What you must know, before you start building!

The 6 key areas you need to consider, before you start building

Are you wanting to build your new home or renovate your existing property?

Do you find the mixed bag of information on building new homes & renovating rather overwhelming?

Starting any new project is often the hardest thing to do, knowing what to do first, how and where to find information, and most importantly, finding the correct information, to guide you to achieving your building dreams.

There’s a crazy load of information available on the internet, both good and bad. So in this post, I’m going to talk about what you need to consider before you start building.

There are several areas to look at before you build, let’s dive in!

By now, you will know what you want to achieve and what the objective is for your build. This could be a variety of reasons such as;

  • You may want to add value to your property?
  • Build an additional bathroom or bedroom for a growing family?
  • Undertake necessary repairs on your home, whether these are structurally or cosmetically.
  • You may have just purchased a property that you intend to flip for profit.

Whatever your reasons are, the following points tells you the typical steps to what you have to do before you start building.


This is the first place to start and it’s all about acquiring as much knowledge and information as possible. Knowledge is power, and the more we understand about building, in general, the easier the process will become. There is a variety of sources that we can use.

Reading books & magazines that specialise in building construction and design is a good place to start. Getting familiar with building standards and local council requirements will provide you with the specific information that your project will need to adhere too.

Attending exhibitions and conventions can be very informative, this can give you an insight to what materials, systems & products are available, this is also a great place to meet like-minded people that could help you talk through some of your visions for your build.

The internet is bulging with information and is by far the best place to learn and browse through information. This comes in a variety of formats such as websites, forums, blogs, podcasts & youtube can be useful and have some very good “how to” videos. Undertaking online courses is a great way to learn building specifics and this enables you to learn at your own pace with getting the required knowledge you need to undertake your project.

As I have mentioned before using the internet is the easiest and quickest way to find materials and ideas. Your Findings can be saved quickly and easily along with product data and specs to a folder on your computer. If you were planning on a full house renovation, I’d recommend making as many folders as possible such as Ensuite 1, Bathroom, Kitchen etc and then save items such as showers or tapware to the folders you want those materials to go. This will help you be more organised in your approach and it will highlight if you have missed any items that are needed in those rooms.

Apps such as Pinterest can be extremely useful to search and save ideas this can also easily aid you in saving your ideas into categories within the app.

Whilst acquiring building knowledge is important. Research is mainly where you start getting ideas on the materials, fixtures, and finishes that you want to incorporate into your project.
Once you start gathering ideas for the design, you will need to start thinking about how these can work together and where is the best place for them to go.

There are a variety of ways that this can be done but most people will hire an architect or interior designer to help bring all of their ideas to life.

Visiting display homes on construction sites or showrooms of suppliers for ideas is a great way to visualise how materials work and what they look like when finished.


First of all, decide if you want to employ an architect or an interior designer. Both can add extreme value to your project and will come up with designs that revolve around your lifestyle, your tastes, your family, and also takes into account the plot of land along with its surroundings especially if you are going to be building a new house.
Making buildings safe, aesthetically pleasing, functional and sustainable are all main priorities when designing your new build or renovation. They will also ensure that the local council requirements and energy efficiency criteria are adhered to including getting the documents submitted to council for the DA approval. They can also assist with helping you get planning permission, a construction certificate or a complying development certificate (CDC) depending on your local council requires in order for you to start the construction project on site.

The in-depth detail of the design process will vary depending on how complex your project is. If you want to update your bathroom cosmetically then perhaps an interior designer or architect aren’t needed, but if you’re undertaking a large extension or new build they can be worth their weight in gold. Just make sure you include their fees in your overall budget.

Have an idea of what materials you want to use in your project not just fitting and fixtures but consider materials that you cannot see once the project is finished. Structurally, will you be wanting to use timber, brick, block, or steel? How many storeys will your house have? Consider if it’s cheaper building a single storey residence that will have a large concrete slab or build a two storey property where you can reduce the size of the ground floor slab?
The method of construction will impact your budget so I suggest giving this some serious deliberation and discuss different options with your architect or designer.

Approvals & Insurances

First of all, do you need an owner builders permit? In NSW If your intended works are under the value of $10,000 including all materials and labour or the work doesn’t require development consent. Depending on your state check out the owner building laws on their website.

What type of development consent do I need? your local council will stipulate what type of approval you will need. However, most building work in NSW will require you to have either a development consent or a complying development certificate (CDC) both of which are issued by your local council. Getting your construction certificate (CC) can either be given through the council or an independent certifier appointed to your job.
Depending on who granted your construction certificate (CC) that certifying body will need to be the one who carries out on-site investigation at certain points outlined in their documentation such as, reinforcement inspections before concrete slab is poured, the approval of these certain criteria all compile to be apart of your occupational certificate granted by either the council or private certifier when you have completed the build.

Insurances & warranties are an important part of you’re planning and running of the project. These will protect you and your assets against poor workmanship, dodgy subcontractors, and suppliers. Owner builders should consider having the following insurances in place before they start their building works;

  • Home builders compensation scheme – this insurance needs to be in place by your subcontractors before they undertake any works for you. This applies if you have a contract worth more than $20,000 including materials and labour supplied by them. Owner builders are not entitled to getting their own HBCF cover and this should be part of any contract you have with any subcontractor that is working for you. You are entitled to ask for a copy of the certificate and I would keep a record of these confirmations of covers for each subcontractor. Especially if you decide to sell your property within the next 6 years after you finish your build.
    Contract works insurance – this covers loss and damage to any materials or tools at work.
  • Works compensation – this covers you if you directly employ any labour that has an injury or accident at work. be aware that you and your subcontractors know who their insurance policy is under.
  • Public liability – this protects you from any potential injury a family member or member of the public incur as a result of your building work. H&S responsibilities. building codes and regulations & standards.


