Professor Dr. Michael Benfield of Simply Self Build, a Benfield ATT Group company, discusses the three broad types of self-builder he has come across during his career to help you discover which one you are and what project management route is best for you.
The skilled tradesperson
For those self-builders with the confidence in their own skills (i.e. builder, carpenter, joiner, plumber, handyman etc), you may attempt to ‘build your own’ home. These self-builders get involved in all areas of the build in a very hands-on capacity, generally doing most of the work themselves, or using their colleagues and trade contacts to keep to the – usually smaller – budget. Because the labour charges are lower (this will essentially be a full-time job), there is more scope for a higher profit.
• Involvement in every area on a day-to-day basis
• High level of satisfaction
• Lower labour costs.
• Full-time role
• Approach is generally more reactive than proactive.
Design and build project team
For those self-builders who have the luxury of time (i.e. a partner in a couple who does not work full-time), but lacks the trade skills to add value to the project, can still do so by becoming a part-time on-site project manager. This role will be more ‘contract management’. Under 'contract management', you will need a general understanding of construction contracts and know exactly what you want from day one. You will be responsible for keeping the project running on a day-to-day basis through the careful management of sub-contractors.
• Involvement in every area
• Suppliers are directly responsible to you
• Approach is generally more proactive, involving strategic planning
• Still quite involved on a ‘day-to-day’ basis.
• You will have to make difficult decisions, and accept responsibility for those
• Sub-contractor agreements prevent you from causing delay to your sub-contractors
• You will be completely reliant upon performance of sub-contractors
• As you are classed as the construction client, your responsibilities are heightened to include providing water, H&S training, facilities, hardstanding, dry storage, safety equipment, signage etc
• You are solely responsible for the smooth-running and cashflow of your project, which can be frustrating.
State-of-the-art project management
The process of self-building can be a resource-stretching time, and you may not have the luxury of being on site when required during the day. These self-builders often appoint a main contractor or project manager with responsibility for making the day-to-day decisions and keeping the project on-track. These can be self-build package companies, architects, project managers, quantity surveyors or builders, and can bring a wealth of experience to your project..
• Offers you the space to continue in full-time employment or with your day-to-day dedications and errands
• Less stress
• Fewer known issues (your project manager can solve these)
• Mainly, you will only have to make the ‘bigger’ decisions
• Improved knowledge on-site
• Project managers can offer experienced support to you
• If instructed to, your project manager will ensure your compliance with Building Regulations, planning, building control, health and safety and your legal requirements as a construction client.
• Project managers can charge around 7 to 15% of the build cost depending on the responsibility you give them, this increases the build cost and, therefore, reduces your profit
• Not so involved in the day-to-day decisions, and will have to accept that your project manager will make decisions on your behalf.
As you can see, there are various ways to manage your self-build project, offering various levels of distance from the day-to-day running of the project. You will need to decide which approach best suits your experience, ability, resources and lifestyle. Once you have identified this, we recommend engaging the appropriate ‘project partners’ (i.e. the key players in the project; e.g. timber frame company, architect, groundworkers, project managers etc, as applicable) around you from as early as you can.This will give you a support team, offer lots of knowledge, and help you to get your project going.