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builder hammers a nail into a wooden beam New building home, nailing hammer
Howdy!
We are Jessica and Alfredo. We are building our barndominium from the ground up with our own hands and have documented the entire journey online in hopes of inspiring and empowering others to DIY their home too.
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Self-Build, Self-Contract, or Hire a Builder? How to Decide Which Approach is Right for Your Barndominium

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If you are wanting to build a barndominium but trying to decide if you should self-build, self-contract, or hire a builder, you have come to the right place to figure it out. In this blog post, we will discuss all the different factors you need to consider so you know how to decide which approach is right for your barndominium building project. So grab a pen and some paper to write your pros and cons list and let’s get started. 

Self-Build

Self-building a barndominium is so rewarding. Being able to say that you built your house with your own two hands is something special. It makes you appreciate your home that much more. But this is also the most difficult method to choose as it takes a significant amount of time, effort, and skill. While it is not necessary to have construction experience before taking on a DIY barndominium, you have to be willing to learn the skills that are needed. Self-building is the most cost-effective option (if you do everything right the first time). Here are some more things to think about when considering self-building:

1. Time: 

Being your own barndominium builder is very, very time-consuming. We are talking about possible years until completion. We initially projected 6 months for our self-build. And here we are 3 years later, still working on it. We have moved in, but the interior is not complete yet. If you work full time or have other things going on in your life that take a lot of your time and you want your barndominium to be built asap, self-building probably is not your best option.

2. Skill: 

Building a barndominium requires a mixture of skill sets. These include metal fabrication, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and masonry. You do not necessarily need to know how to build a barndominium or have these skills prior to going into the build process, but you have to be willing to learn. We are not talking about watching just one How-To video on YouTube and then tackling the entire electrical of your barndo, we are talking actual thorough research, consultations, and practice. You have to be precise and show attention to detail. This is your house. It has to be safe and livable. You do not want to spend all your time self-building in order to save money only for everything to go wrong and cost you crazy amounts of money to fix it all later on. I know it can seem daunting to take on such a large project when you do not already have the full skill set, but it can be done. My husband lives by the philosophy that if someone can do something, so can he. He did not have all the skills needed prior to building our barndominium, but with his mindset and determination, he acquired the knowledge needed.

3. Cost: 

While self-building can be cost-effective because you do not have to pay a builder, it is important to think about the cost of materials, tools, and equipment before you take on this task. Are you planning on welding up your entire steel frame but do not own a welder? How will you lift the I-beams up without some sort of lift? Are you going to do the entire interior framing with lumber but do not own a miter saw? Think about all the materials you will have to acquire and the cost associated with that. I will be writing a post soon about how to decide if you should rent, buy, or borrow certain tools and equipment, so stay tuned for that.

If the county you are building in requires permits and inspections, you will have to factor in the costs associated with those things as well. Furthermore, you will need to consider that if you have never done a certain type of project before, you may make mistakes and have to redo the work. These costs will add up.

Self-Contract

Being a self-contractor requires you to essentially be your own general contractor. This is also known as owner-builder. You have to hire subcontractors to complete all the different phases of the construction. This method of building is a good compromise between self-building and hiring a builder. Here are more factors to consider:

1. Time: 

While the subcontractors can usually knock a job out quicker than you can (because of experience and number of hands on the project), it takes a lot of time and effort to manage the subcontractors. You have to be on top of time management. Making sure you have the subcontractors scheduled out enough in advance is important. Sometimes they have a 6-8 week wait because they are busy doing other jobs. If you did not plan ahead and have to wait 6 weeks, that puts ALL of the other projects behind schedule and you might end up losing other subcontractors you had lined up. 

You also have to monitor subcontractors and make sure they are completing their tasks on time and staying within the budget you agreed on. Not only are you acting as their manager, you are also working on their timeline. If you go the self-contracting route, be sure to ask about their timelines before hiring. 

2. Skill: 

Although you do not personally have to have the construction experience to self-contract, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with knowing how to determine if a subcontractor is doing quality work or not. The skills you will need to have for self-contracting are good communication and management skills so all the projects run smoothly. You will have to get comfortable telling subcontractors what you do not like if they have not done something right. You may even have to fire them. These are never easy conversations so this is something important to think about before going the self-contracting route. 

3. Cost: 

Self-contracting can be more cost-effective than hiring a builder, but you have to consider the cost of subcontractors, materials, tools, and equipment. Freshen up your negotiation skills. Sometimes if you have a skillset that the subs are interested in, you may even be able to barter.  

Hire a Builder

Hiring a builder to build your barndominium can be the easiest option, but it’s also the most expensive. However, it’s important to consider the following factors:

1. Time: 

Hiring a builder is the option that will have you moving into your new barndominium build the fastest. 

2. Skill: 

Going with a builder guarantees that the build will be completed by experienced professionals (well, most of the time). 

3. Cost: 

Hiring a builder is the most expensive option. But, for the most part, you do not have to worry about going out of budget because this is something that should have already been discussed and written in a contract. 

Personal Experience

From reading the above, it sounds like I’m promoting going the builder route but I’m not. It sounds the best because it is the easiest. We obviously chose the self-build route. The reason we chose this route was because of the money-saving potential. The last time I did the math, we had saved $125,000 by DIYing our barndominium building project. 

There were a couple of projects we chose to hire self-contractors. One was because we were working on a project that was taking much longer than expected and it was going to put us even more behind if we waited to start the next. The other was because their quote and timeline was much cheaper and faster than it would have been if we had done it ourselves. We didn’t have any of the required equipment so that would have been expensive to obtain. And we also lacked the numbers of hands they had. 

One of my favorite advantages of a DIY Barndominium is the ability to change the design as you self-build. This means you can make changes to the floor plan or exterior as you go along. For example, if you decide you want to add an extra bedroom or change the location of a window, you can do so without a lot of hassle. 

This kind of flexibility allows you to create a home that meets your changing needs and preferences. We changed our entire roofline after the roof was already on! Yes, Fredo cut into a finished roof and added a fabulous gable. I am so happy we made that change because that gable makes such a statement.

Conclusion

So overall, when trying to decide which approach is right for your barndominium, you need careful consideration of your time, skills, and budget. While self-building can be cost-effective, it requires a significant amount of time and skill. Self-contracting can be a good compromise, but it requires good communication and management skills. Hiring a builder is the most expensive option, but it ensures that the project is completed within budget and to a high standard. You can also do a mixture of self-building and self-contracting. If you would like to take a closer look at self-building vs self-contracting, read here. Consider your options carefully before making a decision. 

Which route do you see yourself taking?

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ABOUT AUTHOR
builder hammers a nail into a wooden beam New building home, nailing hammer
Howdy!
We are Jessica and Alfredo. We are building our barndominium from the ground up with our own hands and have documented the entire journey online in hopes of inspiring and empowering others to DIY their home too.
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