Every time we watch Grand Designs (which is pretty much every time it’s on, even the repeats on ABC2 if I’m home during the day) we giggle and cringe in equal proportions. People of the world, if there is one important lesson to take home from every single bloody episode it is this: hiring a good architect, talking to him or her in great detail, getting lots of drawings, getting a model, pacing out the size of it, standing around with a measuring tape and getting an idea of how it’ll all fit together, are all good ideas. That is, they’re absolutely essential, particuarly if you’ve never designed anything before, and you don’t normally deal with translating 2D plans into 3D realities.

Next, get a quantity surveyor to work out in detail exactly what all this is going to cost you. Don’t just trust the builder having a bit of a look at the plans and taking a punt. You’re making a very large investment, you wouldn’t invest half a million (or a million, Grand Designs has some pretty flash houses) in anything else without talking to an expert first. Work out what that budget covers, because if it’s just structure, you’ll want some more money for putting taps in and so forth.

Last step, or at least, the last step before you start actually building, is get a project manager. Unless you’re prepared to spend the next two or three years on this, you have some sort of free alternative accommodation, and you can afford to think of this as a hobby, get someone in whose job it is to get it all done on time. If you are quite experienced in basket weaving, or are a highly skilled market researcher, or  events manager, it’s important to note that managing a building project is a job that requires just as many specialist skills as the job you have. If your average architect tried to do you job, they’d probably bugger it up, best to acknowledge right up that if you try to do their job, you will probably bugger it up. You are not Leonardo Da Vinci. You cannot turn your hand to anything.

So now you’re ready to build. The important rule in this step is: don’t make changes all the time. If you’ve followed step one you shouldn’t have to. Every change costs you money.

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