John’s Advice: What Are the Ten Most Common Home Building Mistakes?

Friday, March 1, 2019

The top ten mistakes made by self builders

After a lifetime of building homes, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing hundreds of projects fulfil their owner’s wildest dreams. I’ve also witnessed people fall foul of mistakes which cause their dreams to crumble before them.

Some are seemingly insignificant, some should be common sense – either way these are the ten common mistakes which can undermine the foundations of a project and waste time, money and effort.

1: Starting without a master plan

Many people start on small-scale renovations without considering the full implications for the house as a whole and the budget required. It’s easy to contract a partial repair, such as a having a door mended, but when the builder comes on site the project may start to expand.

Rarely can significant work be done one area without affecting another, or the change you make may no longer sit well with the rest of the house, causing you to want to pursue further alterations. Before you know it, you’re working without a plan, and things start going wrong.

Failure to plan may also result in failure to research and notify the relevant local authorities. Over the years I’ve met many clients who have started work on a project only to find out halfway through that planning permission is denied, or they never bothered requesting it in the first place. Working with an experienced architect can help you avoid any nasty surprises down the line.

2: Undervaluing your property

Whenever undergoing any property-related endeavour, it’s wise to understand the property market. You may want to disregard the world around you and build a house only suitable for yourself, but considering how to make your property sellable in the future is essential in protecting your investment.

Life changes no matter how certain our plans. If a few years pass and you find yourself needing to sell you don’t want to find you’ve inadvertently decreased the value of your investment. Those two bedrooms you converted into a living room may have granted you extra space, but at the cost of making your house unavailable to families.

It’s a delicate balance between enjoying your daily life while maximising resale value, so seek advice from your architect on how to design your perfect home without compromising its future potential value.

3: Only thinking short-term

It’s tempting to build or modify a house to satisfy our immediate needs, but if you haven’t considered how the space will be used in the future you may find yourself torn between your dream home and your dream life. You want to keep the two united for as long as you can, so think ahead to make the design adaptable to the changes you expect.

Can your home accommodate any children you may want? Will it be able to cope with the strain of them growing inside its walls? Are there disabled or elderly relatives or friends you want to be able to visit in comfort and safety?

People are living longer than ever, so if you plan on staying in your house through your golden years, consider where you place your bedrooms and showers and whether you may need lifts installed. Share your dreams and lifestyle with your architect so they can advise on how to future proof your home.

4: Skimping on the design to save money

You may consider design fees an unnecessary cost and feel capable of working with builders directly to save money. This is particularly common with those operating on the limited budget.

However, the truth is the best advice is more valuable when you have less to spend. Someone with deep pockets can afford to make mistakes, while if you have one shot you need to make that first attempt the last. You want to achieve exactly what you want the first time and to the highest level possible within your budget.

Hiring an expert means you can plan the whole project in advance and reduce the costs of hiring suppliers and contractors – ultimately saving you time and money while avoiding potentially disastrous errors. Remember that a registered architect provides the also necessary insurance to protect your property.

5: Not asking the architect to save you money

I don’t need to tell you that it’s an architect’s job to be skilled at planning and design. What you may not have considered is how those skills can be applied to your project to reduce costs both over both the short and long term.

You may be low in space and determined to have a costly extension added to your house, while an experienced architect will look at space differently. They may see that your existing structure is poorly planned and provide you additional space without having to add to the property. Most people don’t need more space; they need more intelligent use of space.

You should also ask how money can be saved for you long term. There have been great advancements in sustainable design, materials and technology over the past years which mean that new builds have ongoing maintenance and running costs simply unachievable by older structures.

Many people forget to include the long term costs in their budget, so plan carefully with your architect how your design today could save you money tomorrow.

6: Trying to estimate prices from planning designs

The designs you submit to the council to be granted planning permission are primarily concerned with the exterior of the building and only provide a basic sense of the entire structure.

These documents should not be submitted to builders in order to estimate prices, as incomplete information will inform only vague estimates. This will lead to the incorrect items and materials being delivered and on-site changes to the design, making you vulnerable to ballooning prices and delays.

Make sure you’re working from thoroughly prepared designs from your architect detailing every material from the foundations up to the roof and everything in between, from tiles to tap fittings.

7: Impatience

Every client I meet is eager to have their project completed, and every architect understands that the wait for moving into your new home can be agonising, but patience is essential in making that home exactly what you want it to be.

Take your time at every stage and give yourself room to change your mind. A project needs to be able to adapt to your desires, which can often transform through the process.

Changes are far easier to implement before the concrete hardens. By giving the project the space it needs to grow, the end result will be a home you can love for a lifetime.

8: Not hiring suitable specialists

As covered in my previous blog, there are many factors to choosing the right architect for your project. After whether or not they are registered, the most important consideration is whether they are specialised for type of build you require.

This extends to everyone who is working on your project. Specialists will cost more, but if you want to cut costs by hiring Jack-of-all-trades then expect lower quality results after multiple delays as they try and familiarise themselves with the work on the go, or force incompatible methods onto your build.

An architect who specialises in homes will also know the relevant specialists for all aspects of the project, so hiring the right person from the start is the first step in ensuring you have the best minds in charge at every stage.

9: Not stating budget accurately

Most people understate their building budgets. If your budget is not clearly stated then there will be difficulties and delays for you and your architect.

An architect designs precisely to the budget you’ve give them – down to the decimal. If you understate the amount you’re willing to invest in a project, you may end up with a design you’re not satisfied with.

Adding more funds halfway through a project may seem like a good idea, but as the design is so thoroughly intertwined with the budget, more money to play with just means more work and delays. Plan a concrete budget with your architect and make sure it is set before the design phase is complete.

10: Not understanding quality and value

Only an elite few can simply ask for what they want regardless of cost and even the wealthiest client still wants to maximise their value. Spend time with your architect to determine what level of quality and finishing detail you can afford to avoid any disappointments.

Prices can vary massively on relatively minor details. Prioritise your spending on the aspects of the design most important to you, where you want only the best materials and where function is more valuable than form.

Would you rather invest extra funds into the bathroom or the kitchen? Are there alternative materials which can provide the same look and feel for a fraction of the cost? Is something that seems expensive now actually cost effective in the long run?

It is very important that you know exactly the right level of quality and value you want to achieve in each zone of the house.

Want to give your project the best possible start? Talk to us

Mistakes can start adding up from the moment you decide to tackle a home building project. With our guidance, you can make your dream home a reality without losing time and money to amateur mistakes.

Get in touch with us now at [email protected] or 020 3918 2789.

John Dyer-Grimes