So you’re planning a major construction project, and you’re thinking of taking it on as an owner-builder. If you have some experience in the building trades and are prepared to assume the weighty responsibility associated with owner-builder status, then it may actually be the best course of action for you. What if you never considered starting a project as an owner-builder until a builder you were planning to hire suggested you do so, though? In these cases, you may be getting into far more than you bargained for, and taking a substantial risk.
Why Builders May Suggest You Become a Potential Owner-Builder
The most common reason provided by builders who suggest that their prospective clients tackle a home improvement or construction project as an owner-builder is that it’s “cheaper” that way, though this claim is a bit spurious in most cases. More often than not, a builder who suggests an inexperienced homeowner engage them as a project manager or supervisor for tradespeople while acting as an owner-builder do so because they’re either not registered, or they’re actively looking for a way to avoid taking on all the requisite responsibility.
As a potential owner-builder, you could be liable for any defective work for up to ten full years after completion under the Building Act. This means that even if you never drive a single nail, you could be held responsible for sub-par work or any aspects of the project not up to building codes. You’ll also be tasked with ensuring each and every tradesperson on your site is adhering to occupational health and safety rules, are in full compliance with all certification requirements and making sure you’re capable of accurately assessing workmanship every step of the way. While you may actually save some money by engaging an unregistered builder to work as a project supervisor while you act as an owner-builder, in the end, it’s not likely to be worth the risk.
Protecting Yourself as a Potential Owner-Builder
If you’re determined to enter into an owner-builder work agreement, it’s imperative that you actively work to secure the oversight you’ll need to protect not only your own interests, but also the quality of the building work. Unless you have experience in the building trades, for instance, you may not be able to spot defects or areas of fault with the potential to become major headaches in the future.
Securing stage construction inspections from a qualified and reputable professional building inspector is one of the best ways to ensure your owner-builder project runs smoothly and is up to code. While a professional building inspector won’t manage day-to-day work, health and safety rule adherence or the qualifications of the tradespeople on your site, they can protect you from the danger of sub-par work, shoddy materials and building faults by spotting them before defects become a real problem.
After you’ve read the Owner Builder’s Manual and are sure you’re interested in managing your own home improvement or construction project, contact a professional building inspector to find out how you can protect your new build against common issues which may otherwise go unnoticed by tradespeople and unqualified builders.
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