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Australian Owner Builders Factsheet 11 AOBFS11

Most over runs are caused by miscalculations in costs and poor control of the project. Finishing on time and on budget is the crux of any project. The same is true for anyone building as an owner builder or other building professional. On time and on budget is what the project is all about. Rarely does anyone have an unlimited budget so planning, estimating and controlling is crucial to achieving the best result with the resources available.

Cost Control
Owner builders need to be aware of the financial constraints of the projects. Funds are nearly always limited, whether you are self funded or borrowing from a bank or other lending institution. A cost over run will have serious ramifications as you may have to approach the bank if you run out of money or apply for an increase if you have already applied for a loan. Having an extension to the loan is not automatic and will depend on your assets and the banks confidence in your ability to finish the project pay out the loan. Most over-runs are caused by miscalculations in costs and poor control of the project.

There may be unforseen increases in material or labour costs or delays due to weather or a shortage of skilled labour. Bear in mind, no owner builder, or for that matter, no building professional ever gets the costs 100% right. There will always be a variation due to price increase or parts of the project taking longer than anticipated.

Never underestimate the part good communication with suppliers and tradespeople plays in successfully completing your project. Poor communication equals in increase in cost and stress levels. You need to be able to instruct your contactors and suppliers without getting them offside and ensure the right materials are delivered on time and at the right price.

The better the communication, the better the result. Remember, YOU are the builder and getting YOUR message through is crucial. You cannot expect the trades to “just get on with it. If something is not done or is missed it is your responsibility. You are in control. Even if the problem is not your fault, it will still be up to you to negotiate the solution.

Selecting Tradespeople
Selecting the right trades people is the first step. Resist the temptation to just compile a list of names from the local paper and hire them just because they sound OK and the price is acceptable. You need to talk to them, find out about their experience, ask about the last few clients they have worked for and ask for references.

If they are vague or easily irritated during the conversations or express reserve about working for an owner builder, the chances are they are not for you. You will need tradespeople who are personable and reliable. The stress caused by any building project means there will always be a difference of opinion and being able to communicate with your trades should never be underestimated.

Disputes can be reduced when you instruct tradespeople from the outset. Effectively communicating what you expect and if the contractor wishes to do something which is different there has to be a reason. The reasoning needs to be explained to you BEFORE the works are carried out, not after. Unauthorised changes are a major cause of disputes. To eliminate them you must communicate.

The correct documentation is essential to finish the project on time and on budget. Material quotes and supply details should always be on an official suppliers form and filed for future reference. ALL arrangements or agreements with tradespeople should be documented.

Remember the three golden rules of building, GET IT IN WRITING, GET IT IN WRITING, GET IT IN WRITING, and it does not matter if the job is small still GET IT IN WRITING. The agreement can simply be a confirmation of the details on a sheet of paper. Once the details are right both the parties need to sign. The agreement should include all relevant details including price, materials to be used and the minimum expectations of performance and standard. Remember, the expectations are yours as the builder and not the contractors.

Major stages of the project will need more detailed documentation for trades such as bricklaying, carpentry plumbing and electricals a properly drawn up contract and specification is advised. You can do this yourself or use a pre-printed contract. Pre-printed contracts and packs are available through the Australian Owner Builders Club.

To ensure the project runs smoothly, draw up a schedule. The schedule should outline the scope of works to be carried out, when the need to start and when each phase needs to be completed. For example, once footing trenches are excavated, the inspection needs to be organised and the concrete poured as soon as possible. Allow seven days for the concrete to harden and have the bricklayer start, if building on stumps. Calculate the required time to brick up to floor level and instruct the carpenter to install the stumps, bearers and floor joists. The carpenter can then fit sheet flooring, if applicable, to allow a solid work platform for the construction of the wall and roof frames.

Once the frame is complete, the windows can be set in and the plumber can install the gutters and spouting. The bricklayer can now return to lay the veneer wall and the roofing contractor can lay the roof. The schedule will depend on the method of construction designed and as the owner builder you will need to be familiar with all of the details. The work schedule should, as far as possible, be set before you start the project. This will allow you to pre-book certain trades and ensure they will be available when you need them.

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