Once your research is complete and you know what you want to build and how you want to build it, It’s time to start costing the project. There are several ways to go about doing this, here are a few ways I recommend;
Compile an estimate yourself, there are a couple of ways to do this, you can get quotes for all processes of the build E.G concreter, plumber, renderer, and landscaper. Or you could do the takeoffs yourself, where you measure the walls, floors, windows etc and apply your rates for labour and materials to the areas. However, without a full understanding of the building process, this may not be the most accurate of options for you to pursue.

Invite builders to price your build. They should allow and foresee everything that needs to happen in order to get this project complete. I recommend reaching out to 3 builders to price the job this will give you an indication of where the project will end up financially. The reason why I’d Recommend getting 3 quotes, is because this will give you a higher chance of getting more accurate pricing. if builder number one is lower than the other two by 20% and builder 2 and 3 are closer together in price, this would suggest that builder number 1 has perhaps missed something or made a mistake.

Another positive to having builders price is that they will be able to tell if the plans and design can actually be achieved. They will be able to offer suggestions and advice on ways to improve or go about achieving a certain finish in another more cost-effective way. Another critical area to look at each quote is to know how long they intend to take to build this project. This can have a huge impact on how much the overall cost could be.

Even if you have no desire to use a builder, getting a quote and an understanding what you could potentially save is a really important exercise. Being an Owner-builder you won’t be able to get the discounts that builders can potentially get from suppliers and you perhaps may not be able to build it as quickly if you were undertaking a lot of the work by yourself, so understanding where you can save by doing this project yourself is important. Typical areas that you will be able to save money on is builders wages and their margin for undertaking the job. This can range from typically 10 – 20% and in some cases can be considerably more.

A Quantity surveyor can be used to provide an estimate and is often the desired option for owner builders and financial lending organisations as well. An approach that could be of use to you would be to get your ideas first just for a layout. request a quantity surveyor to cost it to see if it’s in line with what you want to spend.
Once your comfortable with the initial layout and price, seek an architect or draftsman to draw up the plans and provide specifications. Get everything on your project estimated by a QS again and then ask some builders for pricing this way you will understand your budget and know if you need to make cuts in spending.

Some areas that tend to get overlooked when pricing the full project are; your designers or architect fees, engineers fees for drawings and checking on-site works, Certifiers, council deposits and costs, all insurances needed for your builds such as homeowners warranty and public liability which you are required to take out.

If you require financial help to undertake your project and need to ask for a loan from the bank you will need to have certain criteria complete before you apply. Typically these are an owner builders permit, insurances, your estimate of the works and your plans and documentation.

Having an early indication on how you are going to finance the project is important. Maybe you do not need a loan from a bank, can family help you? or do you have enough saved up? is remortgaging your property an option for you?
Often people do all the research and get there plans drawn up only to find out they cannot afford to build their design. Knowing where to cut costs and how you are going to manage this project are all huge factors in the end value of the build. Knowing all these factors before you start building will decrease the chance of your budget being blown.


Understand what your contractual obligations are and what your required to have incorporated into your build that the council has outlined in their approval criteria. Understand what you are responsible for in the health and safety aspect of your build. This is such a large aspect of building at the moment as more and more restrictions and requirements are being brought in. Whilst undertaking your owner builders course H&S will be a big part of that.

Building codes and standards are a compulsory requirement to adhere to and each country has their own. Standards that you need to adhere to will be outlined in your design documentation, planning approval and will need to satisfy the council or private certifier.
When you start building it’s vitally important that you and your team understand the codes and standards. Don’t get scared into thinking you need to know every code and law of by heart, but I’d recommend purchasing the National construction code specifically for class 1-10 buildings volume 2 so you can refer to it as and when you need. it is also a good idea to reference these within contracts that you supply to subcontractors.


Before you start your build having a team in place ready to go covering all aspects of the work is extremely advantageous. Knowing who all your suppliers are and making sure they have all materials in stock ready to be delivered when you need them.

All your subcontractors are contracted and all know what they are responsible for within your build. You have to also make sure that all subcontractors are licensed under the fair-trading body and hold a licence to the works they are being contracted to do this is essential for any works being undertaken over $5000.

You must not undertake any specialised work yourself and should contract these works to those who hold specialised licences such as electricians, plumbing when working on gas and stormwater & Air conditioning and refrigeration work. Know who you can call upon if you require any clarification from the documents or drawings EG your designers, architects, engineers, council or private certifiers and even a surveyor for setting out and checking levels.

So, before you start building just take a minute to run through all the above steps and make sure you have thought of all the areas you need to satisfy. Get your ideas and research finalised and locked into your design and drawn up by a designer or architect.
These documents then need to be costed by a QS or builder (if you cant do this by yourself). You then have to understand fully what you are liable for and your obligations are as an owner builder (this is such an important step don’t skip it!).
Have all your finances, approvals and insurances in place. Make sure you know how long you expect this project to take you and the hours you intend to put into it (make sure this is realistic). Then finally start piecing together your team, all the way from engineers and certifiers to carpenters and painters.

Remember have fun! Building is extremely rewarding and satisfying when planned and procured right from the start.

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3 Comments on "What you must know, before you start building!"

    Thanks for this advice for building a place. You mentioned it’s important t try to have a team of specialized workers, like private certifiers or a surveyor. This seems beneficial especially if it can ensure that the entire process will be done quickly and properly.

    Hi Taylor, thanks for the comment. It’s extremely important to surround yourself with experts in each trade or skill. This will only ensure a better result for all involved!

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