Step 8: Navigating the Building Stages

This is step 8 in a 10 step process uncovering whether Owner Building is right for you. In our last post we covered an owner builder’s role as project manager. Now that you’re pumped up to take on the job, let’s dive right into the five stages that make up the building process, and look at what you’ll need to get accomplished at each checkpoint along the way.

Stage One – Base Watching 20% of your overall budget head out the door and not having much to photograph other than a concrete slab can be frustrating, but set-up and infrastructure cost money. As an owner builder, though, you’ll have peace of mind in knowing that the Building Contractor’s not taking a cut! Before calling in the concrete trucks, prepare your site for building. Most councils require 1.8m high temporary fencing, and sloped sites require barriers to prevent run off. Don’t forget to ring up the electrical supplier to arrange a temporary power supply, and unless there are other facilities available, rent a portable toilet. Mother nature will call. Next comes excavation. Clear your site of rubbish and vegetation and peg out the sewer if one lies beneath your land, by this stage you should have already contacted your local water authority to find out if a sewer lies beneath you. Depending on the distance from your proposed home to the sewer lines you may require approval from the water authority prior to excavating. Once approved (if required) you can bring in the heavy equipment for the “cut and fill”, which is essentially leveling the area where your house will go. If building on a slope, construct any necessary structural retaining walls prior to the dig. Before pouring the slab, site drainage and all under slab work needs to be completed. Slab construction may require base foundations such as, concrete piers, a sand/gravel base, and a waterproof membrane. Your foundation may required the building of your forms and installation of waffle pods. Then you can get your concrete guys to cast the slab.

Stage Two – Frame Weather permitting, framing generally begins just a few days after your slab has been cast. This is where the fun begins and when your house starts to take form. Exciting stuff! A good crew should have the wall frames and roof trusses up in right around a week for a standard one-story home. Adjust time expectations depending on the complexity of your blueprints and the size of your team. Next comes the “roughing in”, which means running the cables and pipes needed for gas, water, and electrical services. Anything that’s meant to be hidden in the walls will be installed at this point.

Stage Three – Lock up The name lock-up derives from the fact that after stage three is complete, you’ll be able to physically “lock up” your house as the walls will be complete, with doors and windows installed. Whether you’re using bricks or another wall material, it’s a good idea to externally protect the structure by using a building wrap such as DuPont’s, Tyvek. Wraps prevent drafts and allow moisture vapor to escape from the insulation. Along with building the walls you’ll have the roof clad and install gutters, fascia boards, and soffit boards (should you have eaves). Your house will now look like a house! But don’t be deceived by perceptions, once you’ve hit lock-up you’re only half way there.

Tip: If you’ve selected a very expensive front door to showcase the entrance to your new home, we highly recommend you consider installing a temporary door during lock-up to minimise the risk of damage.

Stage Four – Fixing Fixing will transform the rough interior of your structure into something that looks more like the home of your dreams. Once the insulation is in and the plasterboard up, everything really starts to take shape. Kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities are installed, as well as major plumbing fixtures such as baths, showers, basins and sinks. The wet areas of your home are waterproofed and any tile work required on the walls and floors is completed at this stage. Now you’re hitting the home stretch, but your home is not quite ready to live in just yet.

Stage Five – Completion If you’ve mostly been hands-off during the first four stages, here is where even the most unskilled DIYer can get involved and get their hands dirty and pitch in. I mean, everyone can learn how to paint! Complete Plumbing – Install internal taps, mixers, shower fittings and screens, and toilets. You’ll also need to finish the spouting and fix external taps. Complete Electrical – Fit all light fixtures, outlets, and light switches. Any other electrical devices are also installed at this time (climate controls, telecom installations, etc.) Complete Carpentry – Hang room and cabinet doors and drawers. Window sills, wood skirting, and moulding are attached to the walls. Complete Flooring – Floating timber floors, carpets, or vinyl laminates are laid. All that’s left now is to clean up, lay down the driveway, and move in!

So many stages and only so much money. Owner builders often begin this quest in the hopes of saving a dollar or two (hopefully tens of thousands of them), but it’s always tough to know when to cut corners and when to stay the course and shell out some clams for quality. In the next post of this series we’ll give you some pointers on both the right and wrong ways to trim expenses while building your own home.

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