Kamis, 04 November 2010

Step 1 - Learn and develop construction skills

Decide how much of the actual construction you wish to do yourself.

Issues to consider include:

   - Assessment and development of your skills.  You should have already built some items before you set out to build a house that you are going to live in.  Save money and develop your skill by renovating an old house while you live in it.  Build a garage or storage shed to gain a feel for your ability and insight into the construction process.

   - Local regulatory and code requirements.  If building in a municipality, there may be very little work that you can perform without the appropriate certifications.  Certain other trades like plumbing and electrical are heavily protected in most areas.  The most important step is to know the rules before you start ( or buy land ).

   - Cost of raw materials vs. installation costs.  Contractors can install some items for less than you can buy the materials for.  You can start pricing construction materials and shopping for contractors years ahead of the time you are ready to start construction.   That's the best way to know what a good deal is as well as have realistic expectations for cost.

   - Time.  Decide how much time you can invest ... and how much you can get from friends and family.

Here's my personal experience:

   My grandpa built the house that my dad grew up in, and my dad built the house that I grew up in, and that's why I wanted to keep the family trend going.  My dad was a great resource to tell me all the things I did wrong when I built an 8X12 pump shed in the backyard.   Later, he taught me how to pour a slab when we built a 14X22 garage together.   I also did work on whatever house I was living in then, anything from patching the roof to patching holes in drywall.  Finally, I have a degree in Aerospace Engineering and several of my classes focused on structural analysis.  So, I always felt comfortable designing a solid structure.  I'd say you either have a knack for it or you should hire an architect.

   I was lucky to have some land given that was suitable for construction by an owner-builder.  The land was out in a rural county in Texas that did not require building permits or have code enforcement.  The only permits I had to get were for the septic wastewater.  I was free to do as much of the other construction as I wanted.
   When I started pricing materials and getting quotes from contractors, I was surprised that it was cheaper to pay a contractor to come in and do a trade than it was for me to buy the materials at retail and do it myself.  Specifically, I would never consider doing insulation, masonry, or drywall myself.  To save money, I did always keep an eye out for cheap used lumber, re-bar, pipe, or anything else that I could acquire and store for years before my construction start date.   Be careful, you can't use "used" materials in an area that must pass code inspections, and obviously you only want stuff in sound condition.

   As you will see in the videos, I did a lot of work in the evenings and weekends while I was also working full time at a desk job.  I did everything I could ahead of time until I got laid off one day.  That's when I started actual construction.  It took about 18 months of full time work to build an 1800 sq ft house, but it would have taken much longer if I hadn't hired contractors for several of the trades.   In retrospect, the process would have gone much faster if I weren't so slow, or if I had hired an assistant, especially for framing.  If you do hire someone, be sure you have appropriate insurance.

As you can see from the video, there's not much to work with out there:

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