7 Costly Mistakes: 6

Posted on July 5th, 2019

6. Trying to do it yourself

One of my earliest clients wanted to save some money so decided that he would do all his painting. Bear in mind that my normal painting crew comes in, complete all the preparation, masks off, paint and clean up, all in two weeks.

Well, this client took all his annual leave over Christmas and worked tirelessly from sunrise to sunset and sometimes later, for almost four weeks. When he’d finished he was back to work, absolutely shattered and with no more leave due for another year.

While he did get the satisfaction of doing it himself, it was a long time before he had the energy to be able to enjoy it. Even though he got a good deal on his paint it still fell short of trade discounts, and once he tallied it all up he calculated that he’d made a net saving of around $1,400. This didn’t take into account that he had to pay another two weeks rent because the job took longer.

You may figure out early on that it’s a false economy to do any of the physical work yourself, and then go on to ponder the idea of saving money by project managing the job instead. After all, how hard can it be? You can use project management software and you’re smarter than the owners that are on Grand Designs. No way you’ll make any of the mistakes they make.

I’ve had to pick up the pieces more than once when the owners have made the decision to manage their home build themselves. The cycle typically starts with “we’ll get a cheaper builder plus he’ll be able to organise the subbies”. Does that make sense? One of the key people in the project is now being underpaid and expected to do more work.

Let’s do a simple calculation: labour typically makes up around 8-10% of the cost of the building. You manage to find a builder for 5% cheaper, that’s a 5% saving of 10% of the total cost which calculates out to be a 0.5% saving overall. This is roughly half the cost of the 7-8 weeks rent you have had to pay because of delays caused by subcontractors not being on-site when expected.

Things do go wrong on building sites and even with the best planning, unexpected things do happen. It takes experience to pre-empt these events and then work out the best solution.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen some building sites turn pretty septic when owners begin accusing subcontractors of messing up and demanding they pay to get it rectified. The worst I’ve witnessed is when an owner lined all the subcontractors up and demanded to know who scratched the bathtub and “no-one will leave until I find out or I will be deducting the cost of a new bath from everyone’s bill!” You can imagine the rest!

I have had a similar situation in one of my jobs where there was a scratch in the bath. I found out when the electrician rang me to say he’d dropped his screwdriver. It was annoying and I’m sure my language was a little colourful but it was potentially an expensive problem that needed to be solved.

I’m lucky because over time I have created a really good team of subbies and suppliers that are loyal and all work well together, unlike a one-off job where a lot of the subbies don’t know each other and there is little likelihood of repeat business.

Back to the bath: we ended up replacing it but the plumber didn’t charge for his time, the tiler had to redo some work so he came in at night, the supplier gave me a new bath at cost and, as it happens, one of the other subcontractors was doing up a rental property and needed a bath, so she bought the scratched bath.

Good builders generally have a good team of reliable suppliers and subcontractors that are used to be working together. Good relationships between builders and subcontractors usually mean little issues get sorted quickly and without costing the earth.

I was once told, “if you want an expensive job, employ an amateur.”


Tips & Advice

  • Doing it yourself can be a false economy.
  • An experienced builder is more likely to have a good pool of suppliers and subcontractors to ensure the building project runs smoothly.

The Homeworx Quality Standard

Homeworx has a dedicated site supervisor who is responsible for quality control and coordination of suppliers and subcontractors. This ensures that site issues are resolved early and your building project will run on time and to budget.