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How to Build your dream home right!

The articles provided here are on an ‘as is’ basis and published for you enjoyment only. In no event shall we be liable for any direct or indirect damages or losses suffered with the use of these articles.


You’ve heard many stories of friends or family who’s building project were a total nightmare and you might be a tad skeptical considering going through the process yourself but with this article I will try to set your mind at ease. There are proper ways of planning to ensure the same does not happen to you as with your friend John!

The key to a successful building project lies with proper planning and carefully considering what your requirements and needs are, a good reputable contractor and most importantly what you can afford.


The building contractor

No matter what your building project, additions, renovations or a complete new home, the choice of building contractor is without a doubt the single most important factor in the various choices you need to make during the project period. You might have appointed the best architect, have a huge budget for top quality finishes and materials but this cannot in any way compensate for shaky workmanship and structural unsoundness.

A good building contractor values his reputation and will put in extra effort to satisfy his client in every way, but, remember choosing the right building contractor would in most cases not be choosing the least expensive one. Even the most skilled builder can not do a good job for less than its true price.


Below follows a quick reference guide to follow when considering a contractor:

  • How long has he been in business?
  • Extensive and reliable network of material suppliers and sub-contractors
  • Investigate his track record
  • Is he financially sound and does he have builders insurance
  • Is he registered with the local Home builder (NHBRC) society?


Getting Quotations

Many building contractors will not provide you with a detailed cost layout and often tricks potential home builders into paying a lot more in hidden costs. Ask to be provided with a detailed cost estimate and in the event that this can not be provided consider getting quotes from other contractors who would be willing to provide you with a detailed layout. Not knowing what you are quoted on specifically is the quickest way of getting into a dispute with your builder. Do not try to avoid VAT by asking for special cash deals on certain items as this is illegal and you might end up paying double the amount you intended to save. If you get tenders from more than one contractor, keep in mind that in most cases the cheapest one is not necessarily the best so be sure about the contractor before signing anything.


The building contract

Never start any building work without a written and signed contract in place between you, the employer and the contractor. A written quotation and signed acceptance of the agreed price with protect both parties in the event of a dispute or in arbitration.

The contract should be very comprehensive without any loop holes and should be drawn up by a professional or an accepted pre-written contract.

Below follows a few important pointers to look for when setting up the contract:


  • Clearly specify all work to be done on paper or plans
  • Clearly state project start and completion dates
  • Ensure a fixed price for all work to be done
  • Make provision for recourse against builder defaults
  • Include an agreement for delays and penalties
  • Clearly specify special items or appliances to be installed
  • Make provision for disputes that might arise and that cost is for both parties in the event of arbitration.
  • Agree as to how the site will be arranged in terms of storage, water & electricity supply and ablutions for the workers.



Payment for large jobs are usually divided in increments of project stages completed or specialist items completed by sub-contractors where the main contractor will invoice for these items separately. Do not appoint a builder who asks for payments upfront or large deposits before any work is carries out. Too many owner home builders have lost money with financially unsound contractors.


Site inspections and variations

If you have not appointed an architect or other professional to carry out site inspections, the site should be visited regularly (at east every 2 days, even for a short while) as this make it possible to address problems as they occur. Do not make any payments to a contractor for a specific stage is you are not completely satisfied with the work covered by that payment.

Try to avoid impulsive changes to the plans while construction is in progress as this gives the contractor huge opportunities to inflate costs of the project unnecessarily. In the event that you have to make a change, clearly establish costs before the work is carried out and confirm the changes in writing.

Written by JB, architect & founder of dreamhouses. Reproductions of this article are encouraged but must include a link pointing to //

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