So you’ve finally found a plot of land to build on. Your Pinterest board is full of inspirational images, your architect has submitted plans for permission and contractors are tendering for the build package. You’re over the trickiest bit, right? Not even close.
Even the most experienced contractors and architects come up against it sometimes. No project ever runs 100% smoothly from start to finish. There could be budget issues, cashflow problems, materials shortages, labour challenges, disagreements, weather delays, unexpected excavation issues, the list goes on. A successful project isn’t one without problems, it’s one where the problems are handled efficiently and effectively by the design and build team.
By the time you get to the end of the project, the expectation is that you’ll be sitting pretty in your new fabulous home, marvelling at the finished result and enjoying your surroundings. So why is it that most self builders say NEVER AGAIN when it comes to building their own home?
Here are the ten most common regrets of the self builders…
- They didn’t budget adequately for the unexpected. It’s sadly so common that towards the end of a build, the homeowners realise they’re not going to be able to afford to furnish their new lovely house the way they wanted to. Issues arising during the build stage swallowed up their contingency and they are left with their old furniture from their previous home, a cheaper kitchen than they wanted and likely living without window treatments or landscaping until they can set some more money aside to finish the project (which could take years…)
- Neighbours were ignored and now they’re being nosey.. When undertaking any work on your property, particularly a large scale build with noisy machinery, muddy access points and early morning drilling, you have to get your neighbours on side first (or you’ll pay for it later..). Imagine putting all that time and effort into building your dream home, only to have to sell it a year later because your neighbours have become intolerable. BEFORE work commences, pop round to your neighbours with a little gift to say sorry for the inconvenience. Keep them in the loop of any schedule changes throughout the build and then invite them round for dinner to have a look at the finished article upon completion.
- The house isn’t future proof. If you’re commencing a build with primary school aged children, you have to factor in that by the time the project is complete, they’ll be nearer the age where playrooms full of lego are obsolete and what they really need is a space to do homework and have a group of friends round to watch movies and game. When designing your new home, take into account how old the family will be upon completion and what needs they will have for their life stages.
- Unsuitable materials were chosen because they look nice (when they’re clean..) So your Pinterest board is full of images of open plan kitchens with limestone floors leading out onto the terrace through sliding doors. BUT you’re also the proud owner of 2 mucky spaniels that love to run in and out of the garden, treading footprints around your once gleaming floor and dirtying the grout lines. Oh dear.
- Trades didn’t communicate with each other on the end result (and you ‘saved’ some money by project managing yourself…) Imagine spending weeks choosing the right show stopping pendant light to hang above your dining table. You’re excited to see it in situ after the electricians have finished, but when you arrive on site, you notice that you now have a big ugly white plastic MVHR vent slightly off centre to the pendant in your sightline, ruining your view.
- Running costs come as a shock. It’s likely that the architect talked you through the benefits of renewables, but if you’re still on mains consumables then it can come as quite a shock when those bills start dropping through the letterbox. The bigger the house, the bigger the energy usage. Being mindful of how many lights, sockets and appliances you are installing is crucial to avoid soaring energy bills.
- Compromising can cause chaos. Setting your terms for what compromises you’re willing to make BEFORE the build commences is crucial, particularly with your spouse. You may well think it’s ok to compromise on the quality of the sanitary ware going in the bathrooms so you can spend a bit extra on AV, but perhaps a clawfoot Water Monopoly bathtub is your partners non-negotiable.
- Misunderstanding advantageous advice.. Be mindful that some contractors will try and upsell you on their products and services. You may even say, ‘well we’re doing it anyway so we might as well’. Sound familiar? AV contractors are particularly notorious for this. You budgeted for 4 sonos speakers and now you have 12 plastered in ceiling speakers, a sound bar recessed into the wall and floor standing speakers in each corner of the room…
- Lacklustre layout. Often when architects draw up a floor plan, they drop in standard sized furniture CAD blocks to depict the basic layout for each room. More often than not, not much time is spent on these furniture layouts and with a detailed design brief and some more time, could be dramatically improved. Unfortunately by the time the homeowners have realised this, the build work is well underway and things like sockets and switches, first fix lighting and all the plumbing has been installed already. To start moving layouts around would cause site delays, escalating costs and grumpy contractors, so the homeowners just live with it.
- Decision fatigue. When overwhelmed with choice, we often end up reverting to the easiest option. Why paint everything white when you have a whole rainbow to choose from? Decision fatigue. You have the tilers asking you which tiles to use and what pattern you would like them laid in. The decorators want to know every colour for every surface, including skirtings, architraves, walls and ceilings. The carpenters need to know what configuration you would like your fitted wardrobes in. You also have to decide on furniture, lighting, accessories, appliances, ironmongery, doors, windows, soft furnishings, artwork, landscaping (you get the picture..)
So after all that, some of you may be asking if building your own home is worth all the stress. Well I want to reassure you that it absolutely is. The greatest gift you can give to yourself is a home, tailored to your needs and tastes that grows with your family.
Then how do you avoid these most common regrets? Make a defined plan, do your research, speak to other self builders, read interior design blogs, ask lots of questions and be brave with your decisions. If you still feel daunted by the whole process, ensure you invest in a good design team to support you through the project. Life is too short for regrets!
For more design tips and to see what we’re working on, find Studio JQ on social media @thestudiojq