|How Much if We Owner Build Our Straw Bale Home?We’ve been getting this question a lot lately, so we thought we’d try and give you some answers. By ‘owner building’ we mean that you’re doing all the work and organising trades people (not getting a builder to help you).
We don’t generally work for owner builders these days as we prefer to build and manage a home from design to completion. If clients or architects do this and that, it makes it very difficult for us to keep to time and budget. However we do work around client’s wishes of course! We can teach you how to build a straw bale home yourself, through our workshops and courses and then you can do it yourself.
Generally we’ve found owner builders can build for around $1500-$2000 per square metre. If they’re careful, research, do workshops, do a straw bale building course, have a simple house design and standard finishes (anything different can be more costly). Otherwise it can be $2000-$3500! We’ve seen it happen time and time again.
Be sure you understand the building process so that you have materials and work ready for the next tradie. Have good trades and good suppliers and know exactly how to do each step. One bad tradie can increase your costs quickly.
Where owner builders can really save is in the labour component of building. In natural homes, labour is half the cost. So if you’re doing the labour yourself, it means you have to work full time on it, with other trades to help you. This is really the only place where you will save money by owner building.
On the flip side of that, the other thing that client’s tell us is how much physical work it is and how tolling it is. Be sure to be fit and healthy and have a good support network when you get aches and pains!
How long will it take?
Of course it’s difficult to answer that as it depends on so many things. If you work full time on your home (take time off work) and you are the Project Manager, Supervisor and tradesperson, then possibly you can build a new home in 6-12 months (best case scenario, after the plans have been approved). If you have to work full time, have a family to look after and are just supervising the job (and have builders and tradies working for you), you could also do it in 6-12 months if you have a good Supervisor on site and keep the materials up to the workers. If you are doing the actual work yourself part time, have a job and a family, then it can take 2-10 years. So many owner builders do this (we did this on our first owner built home). Which is why banks are strict currently and don’t want to loan owner builders money without a building contract.
Important word of advice. Get your finances up front. Make allowances for going over budget as you tend to underestimate what it will cost to build. Every house that we’ve seen on Grand Designs goes over budget and over time! And usually by a lot.
How to choose a contractor
When it comes down to it, choosing the right contractor can make or break your project. They will determine the overall quality of the job, the costs and the timing.
So do your homework. When we choose contractors, this is what we look for, the mandatory requirements:
- Will quote the work and their timeframe (this is CRITICAL to a nightmare vs a great job)
- Will sign a contract (written by a professional association) for the work they’ll do
- Have work you have seen for three different jobs and where the clients are happy with their work. It’s important to see their workmanship as well as speak with clients.
- Have an ABN (check their name and their ABN status)
- Are licenced for their trade and the work they’ll do (if rendering, they are a Renderer by trade. If building, they have a builder’s licence). If they are a carpenter or only a straw bale wall contractor, they can only do part of the work and they certainly can’t quote a whole job.
- Check the licence is in their name, not another company or person.
- Show you public liability contract and tool insurances with Certificates of Currency
- Show you a Worker’s Compensation Certificate of Currency for all of their workers including volunteersOther Requirements, they:
- Are a member of their trade association (HIA, MBA, Joinery, Architect). This means they are a professional and are governed by standards and protocols
- Have a full WHS Manual (was OHS)– which includes SWIMMS, procedures, site safety forms (you will have to do this if they don’t have a system)
- Will provide you a Home Warranty Certificate for the works they will do (if an owner builder you will need to take this out yourself)
Then you know you’re working with people who are professionals. Who can keep to their costs, do quality work, work safely, get consistent results and will come back and fix anything should anything go wrong. ‘Do and Charge’ with contractors exposes Owner Builders. Because they get paid more if they take longer to build. There’s no incentive for them to work smarter or faster if they do and charge. It just costs you more. Get everything quoted so you know what is included.
If they are an experienced tradesman in their field of expertise, they can and should quote.