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  • Writer's pictureS.Samson

Owner Builder: How its done

Welcome back, find part 1 Here.

So you have decided to Owner Build and have found a nominated supervisor, what should you expect now?

Budgeting and planning:

It is very important to get an accurate picture of what it is going to cost to build your project, as Owner builders don't have easy access to loans from banks. This means you are generally building with some form of personal equity, typical examples include an existing redraw facility, savings, liquidating current assets or borrowing from friends and family.

Once the build is complete everything changes and you can have a new valuation done and apply for a mortgage, but you have to get there first without running out of money.

Therefore estimating the cost to build and setting a budget is very important. If your Nominated supervisor has the capability to do this lean on them, otherwise get a professional to do it, there a a lot of good estimating firms out there. If you do it yourself have a professional check it as it is highly likely you missed something.

Keep constant track of your budget and expenses. We suggest you open a separate bank account with a card to run the build from, that way you have a easy to digest feed of your expenses. Ask that your estimate gets structured in a way that is congruent with progress on site so that it is easier to track expenses with the budget.

The next step is to develop a timeline for the build. This is important as you often have to book subcontractors and materials weeks in advance. A timeline will keep you on task and also allow you to schedule the next steps correctly. We have seen this done in many ways, On whiteboards, in a google calendar or on a Gannt Chart. We prefer digital timelines as they can be shared and are easy to update when things don't go as planned.

Legal requirements:

As an owner builder you carry the same legal responsibilities as any other builder. You have to ensure you maintain a safe workplace. Although not required we highly recommend getting a white card and also updating or doing a first aid certificate. Below is a list of laws and regulation to get you started with your research in South Australia (please note these may be out of date at time of reading).

Notification Requirements:

As the owner builder you are generally the person on site the most and directly in charge of on site processes. Therefore it is your obligation to inform your nominated supervisor when certain stages are ready for inspection. It will be up to the nominated supervisor what stages they would like to come and inspect.

Council also issues a list of mandatory notifications that have to be submitted at least one day before the date of construction activity. For instance, if you want to pour concrete, council may want to inspect the footings and steel reinforcement work before it is covered in concrete. Council may or may not inspect, but the rate of inspection on owner builder projects is higher than contracted projects.

Another inspection that often occurs is a waste water inspection. Your plumber will do this notification, but be sure it has been inspected before you cover the pipes up.


The first type of insurance that gets talked about as an owner builder is building indemnity insurance, otherwise known as builders warranty insurance. It is a requirement (under Regulation 36 of the Planning Development and Infrastructure Regulations 2016) that any building works contract over $12,000 on development that has had council approval must supply the council and the client with a certificate of this insurance. Owner Builders are exempt from this but their sub contractors are not. It is important to talk with the officer in charge of your development application at council to see what exactly they require in your circumstance.

The insurance all owner builders should get though is Owner Builder Contract Works (sometimes called 'construction') and Public Liability Insurance. In most instances the council will ask for proof of this insurance but its important to have even if its not required. If you have managed to obtain finance for your build the financier may want proof of this insurance too.

Other insurances you can look in to are; voluntary workers insurance, workers compensation insurance, existing structures cover, personal accident cover.

Good Luck!

Owner building is a very rewarding thing to do! You are providing shelter, a basic human instinct, with something to show for your efforts for generations to come.

Images generated using Midjourney

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