How to choose whether to project manage your self-build

To project manage or not project manage, that is the question. For many self-builders it’s an obvious choice to oversee the daily running of their project – saving them money and providing flexibility. But what exactly does it involve?

The role of a project manager

The project manager is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of the project and  ensuring that the work is delivered on time and on budget.

Typically, a project manager will be responsible for hiring temporary toilet facilities, managing health and safety, taking deliveries, safely storing materials and organising building control. An effective project manager will make daily site visits in the morning and evening to greet the site tradespeople and decide on the week’s agenda. You will be required to assess progress and ensure the right materials are available, on time.

Being assertive and possessing good communication skills are key attributes for any successful project manager.

James Mason, an assistant shift manager with Saint-Gobain Glass, oversaw his self-build project in 2017 as he felt the skills obtained from his day job were easily transferrable.

“I am used to managing schedules and people ­- project managing involves both,” explained James. “You also need to be super organised. For example, we used barn bricks for our exterior and we knew that there was a 12-week lead time so we had to ensure they were ordered well in advance.”

James in front of his self-build home with his family
Should I project manage my self-build?

Smooth operations

Do you have the right temperament to project manage your build? Think about how organised you are and whether you can keep calm under pressure. Do you live near the site? If you do intend to live near your self-build plot – this is an added bonus.

Building good relationships are a key part of project management as you’ll have to handle difficult conversations with suppliers and tradespeople at times.

Do ask yourself if you can manage spreadsheets and budgets – keeping a close eye on the figures is a fundamental part of project managing your build.

As project manager, you have to ensure the people and resources you require are working together in harmony. This involves frequent meetings and ensuring everything discussed is logged.

Not only will you need to keep on top of the technical details and resources but you will have to source adequate insurance.

Self-build insurance policies are available and can provide cover for:

Public Liability Insurance - This covers legal liability for claims made by any other person or body in respect of death, injury or loss arising from your building operations.

Employer's Liability Insurance - This is a legal requirement if you are employing anyone. This can also be a factor if any sub-contractor working for you has an accident on site where your duty to provide a safe working site could be called into question.

Contracts Works Insurance - Protects against losses through theft, vandalism, structural damage, fire, flood, storm damage, damage by delivery vehicles, etc.

Other insurance - You may also require special additional cover on occasions when any specialist services are being provided on site by third parties.

Builder climbing stairs of construction site

Who can project manage?

If you have a full-time job and feel you will struggle to project manage, handing responsibility to a project manager or builder is one way of making your life easier.

If you are building that forever home it may be a worthwhile investment to get the extra help to ensure you achieve the right standard and finish.

An architect can help source materials and guide you through the design, building and construction process. They can help manage your budget, find a good builders and offer support with the building control process. How much or how little you commission an architect is up to you – from coming up with an initial design to seeing the project through to completion.

A contractor/builder can manage the process and can be a solid option if they’ve been recommended but it’s advisable to view their work before you commit. Your budget may or may not allow for the help of a project manager and hiring one is a more expensive route to take.

Often self-builders find a mixture of project managing, with the assistance of an architect in parts of the project, is the right balance.