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Are you really committed to the idea?

Be honest with yourself

You need to be really honest with yourself about what you are good at and what you're not good at.  Are you good with your hands?  Have you built stuff in the past such as a chest of draws or a model railway or a shed in the yard?  Did you enjoy the experience or was it a total chore?


Questions to ask yourself

Are you motivated to create?

Don't worry too much if you have not enjoyed doing all the maintenance chores about the house.  Nobody likes doing maintenance tasks.  Building a house is a "creation" activity and you will find a hole different set of motivations kick in to spur you on relative to a "maintenance" type activity.  I hate maintenance, but I love to create.  Creating things gets me out of bed in the morning, but maintenance makes me pull the covers up over my head, go back to sleep, and generally procrastinate.

Are you physically fit?

I have spent most of my working life sitting in a chair writing software or spec documents (both at work and at home) and it was certainly an adjustment starting doing manual labor.  Every muscle in my body ached.  Luckily the pain passed over the months and it got easier.

Are you safe?

Even aside from the fitness aspects, you need to be really careful not to get injured.  Obviously getting injured is bad for lots of reasons, but additionally it can significantly delay or completely derail your house building project.  Paying someone to take over the building task if you can no longer carry on may not be affordable given that building your own house is probably half the cost of getting someone else to build you a house.  The building inspector will expect things to be finished as per the original submitted plans before being willing to sign off the house as habitable.  You may get left with a pile of materials, and a large hole in the ground in your yard, rather than a house to live in.  You absolutely need to think safety all the time and avoid taking risks.  You will find when you're up on the roof that you are tempted to reach just a little further to get one last screw in without having to move the ladder, but you need to resist this temptation.  Safety is really important.

Are you able to do project management?

I do software project management in my day job, so this was not too much of a stretch for me, but even I had to impose lots of organizational structure to what I needed to get done.  If you know that you tend to be not well organized, and you cannot correct that attribute, then think about whether there is someone that can help you.  Perhaps your spouse is no good at working with their hands but actually is very organized and can help you like that.

Are you willing to learn?

House building is actually a very technical business.  It involves lots of thinking about things such as building science.  Sometimes it is done by non technical people, but they do it by following pre-established practices.  Either way there's a lot of learning to do if you have never built a house before.  Even if you think of your own way to do something, you will still need to do the research to find out if it will meet building code.  I put lots of effort into learning when I embarked on this project, and most of what I have learnt I have tried to make available to others via this web site.

Are you able to motivate yourself?

Motivation is extremely important in any activity.  A motivated person is something like 5 times more productive compared with an unmotivated person.  In this case we are talking about you motivating yourself, but the principles are the same as trying to motivate someone else.  You need to get excited about what you are doing.  You need to spur yourself on to achievable goals (like getting the roof tiling finished by the end of the weekend), but you need to avoid setting yourself unachievable goals or you will just get de-motivated if you are continuously failing to meet those goals.  Also try to keep thinking about the benefits of building your own house, such as the huge amount of money you are saving and the fact that you are getting exactly what you want in a house.

Do you have staying power?

It's fairly easy to be motivated when things are going well, but it's all too easy to give up when the going gets tough.  Rest assured that you will have some bad days.  Somehow you have to keep yourself motivated on the bad days.  Personally I tend to be fairly optimistic and that optimism carries me through.  Will your optimism carry you through?


Consider a test project?

A miniature building

Before starting to build your actual house, if it's practical, it may be worth having a go at a small evaluation building using the same design principles and practices that you will use on the main house.  Typically your locally planning authority will let you build a small building without a planning permit provided you stay under the limits they define.  In my area we are allowed to build a "shed" where shed is defined as a single story building that is less than 200 square feet and is not used for parking your car or living in.  I opted for a "shed" using the same spec as the main house.  Even though it's only 192 square feet (measured on the outside wall dimensions) it has the exact same foundation design as for the main house.  It's one of the few sheds in the world that is built of concrete and has walls that are 20 inches thick!

Still need to follow the rules

Even though you don't need a permit for a building as described above, you do still need to conform to all the building codes.  There won't be formal inspections during the build process, but the planning department does have the right to inspect the building at some future time and if it does not conform they can require it to be torn down.  Also you are required to conform to all the setback distances.  In my case I located the shed 65 feet, plus a couple of extra safety feet, from the top of a steep slope.

The objective

My objective in building a small evaluation building before the main house was two fold.  Certainly it let me evaluate the material and design choices I planned to use on the main house, but also it let me evaluate myself.  If it had turned out that I really hated construction, or that I was just plain not capable of doing it, then I figured it was best to find that out before embarking on the full house building project.  If you follow the various steps described in this web site then you probably don't need to evaluate the building material choices, but you do still need to evaluate yourself.  You don't need to build yourself a concrete shed, but it might not be a bad idea to build the garage for your new house ahead of starting the actual house, so that at least you have an opportunity to back out before you are over committed.  Even before starting work on the concrete shed, I worked up to it by doing various other construction tasks about the place.


This web page may well have put you off the whole idea of building your own house, but if it hasn't then click the right arrow below to go to the next step.