Wednesday 19 February 2014

Project Owner Build - Pre start

For those that may be considering your own owner build renovation or have just wondered whats involved I thought I would share some of the details. We are still in the pre-start stage of our first ever major owner build project, it seems to be taking forever but as a wise person once said "those who fail to plan, plan to fail"

Whilst our little house isn't our forever home, it is our "for the next 10 years" home so we really want to get it right first time round. Is that going to happen? Probably not (I'm a realist) but we are hoping to get bloody close.

I am quite certain that we haven't done things the same way others in our position have done but here is a (abbreviated) rundown of what we have done to come to this point.

Initial meeting with the building designer- to discuss design ideas, space requirements and our super long wish list

First draft sketches- We are so lucky that our building designer nailed it first go on drawing up exactly what we wanted so there was no need to go back and forth with major changes

Consultation with a building estimator- Engaging a building estimator who specialises in owner build projects to estimate the total cost of the project. This was a smart move as this gave as a pretty good idea about our budget and if what we had come up with the building designer was realistic for the outer limits of what we wanted to spend. If you are thinking about going down this route and you are inexperienced in major build works then I would recommend this to you.

Engaging a surveyor- We needed to get a full contour survey done to finalise the building plans in order to submit to council.

Submit to council for planning approval-(This probably varies from state to state and country to country) If you have a good building designer, they should organise most of the paperwork for you including the incorporation of survey data and any justifications required if the build falls outside the scope of general planning rules.

Applying for finance- This might seem easier than you might think, for us it meant moving to another financial institution and a frantic few days to make our house look as nice as possible for a valuer to take a look. We have been lucky enough that our property value has increased enough that refinancing is an option for us. ****How much you think you can get is something to seriously consider before you even start with your building designer.

Applying for your owners builders licence- Again this will vary from state to state and country to country. We were able to sit a online course to gain certification which only took a few hours. This was very useful as the course provides a lot of helpful information about scheduling, budgets and contracts that really is need to know. Can you believe it I have my very own Owner building licence!

Yes it totally said this on my certificate... I haven't altered it in any way....

Engaging an Engineer- Once you have planning approval, your finished drawings and a budget the engineer needs to have a look to draw up your working drawings. This is how you are going to put the whole thing together, make sure it's all up to code and won't fall in around you once its built.

Submit to council for building approval- Once you have this approval in theory you can get started whenever you like (whoohoo)

While this has all been going on, in the background the hubs has been quietly going about getting quotes for all the trades and materials we need. This alone is a post of it's own as it is a huge task to undertake when you are starting from scratch.

I have recently discovered This Little Yellow House and The Jarrah Jungle fellow DIY renovators so there are plenty of us out there if you would like to check them out for some inspiration.

Have you started your own build project? Or do you plan too in the near future??

** Next up we will be talking tradies, quotes and getting ready for demolition

Dani xo


  1. Exciting, sometimes stressful days ahead! Stay focused on the final outcome and don't choose trendy tiles! Good luck ��

    1. Thanks Annette, would you believe our last renno project was ripping out our only bathroom when I was 8 months pregnant?! I'm hoping that if we could survive that doozy we will blitz this one (the power of positive thinking!)

  2. That's great you are able to go owner builder, you certainly sound super organised so hoping it all goes really smoothly for you! I draw up house plans in my 'spare time', always a good feeling when you get your clients wish-list just right the first time. Looking forward to seeing your reno updates :-)

    1. Thanks Bec, we are very fortunate that our designer is also a very old friend who knows us quite well I can imagine you must get some very challenging clients at times. I am really looking forward to posting some updates of our progress.

  3. I'd love to do a reno but I don't think we have the time or energy. Good for you. I look forward to following the progress of yours. Kind of like a vicarious reno experience.

  4. We had our house built about 12 years ago (we didn't try to manage it ourselves) and I totally loved the process! If it was up to me I would build a new house every few years just for fun. My only advice is to get EVERYTHING in writing. A conversation with someone about a change or a detail can unexpectedly cost thousands. Write it down, details and agreed cost and have the person and you sign it. My sister is building a house right now and has had to fire her contractor and will probably end up in court to get it all sorted out. In the end a beautiful addition, redo, or new build can be a wonderful experience and it looks like you are really on top of the process. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!

  5. This post is so helpful thank you for sharing! We are thinking about building on the back of our block as its a retain the house at the front (that we have nearly finished renovating!) and build at the back project. It will be a first time building and Im sure we are going to have a zillion questions so Im now following along with you so I can learn all I can from your build!!
    Im always happy to find a fellow WA blogger too as our homes are so different to those in other parts of Australia and the world. Pretty sure we are the only ones who double brick build our homes for a start which makes renovating and demolition that much harder to do!
    Thanks also for your sweet mention ... likewise if I can offer any renovating advice fire away :)

  6. Thanks Michelle! I agree western Australian homes are very different to homes anywhere else in the world, different design ethos, lifestyle requirements, construction materials. So pleased you found the info useful, I struggled to find much on owner builds and rennos in Australia myself which is why I especially appreciate your blog and was motivated to do a series on our own journey. Fingers crossed now all goes smoothly and we don't scare everyone else off from doing it themselves!


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