Building a house is an enormous undertaking; but it is one that a large percentage of the world’s population undertakes at some time in their lives.

Some people contract professional building companies to do the work for them; some do most of the work themselves; others “owner build” but utilize the services of many professionals to ensure the final product is a success. Some people take time off to oversee what is going on during the building operation; they may even become the project manager. Some have a structural shell built by professionals and finish the house off themselves over time, possibly even once they have moved in, adding finishes as finances become available. There are many different options, none of which is beyond risk. The fact is that within all these categories of building, it is possible to make “mistakes” when you build. And unfortunately, the most common mistakes when building a house relate directly to money.

How to Avoid Making Some of the Most Common Mistakes

If you plan the construction of your new home thoroughly and in a sequential manner, you will avoid a great many of the problems that potential face those building a house.

From day one you are going to have to make important, if not vital, decisions, primarily based on cost, time and quality. If you focus on these three elements, and are clear in your own mind just how much time and money you have to build, and what quality factors are important to you, you will start the project on the right (or rather correct) foot.

Going over budget is one of the most common mistakes people make, and not deliberately either. This is why proper planning is so important.

Commercial and industrial construction projects are normally quantified to the last letter, and usually by a qualified professional who has been trained to estimate the costs of everything involved. This includes design costs, management costs, as well as the costs of labor, materials, hire of tools …

Aside from anything else, make sure from the start that whoever draws up your house plans, specifies materials, fixtures and finishes that suit both your requirements and your budget.

Quantifying and Costing a Construction Project

One mistake inexperienced home builders make when budgeting for their own home is to base their estimates on what the industry deems to be a cost per square foot or meter. Be warned, there is no such thing. Your cost per square foot will depend entirely on the construction method you choose and the fixtures, fittings and finishes that you opt for. As a rule of thumb, you need to base it on a wide variation, perhaps depending on what people you know have spent building homes similar to the one you want to build. But never fall into the trap of thinking that you can do it cheaper. If you do, chances are you’ll run out of bucks and find you aren’t able to finish your home the way you envisaged.

Before you or anybody else can quantify and cost your house project, you need a schedule of finishes. This is simply a detailed list of the materials that you and/or your builder are going to need for the construction process. It is essential that this schedule contains absolutely everything, from bricks and mortar or the timber requirements (depending of course on the method of construction to be used) to doors, windows, roofing materials, and all the finishes – tiles, paint, ironmongery, sanitary ware, and appliances like eye level ovens that are to be built in. All plumbing and electrical fixtures and fittings, including pipes, drains, and electrical conduits, as well as lights, air conditioning, and absolutely anything else you plan to include, must be included in the schedule.

Cost Control

You could liken cost control to the will-power you need when going on a diet! It is ever so easy, for example, to change your mind and buy a slightly more expensive type of tile for your en suite bathroom than one that meets your quantified and pre-costed budget. This idea translates to everything from basic materials to one-of-a-kind fixtures and fittings.

One of the most common mistakes – or problems – faced by home builders is efficient cost control. Once you have a budget, you need to stick to it. If you don’t, you’re going to have to find the extra finances elsewhere, or cut down on something else. In reality what often happens is that the house itself ends up costing more, so other less essential features are included. This could mean that you end up without the swimming pool or spa you have been dreaming about, or even without a garage, deck or patio that has been drawn on the plans.

If you have ready cash, one way to avoid these types of problems is to buy items for cash if you can get a discount. These savings can be quite substantial, but you need some forethought to take this route.

Apart from the costs quantified according to a schedule of finishes, there are also labor costs and so-called “hidden” costs (including water and electricity connection fees) to take into account. Never forget these.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that cost control also means keeping track of the building project. As work progresses, check regularly to ensure that you are on budget, and if construction is costing more, assess by how much. Even if you have hired a project manager, or are using a professional building contractor, this is a process that you should never ignore.

Be Aware of Potential Pitfalls

There are numerous other pitfalls that people encounter when building their own homes. These range from choosing materials that they later decide they don’t like, to ordering materials that don’t fit – including doors and windows. Normally attention to detail will sort these problems out, but you need to be mindful of the possibilities.

One quite specific potential pitfall to watch out for if you want to avoid the most common mistakes when building a house, is to be wary when trying to cut your costs. For example, while buying bargains can certainly help you cut your budget, you need to be sure what is offered really is a bargain. Make sure you aren’t buying damaged items, or building materials that are not going to last.

If you are aware that there are possible pitfalls that come in many different guises, you are certainly going to be more likely to avoid them, and ultimately have a more successful building experience.


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