11 Jun 2018

Should you project manage your own build?

The fundamental contributor to the success of your self build project is the project management approach that you adopt.

The term ‘self-build’ means so many different things to different people, as every self-builder has a different motivations, constraints, resources and involvement. Generally, in our experience, we have found there to be three broad types of self-builder:

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.The skilled tradesperson will typically engage SimplySelf-Build to either supply the self-build house in kit form (for them to build) or to install the basic shell (for them to complete).

Advantages: Involvement in every area on a day-to-day basis; High level of satisfaction; Lower labour costs

Disadvantages: Full-time role; Approach is generally more reactive than proactive;


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’. 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.

The Time-Rich self-builder will generally engage SimplySelf-Build for more services (which means fewer suppliers to manage and therefore less stress), which may even extend to architectural design, planning and building regulation services, as well as the installation of a ‘wind-and-watertight’ timber frame kit including windows, doors, fascias, stairwells and external timber cladding. If you are considering project managing the self build yourself, we can provide a copy of our own in-house Gantt Chart for your own information.

Advantages: 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.

Disadvantages: You will have to make difficult decisions, and accept responsibility for those; Sub-Contractor contracts prevent you from causing delay to your sub-contractors; 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, hard standing, 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 generally 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.

Advantages: Offers you the space to continue in full-time employment or with your day-to-day dedications; Less stress; Fewer known issues (your project manager can solve these); Generally you 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 Regs, Planning, Building Control, Health & Safety and your legal requirements as a construction client.

Disadvantages: Project managers can charge around 7-15% of 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.Project managers will not, generally, ‘cut corners’ on health and safety, which can increase costs.

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!


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