October 30, 2008 | | Comments 0

Cutting the Right Corners

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “cutting corners”. For some people this means: “Save Money” but for others it means: “Poor Quality”. In the building and construction industry it is a term often used. And if you, as an Owner Builder, hear the term in any context, be cautious!

The fact is that experienced and successful people know how to cut corners – and just as importantly, they also know which corners to cut!

So the challenge becomes; if you are not an experienced builder how will you know which corners you can cut that will result in you saving money without reducing quality? Please forgive me for being blunt, but without the right advice you won’t know and if you become an Owner Builder it is highly likely that you will fall victim to many of the so-called professionals whose hidden philosophy is actually based on the good old Austrlalian premise of “She’ll be right mate!”

Here’s an overview of which corners you should never, ever even consider cutting during the prelimenary stages of the planning and preparation process. (I should mention that there are many others that you will need to know about during your entire project, but let’s start at the beginning.)

Let’s firstly focus on:

  1. Working Drawings
  2. Detailed Specifications
  3. Structural Engineering
  4. Council and Planning Approval Submissions

You may remember that we told you about the Syntax of Owner Building – that there is an optimum order to completing things for a successful outcome. Trying to cut corners in the planning and prelimenary stages is a recipe for disaster. But please don’t go out and spend a fortune either. Get good, value for money, professional expertise that will set up your project for a better chance of success. It will also help to move your project forward in a timely manner. Failure to meet time deadlines is an early sign of problems to come.

Don’t know where to find quality, professional services at value for money? Please forgive my shameless plug – but that’s easy… just give us a call and we can help arrange the right people right to assist you right from the start. Now to move on…

  1. Working Drawings
    In over 40 years in this industry I have seen it all. As a qualified carpenter and builder over that time I can still tell you that I come across sets of plans that I wouldn’t touch with the proverbial barge pole. A set of working drawings are used throughout your entire project, from obtaining quotes, for your engineering to be specified, right through the construction process so that your trades and suppliers can deliver the project on time and within budget.For working drawings to be underdone is a recipe for disaster. Everything should be noted on your working plans. Even the minutest detail is never too much. 
  2. Detailed Specifications
    Too often these are done on the run. Big mistake. As an example we ask our customers to complete (sometimes with our assistance) a 21 page specification guide. Sounds indepth? You bet!How can you manage to a budget when the detail of your material and construction requirements are not specifically set out and priced at the outset? Did you know that 1000 bricks can range from $800 to $2000 depending on which you select? I have seen people spend $50 on a vanity basin at a clearance auction and I have also seen another customer spend $820 for an imported Italian glass basin. Here’s the facts: without a specifications guide that matches your working drawings your budget will not come in under your expectation. 
  3. Structural Engineering
    Not all engineers are the same. You must get your soil tests and your concept plans to a Structural Engineer to design the foundation and bracing system for the house. This can be simple or it can be extremely complex depending on a variety of factors. Get the help of an expert to talk and walk you through this process, else once again you will pay the price on site if it hasn’t been planned to detail. 
  4. Council and Planning Approval Submissions
    Too many people take this on themselves. If you have a standard, modest house on a simple block of land in a relatively new estate then you should be able to struggle through the process. If you have any challenges at all or have a desire to stretch the planning approval boundaries in any way then be sure to get an experienced private certifier to work with you.

The work and investment you make at these early stages will set your project up for success. By trying to cut these corners you will do your project a dis-service that will cause a domino effect. There are other, smarter ways to save time and money. In fact by doing this part right you will save time and money in the long run.

Happy Planning and remember to cut the right corners!

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