How to take the tension out of your building project

Building projects generally are not easy to get right, so it’s important to set the right framework from the start.

Proper planning is the key to getting a project done on time and close to budget, and that hinges on laying some basic foundations.

You can take some of the stress out of your project, whether you are renovating or creating something from scratch, by following these six tips.

1. Pick your design 

The first thing you need to do to turn your dream into reality is decide on the best design, regardless of whether it’s a renovation or you’re building a home.

If it’s a relatively simple renovation in a contained area with no obvious complications, you can use a drafting firm or even find a builder with access to drafting services.

With more ambitious projects, it’s best to use a properly qualified architect who can give you plans and detailed costings. Some may even offer to manage your project.

Master Builders Association NSW Executive Director Brian Seidler says, “Getting detailed specifications from your architect or draughtsperson will enable you to cost the job more precisely and help your builder avoid potentially expensive assumptions about materials.”

2. Set a realistic budget

Be sure you have a clear reason for renovating or building a new home and are confident you won’t over-capitalise. 

Once your ideas are mapped out and you can see the scope of the project, you need to work to an overall budget with your architect or draughtsperson. 

Stress test your budget, as ideas change and problems arise and you need to make room for variations in the expected cost. Remember to allow for over-runs.

3. Talk to a number of builders

Make sure you get a number of quotes. 

“It’s important that you check everyone’s qualifications through the Fair Trading website in your state by simply entering their licence numbers,” Mr Seidler says. “You also need to ensure they have the proper insurance.”

A telling sign of a good builder—apart from the cost—is one who will provide a draft schedule of work. The one with the clearest idea of how the job will progress usually will be best for you. And always ask questions. No question is too silly. 

4. Know who’s boss

It’s critical you’re clear about who will manage the job. If you’re leaving most of it to the builder, you will need to trust they will consult you before making decisions. 

“On a big job, it may be worthwhile employing an independent project manager,” Mr Seidler says. 

If you’re not managing the job yourself, you should have a schedule of the jobs and who will be on site, and a detailed budget that includes accurate costings for materials, labour, council fees and payments for the trades and builder.

If you want to do the project management yourself, you’ll have to be prepared to be on site most days and have a good contact list of tradespeople. 

5. Keep to a schedule

Few things are more frustrating than waiting for paperwork or materials to arrive.

You can ensure the project runs smoothly by getting the local council paperwork sorted out well ahead of time. 

Check delivery schedules of materials early so that you can work out contingency plans with your builder for work in other areas if there are hold ups.

6. Be a good communicator

“Good communication is essential to getting the most out of the relationship with your builder and getting the best outcome,” Mr Seidler says.

You will be your own worst enemy if your management style frustrates your tradespeople or builder through poor communication, excessive demands or frequent changes.

If you really need to change the way things are being done, make sure you talk it through clearly and openly with the people doing the work. Be firm but polite, as indecision won’t be respected.

Unless you’re specifically asked, get out of the way and let the tradespeople do their job.

Managing the relationship with your builder may require some compromise. But if you’re properly prepared, the pressure will be easier to handle and you’ll end up with a much better result. 

We’re here to help

Remember, AMP can help you with your finances around renovating or building a new home. You can use our budget planner calculator before and during your project. Or if you’d like to talk with a financial adviser about your plans call us on 131 267 or find an adviser.

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© AMP Life Limited. This provides general information and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account. It’s important to consider your particular circumstances before deciding what’s right for you. Although the information is from sources considered reliable, AMP does not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. You should not rely upon it and should seek qualified advice before making any investment decision. Except where liability under any statute cannot be excluded, AMP does not accept any liability (whether under contract, tort or otherwise) for any resulting loss or damage of the reader or any other person.