National Self Build & Renovation Centre Logo close Menu
Book Free Now

Project managing your own self build: the pros and cons

If you’re looking to save money on your self build project it’s tempting to consider doing the project management yourself. Hiring a project manager can cost from 10 - 15% of your final build budget, so it’s a considerable saving if you have the time and skills to go the DIY route. But is it worth it?

What is Project Management?

A simple definition of project management is “the skills needed to produce a unique and predefined outcome at a pre-specified time using pre-determined resources”. For most self builders and renovators, their project is a one-off build, therefore unique, and the resource in the form of the budget is finite and must be managed. Failure to grasp this concept leads invariably to a stressful build and, in the worst cases, failure when the money runs out.

There are no hard and fast rules as to who does it. Project management sounds scary and difficult to some, but often without realising it, we undertake project management in our daily lives, be it a work project, organising an overseas holiday or major events such as a family wedding. We are more familiar with these scenarios because we know what is involved and the processes are more understandable. Construction is more daunting because few people actually know the detail and sequencing of what goes on during a house building project, and it is that which makes it seem more difficult when if fact, the principles are very similar.

The NSBRC offers a comprehensive one day course on Project Management and there is certainly a great deal to consider before choosing which route is right for you. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons…

What is a project manager?

A project manager oversees the day to day management of the project and is responsible for the planning and execution of the build. They are a crucial part of the team, and a good project manager will do all they can to keep things on track, and ensure your project is running on time and to budget.

Key duties of a project manager include planning the build, budgeting, sourcing materials, managing trades, quality control, health and safety, and site management. To be a good project manager you’ll need to be highly organised, have strong decision making abilities, understand how to budget and have great people skills.


Save money on your project

The biggest reason to project manage your own build is to save money. And it’s no small amount either, you could potentially save upto 15% of your budget by doing it yourself. These savings could allow you to buy a better plot of land, build a bigger property, add eco features, or even have money left over for decor and furnishings.

You’re in full control

With complete oversight of the whole project, including budgets, timelines and design, you’ll have full control to make the best decisions for you and your home. You’ll be able to choose your own team, decide on the best tradespeople for the job and source your own materials. Plus, when it comes to issues you’ll be the first to know, and you’ll make the final decision on how to proceed.

Greater flexibility

Being in charge of the project directly can give you more flexibility in terms of project timelines and management. You’ll be able to accelerate, or slow down, the work to suit your personal needs and schedule. This can allow you to balance out cash flow issues, prioritise key decisions or even allow yourself time for a break from the project.

Full oversight of all design decisions

From choosing your new front door, to flooring, trims and finishing, and everything in between, you’ll be able to choose the exact materials you want. Should the build hit a snag where your first choice is no longer an option, you’ll also be the one to select the next best thing. There’s the financial benefit to consider too - you’ll know that you’re getting the very best value on materials, as you’ll be the one liaising directly with the suppliers.

The satisfaction of being hands-on

There’s nothing quite like looking over your completed project and being able to say “I did that!” As a project manager you’ll be involved in even the finest details of the build, and being so hands-on means that you’ll get a real sense of satisfaction from your achievements.


You’re not a professional

As a complete beginner, you’ll need to learn quickly and on the job. Whilst this can be one of the best ways to learn a new skill set, it also means that mistakes will be made whilst you’re learning the ropes. You’ll need to be prepared for issues to arise, and be able to think quickly about how to manage them and put things right. A lack of experience means you might not always know what to do, or the best way to approach things, so it’s a good idea to do as much research as possible before you begin.

It could take longer

If you think about the classic ‘Time, Cost, Quality’ triangle, something always has to be compromised. If you’re trying to fit in your build’s project management around other commitments such as a day job, you’ll find there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. This means things will get done more slowly, and when also combined with a lack of experience, it’s likely that your project will take longer to complete.

Everything is down to you

Having full control over your project can be a big positive, but it also comes with downsides too. As the person doing all of the planning, budgeting and making the big decisions, when things go wrong it’s all down to you. This can feel like a lot of extra stress and pressure. Juggling lots of different things all at once can also quickly feel overwhelming if you’re not used to working under these conditions.

It’s time intensive

Project management is a very hands on and incredibly time consuming part of a self build project. You’ll need to spend a lot of time on site, and even more time planning, budgeting, making decisions and generally keeping things on track behind the scenes. Many people can find it difficult to dedicate so much of their time to the project, and it can be especially hard if you try to fit it in around a day job.

You may not have the right skills

A good project manager will have a wealth of skills that allow them to effectively manage your self build. Without these key skills, your project is at risk of running into delays and going over budget. If organisation isn’t your strong point, you have trouble making quick decisions, or you don’t have much of a head for numbers, it may be best to accept that you don’t have the necessary skills and that the smart move is to hire a professional.

Want to learn more? Our Guide to Project Management course is essential for anyone considering their first self build, whether you’re planning to hire a professional PM or do it yourself.

Before you Build your Home…Build your Knowledge with the NSBRC!

If you are contemplating building your dream home, or planning to improve your existing home, why not attend one of our NSBRC Training Courses first to build your knowledge and confidence?

Check out our range of in-person and virtual courses!