Why build your home yourself?

The reasons you may decide to build your home yourself can be extremely varied.

I am not going to attempt to list them all here. Rather I will set out my own reasons and a few others that I imagine may motivate another person.

Teremok in Talashkino
A modest homeМинеева Ю. (Julmin) / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

One of my motivations has always been to accept a challenge and test my own limits. There is great satisfaction in a job well done. To build your home is a relatively safe way to indulge since you can always call on professionals to guide you or correct your errors. Permitting and inspections can keep you from erecting a dangerous building and inspectors are an invaluable resource for information and advice. You must however be very careful to avoid unsafe practices during construction. Injuries to yourself or your help will take all the fun out of the project and could prove very expensive.

Another important consideration is of course cost.  If you build your home yoursef you can reduce the cost of a new home by 50% or more depending on how much you do yourself and on how astute a buyer you may be. You may be able to use recycled material in some cases and friends and relatives may be willing to give a hand occasionally for the cost of BBQ and beer. If you require a mortgage every dollar you save could be doubled over time. The last home I built for myself was completely paid for by the equity in my old home. At the same time it is important to make any estimate high for the sake of safety. Raising money to complete an over budget project can be very difficult.

The desire to build your home to higher standards might lead you to do it yourself. Contractors often in the name of profits will take shortcuts that can reduce the soundness of the home as well as contribute to higher future operating costs and some times even create possible dangers. Often they will just neglect items that could increase a homes efficiency or safety. I have seen many examples of floors and walls not well secured to the foundation and roofs not well secured to walls. I have seen high efficiency furnaces installed as indirect vent when direct vent would have been simple and would increase safety and efficiency. I have even seen sheathing blown loose from framing because of insufficient nailing. I could give many more examples of error both by contractors and do it yourself people but that is good for an entire article in itself. Some errors are hilarious.

Innovative and unusual design items incorporated for comfort, utility, environmental or other reasons may well be very costly when done by contractors because of unfamiliarity. They may also require fine tuning that could be beyond the scope of contractors. Only yourself as the designer may be qualified to do this well.

This article would not be complete without pointing out some things you should consider before embarking on such a major project as building your home yourself..

Do you have any experience at all with the many trades involved?

Each one takes considerable study and in some cases practice. Even if you hire sub-contractors you will have to supervise and do quality control. Mistakes can be costly if rarely extremely so. I have made some big ones that were caught by inspectors and in some cases cost me several hours and dollars. Some happened simply because I was unfamiliar with the building codes or did not interpret them correctly. Perhaps you have friends or relatives in the trades willing to give help or advice. Be a little careful here as some tradesmen may have no experience in residential work. In our area many electricians do nothing but oilfield and industrial work and are not familiar with house wiring. An option is to hire professionals for the more difficult parts and do yourself what you are comfortable with. An example would be to have an electrician do the service entrance or a plumber to do the waste water rough ins.

Do you have the time?

Nothing is more tiring than spending practically every weekend and evening for a year or more trying to get your house to the move in stage. It is possible (depending on size and complexity) to build your house in 4 months or less with a couple of experienced helpers but doing it in your spare time could take 2 or 3 years. It is difficult to hire help to work only when you are available. Financing is also much more difficult the longer the project takes.

Can you arrange the financing?

The Breakers Newport
A little too ambitious for your first tryUpstateNYer / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

It is much easier to finance the purchase of an existing house than to find a lender willing to take a risk on your ability to build your house. A fixer upper that you can live in while renovating is easier to finance and is a good way to gain valuable experience before you take that big step. This link will take you to a good site for renovation and maintenance advice. You could also gain experience by helping friends build or renovate in return for help when you build your home.

Finally, what level of involvement do you wish to take?

This can range from doing the general contracting from off the shelf plans and material lists to hands on for everything from initial planning to landscaping.

The route you choose will depend on the time you have available, your skills and your budget. In spite of the increased complexity of today’s housing it is actually much easier to build your home than it once was. This is because of the internet as a source of information, a place to purchase and compare prices and even courses on many aspects of construction. The much wider availability of rental equipment and the proliferation of businesses geared to the do it yourself crowd is also of considerable help.

In future articles I will deal with most of the aspects of building your home including updates on the progress of my own current build. This will be my 4th complete house build and is a downsize so should go fairly well but there are times I can screw up the simplest things, some stories of which I will relate to you in the future.

I also intend to stray from the subject occasionally if for nothing else than to combat boredom.

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