Should I hire a building contractor or could I manage this build on my own?

Should I hire a building contractor or could I manage this build on my own?

Hire a contractor or build on my own? This is a dilemma that many faces when commencing the construction of their forever home. Some will be excited by the prospect of overseeing this project, others will shake at the knees. Either way, knowledge is power in this game – being informed is the best thing you can do when at these crossroads. Do your research and do it right before making a definitive decision on this extremely important stage in your self-build journey. This article offers a small piece to your puzzle so that you can gather a clearer picture of what factors to consider before deciding to independently manage a build. Don’t forget to check other sources for an insight on the contractor led approach too!

We propose five key factors to consider for a Direct Labour (DL) build. These include:


It takes a particular type of person to tackle the DL challenge. Before committing to managing this massive project, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you confident?
  • Can you manage stress?
  • Do you delegate?
  • Are you patient?
  • Can you motivate others?
  • Do you have an interest in construction?

If you have answered yes, you are on your way to becoming your own project manager. If not, are any strategies you can put in place to address a lack of confidence/stress management skills/delegation etc? All of these traits are key to overseeing the DL process, and if you’re likely to struggle with any, make sure you set up supports to manage when the going gets tough. You’ll need them!


Life experience can play a key role in whether you are able to take on this DL challenge.

  • Have you managed projects before?
  • Have you any experience in construction?
  • Can you transfer other life skills to this context?
  • Consider these questions when probing this factor – only you can decide if your experience to-date is enough to help you to oversee this project.


A statement we hate but it is undeniably true; it’s not what you know, it’s who you know! If you have contacts in the construction industry e.g. tradespeople, hardware stores, building materials suppliers etc. you may be able to avail of some form of discount. Your connection with people will also greatly impact the speed at which you can source supplies or employ a tradesperson. As well as discounts, availability and materials provision, your contacts will affect the depth of knowledge that others in the industry may be willing to share to guide you as a novice on your way.


Overseeing the construction of a house is time consuming. Ask yourself these questions before committing to the DL route:

  • Do you have time to follow up on trades / materials / service suppliers etc.?
  • Do you have time to answer queries regarding the build?
  • Do you have time to organise and manage administration for the build?
  • Do you have time to meet potential trades / suppliers on site for quotations?
  • Do you have time to sacrifice? How demanding is your day job? Can you manage both?
  • Do you have time to wait? The DL route is very slow!


This is possibly the most contentious issue with building. How much will it cost? How long is a piece of string? There’s no way of knowing until the day you turn the key, both literally and metaphorically, on this chapter of your life how much it has cost to get to that stage. However, our research and experience to-date shows a 15-30% saving on the entire cost by taking this route. This is one major advantage of choosing this approach, though it comes at a cost in other ways. Can you afford to pay for a mistake on your build caused by your mismanagement or inexperience? So far, we have carefully researched each step and thankfully haven’t been caught off guard, but there is always a chance that we will make a mistake. This is a risk you must be willing to take!

These factors have been central to our decision to adopt the DL route. Think carefully about your personality, experience, contacts, time and money before choosing this approach.

We have also noticed some key advantages and disadvantages to this route. Let’s start with the disadvantages so that we can end on a higher note!

Direct Labour Disadvantages

  • Time Consuming
  • Delayed Tradespeople Availability has a Knock-On Effect on Progress
  • Inattentive Snagging Can Cost You
  • Slower Process

Direct Labour Advantages

  • Save Money
  • Maintain Full Control
  • Support Local Tradespeople
  • Make Changes As You Go
  • Develop Strong Haggling Skills
  • Pride

So now, let’s ask the question again. “Should I hire a contractor or build on my own?”

Only you can answer this! We are young, with no dependents, and an abundance of enthusiasm for getting stuck in. We have chosen the DL route. We believe that where there is a will, there’s a way. To follow our progress, see @selfbuild_directlabour on Instagram for more.

Whatever you do, make sure you do your research. Whether you hire a contractor or build on your own. An informed decision is the best decision! Good luck

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