Episode 104: Designing and Building My Forever Home – Part 3 – How I Managed the Build

In this episode of the podcast, part 3 of this three-part series on how Frances designed and built her Forever Home, this episode explores how Frances managed the build of her home.

She outlines how she did it, what she’d do differently, and the opportunity cost of project managing your own build.


Tender process

Usually, building designers will manage the tendering process. This means that they are responsible for engaging with the builders, sending out all the tender documentation and specifications, reviewing the quotes, and liaising with the builders throughout the process with queries and follow-up.

Frances managed the whole tendering process for her build.

  • She engaged with the builders to check availability, gauging their interest and arranging site visits to see previous work.
  • She also liaised with the builders to manage expectations on turnaround of the quote and answered any queries.

All builders quote differently, so it was up to Frances to check what was in and out of each quote to form a consistent comparison

Frances created a spreadsheet so that she could make a clear comparison about what was in and not in the quote.

Build Process

For the Forever Home, the builder they used was one they had worked with in the past at their previous home. It was also decided that Frances would manage the build from the ‘Lockup’ stage as she had her own tradespeople, (her builder and her shared many trades), and then the builder would come back at the end for fit off.

As she had a good relationship with the builder, and he knew how meticulous and organized she was, he agreed to go down this path with her, but he also challenged her and told her if she was going to manage the ‘Lock up’ phase, that she won’t be in by the deadline of Christmas 2014, but Frances is determined and moved into the house prior to Christmas of that year!

Once everything had been roughed in and plaster was in, Frances then managed all the trades that came in after that.

    • Tiler, cabinet maker, caulker, painter, electrician, stonemason, garage doors, range hood installation, shower screens, delivery of all supplies, plus the landscaper and pool people.
  • She was on site every day to check progress, manage to change schedules, and answer queries. Each day there was something else that changed, and the schedule was a moving beast due to supply delays with trades, equipment, and one small change had a huge knock-on effect for other trades and their schedules with all their projects..

Why did Frances manage the project?

  • She had the right contacts.
  • Her skill set and experience gave her the confidence to do it.
  • To save money as she was not paying a builder’s margin on top of all trades.

However, the stakes were much higher as she was building her own ‘Forever Home’.

  • The finish had to be higher
  • It represented her business and the work she can do – an example of what she can achieve for her clients
  • A sustainability showcase

The ‘costs’ of managing the build herself

  • It was difficult for Frances to work on her business as normal as she was required daily on-site.
  • Managing multiple trades could sometimes lead to grey areas on who was doing what.
  • She had to consider the opportunity cost as she was not able to work on her own business.
  • Stress, the long days, and the toll on her family
  • It involves a lot of negotiation- even after the builder was back on-site, Frances was still negotiating with the builder and landscaper for access, and timings for driveway pour, etc.

Things that she would have done differently:

  • It is easy to make rash decisions on-site when stress levels are high.
  • If she had her time over, Frances would have been stricter with her builder and insisted on the finish being as per plan, and not the easier option. She should have stuck to her guns. Some compromises made she regrets are;
    • Mitered edges on all the windows in the ensuite – not some.
    • Cut of the shower waste not matching with the grout line.
    • Plumbing for shower not in the right location. She couldn’t get more tiles in the same batch, so she had to live with it.

Other changes she would make if building again;-

  • Square set door frames – no architraves
  • She would get an architect to oversee the building project and manage the builder.
  • Not manage a build again
  • Her partner would have a smaller house, but Frances feels that they use every single room in their home, so it’s a well-used space, on a daily basis.
  • There were many decisions they wanted to make, that were not possible then, but if building today they could achieve more given access to current technology, knowledge, or supplies.
  • Would not go with their own advice about not having shade provision for east-facing windows.
  • Learning: Make sure that you have got the right people working for you and that they really know about what they do.
  • Would have gone for dispensation to have higher ceilings in the kids’ bedrooms and have larger kids’ rooms.
    • Key takeaways:

Find the right people for your build or renovation project

  • They need to understand what you want
  • You need to have a great relationship with your renovation or new build team

Resources available:

Unsure how to find the right people for your renovation or new build?

Download this FREE guide- How to Find your Renovation or New Build Team as this gives you the checklist and process on how you find the right people for your team.

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A Floor Plan Sanity Check™ can reduce the need for major structural changes down the line and save you thousands.
Find out more and book directly here  – https://www.whitepebbleinteriors.com.au/floor-plan-sanity-check-booking-form/

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