04 2020 03 25 02

I recently took on a self-build alteration project to our house. I have some building knowledge and skills, but I’m not a builder. Taking on a self-build, whether a small renovation, or a new build, needs to be considered carefully and thoroughly planned. For me, this experience has raised some interesting thoughts:

  • If you’re not a builder, you’re in for an interesting time. If you are a builder and you knew what you were taking on, why did you do it?
  • A budget is only as accurate as the information that has been included.
  • It is advisable to get detailed construction drawings. Working from concept drawings, results in concept planning and a concept budget. A registered Architect or Technologist is worth the investment.
  • Spend more on appropriate materials, you’ll waste less time and save on Labour.
  • Having the correct equipment makes it a lot easier. Its why contractors get the job done quicker. However, it cost more to buy the tools and they never get used again.


  • Get an assistant. By the time you’ve called a family member above the noise of the TV and they’ve extricated themselves from the couch, you’ve had to go down the ladder and pick up the hammer yourself.
  • Plan your day the night before. Once the day starts, it gets hot and tiring. You don’t want to be standing around in the heat, trying to work out what to do next.
  • Everybody says measure twice cut once. They say that for a reason.
  • Yes, perhaps it would be better to employ a builder, they say hindsight is an exact science, but think of all the skills you learnt, even if it took longer and probably cost more.
  • Don’t be discouraged if your family doesn’t come out to see what you’re doing and give encouragement. If you’ve been at it for a few months you must accept, for them, the novelty has worn off.

What I have learnt, which will be very useful in practice, is that to draw something and to build it, are very different. Keep it simple, builders will appreciate it. Although, there’s no harm in throwing in an angle to keep them on their toes. Also, on site it’s very difficult to work in tight spaces. If you can’t fit, how do you expect the plumber to fit?