How to avoid the pitfalls of managing your self-build

How to manage your own self buildBuilding your own home can be very exciting. It’s also a lot of hard work. Some people decide to take their involvement in the build to another level by being their own project manager. Managing the build process can help your vision for the house have real influence. It can also save you money.

To help you avoid the pitfalls of managing your build yourself we’ve compiled a few hints and tips.

Commit to the role

Committing to the role isn’t just a phrase borrowed from the world of acting, by choosing to be your own project manager you have to take that role seriously. Underestimating the role of a project/site manager is one of the worst and most common pitfalls. You won’t be able to pop round to site periodically throughout the day or after work, you need to be on hand all the time.

Without an ever present project manager every little problem will put the build back while the team waits for the project manager’s input.

Conduct a risk assessment

Many of the problems you’ll encounter during the build process can be tackled more easily if you simply try to anticipate them. Viewing these as potential risks and writing them down will take away some of their power over you; indeed you’ll neutralise some of the risk simply by recognising it as a risk.

Project managers across a huge range of industries will conduct a risk assessment in the same way. This consists of asking 3 questions of each risk you can think of:

  1. On a scale of 1-10 how detrimental would this problem be?
  2. How likely is it to happen? (use a scale for this too)
  3. What can you do to reduce the risk?

5 common risks

  1. Unforeseen costs: very likely but can be reduced by accurately accounting for all definite and possible costs before beginning the build. Unforeseen costs can derail a self-build so you must try to reduce this risk as much as possible.
  2. Builders delaying work: the likelihood of this happening depends on the other commitments of the building team you’ve hired and your agreement with them. When negotiating an agreement you could pay extra to secure the builders exclusively for your project. This extra cost could then save you money down the line. Alternatively you could write a clause into the contract penalising the builders for late delivery.
  3. The schedule is off: It takes an in depth knowledge of your build and building in general to accurately schedule every stage so that the build runs smoothly. Contracted workers need the right supplies at the right time and work must remain on schedule to avoid seasonal disruptions i.e. wind, rain and snow. A very basic guide for a generic schedule goes as follows:
    • 8 weeks for design and costing (that includes fleshing out this schedule)
    • 12 weeks waiting for planning permission to go through
    • Digging the foundations, putting up the frame and weatherproofing the house- 8 to 12 weeks
    • Another 8 to 12 weeks to complete the interior of the house i.e. plumbing, wiring etcThis constitutes a very basic schedule. In general self builds take around 18 months, with complex jobs taking longer.
  4. The build quality is poor: Split this into two categories: workmanship and building materials. As the project manager you are responsible for both. Hire a team of builders and contractors that has been recommended to you or ask to see examples of their work. Consider the longevity of the materials and the finish you wish to achieve when selecting building materials. It’s important to manage your own expectations.
  5. You can’t continue on as project manager: This is a reality for some self builders. Only you know how likely that is. You might have to return to work if money runs out. You might have children or a family crisis that takes you away from the build. In this event you’ll need to hand over all the details of your build to another project manager. Planning will make such an eventuality easier. Keep neat records and plans which can be easily understood by anybody.

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