Is it Cheaper to Build Your Own Home?

Written by jane smith
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Many people dream of the day when they become homeowners. It is challenging to build a home yourself, but it can be done. You will need time to dedicate to the project, and you will have to be especially careful to follow all safety recommendations. Costs will vary, as local ordinances may affect the type of construction and materials permitted in your area. In some communities with particularly strict zoning regulations, only licensed, bonded professionals may perform certain tasks. This will affect your bottom line very quickly. The personal satisfaction of building much of your new home yourself is priceless.

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History

Only in modern times have people relied on others to provide shelter. Caves, stone piles, willow withes, and even simple canvas has been used even in the harshest climates. There are few places today where one can simply move into an area and claim a piece of land for one's own use. Credit is no longer as readily available as it has been in the past. Pull together a reasonable down payment, however, and it is possible to obtain properties that formerly sold for £97,500 for as little as £16,250.

Considerations

Building your own home takes time, especially if you are learning skills as you build. Basic wiring and plumbing, framing and carpentry, masonry and painting are the most needed skills. Learn what the various tools are and their uses, and be careful to follow safety procedures such as wearing a hard hat, eye protection and gloves when working.

If you are going to build your home as a weekend project--and wish to keep costs down to a minimum--consider using a resale store such as the Habitat Restore when buying building materials. Habitat Restore gets donations of leftover construction materials and sells them at discounted prices. You will have to be vigilant, though, to get items you need as they arrive. It is best to get a storage unit or use your garage to collect materials before beginning your project. You will need plumbing materials such as lengths of PVC pipe of various diameter, fittings, wrenches, and sealants. Look for fuse boxes, junction boxes and wiring, including CAT5 cable for computer networking. Collect sheet rock, plywood sheathing, joint compound, paint, screws and nails, as well as paint sprayers, brushes, nail guns and hammers.

You can get some building materials free by using online groups such as Freecycle. Freecycle is a Yahoo group in which members list items they have that they no longer want and give them away free. It is possible to obtain wood, wiring, plumbing materials, tools and roofing material. This will keep costs to a minimum.

Once you have collected building materials, you will need to decide how large the home should be in order to maximise heating and cooling efficiency. A house in a hot climate needs sun shutters, stone or ceramic tile floors, and it should have adequate cross ventilation in the form of horizontal windows. In cold climates, windows should be long and narrow to take advantage of available sunlight. Be sure to insulate well, and seal doors and windows to prevent heat loss.

Expert Insight

Have a plumbing contractor and an electrical contractor inspect your home before connecting your utilities. Running electric lines is fairly simple, but many amateur electricians have wired switches upside down, crossed live and ground wires, or failed to use wiring capable of carrying the necessary load. A small gas or water leak can cause you to lose everything.

Geography

Make sure your project is not in a flood plain before you begin. Call your local utility companies to be sure there are no underground cables or water lines that you might damage. Check drainage and be careful not to change anything that will adversely affect your neighbours. Be sure to dig down to bedrock before pouring your foundation, and get an inspector out to the property for approval before digging any septic lines.

Misconceptions

Many people forget to check with their local zoning commission, or they fail to obtain necessary permits and licenses before beginning a project. There may be covenants regarding square footage, number of stories, frontage, offsets, materials and methods...especially in areas prone to floods, hurricanes or earthquakes. Public safety concerns must be observed, such as providing covered walkways, warning signs and lights if your project extends over the sidewalk or into the street. You may need permission to block traffic, and you may have to secure police or other local authorities to direct traffic around your project site. You may also need liability insurance in case a pedestrian is injured due to your project.

If you collect as much free building material as possible, run most of your plumbing and wiring yourself before having it inspected by a licensed contractor, and follow local ordinances, you will be able to build a home for much less than it would cost to have contractors do all the work.

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