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How To Reduce the Stress of House Building

Reducing the Stress When Building Your Own House

Many people who build there own buildings find themsleves severely stressed, the budget blows out, the time stretches on and all the time it is necessary to watch the construction team to make sure they don't make mistakes or try to take advanatage. Many people say that when their house is completed they would never do it again.

It needn’t be this way, by taking approaches to the building process there are ways of reducing the stress and make the process more manageable.

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building a house

The Balinese Approach To House Builidng

The Balinese can teach us some lessons. Housebuilding to the Balinese is not a stressful process. Why? Because traditionally the wonderful people of this beautiful place build a house as a work in progress. In westernised countries we tend to have a black and white view, the house is either ‘unbuilt’ or ‘built’ and the shortest period between the two is to be pursued at all costs, yes all costs, lots and lots of them. Perhaps it is something to do with the climate and the fact that living in Northern Europe without a house has can be very cold.

To the Balinese housebuilding is an ongoing process. A house is an ever evolving and changing entity. They often build their houses progressively as money becomes available and families grow. Traditional Balinese houses have a series of buildings set within a compound and they tend to add buildings as they can afford or need them.

It goes like this. The family have a compound. They start off by building a rough wall around it. At first this will probably be quite basic, some foundations, concrete posts and beams and some concrete blocks to fill in the panels. At some later (perhaps much later) stage this outside wall may get a layer of cement render, perhaps some stone cladding or nice coping stones on the top. Later again, as money becomes available or a special event approaches, a Balinese gate might be added.

Inside the compound a similar process is followed.

Adding Buildings One at a Time

The design of traditional Balinese houses consists of a number of separate buildings each for their own purpose. A family temple is always in its own space in the corner closest to the home of the Gods, Mount Agung, other buildings have their own specific place in the compound.

The purest part of the compound is the corner nearest Mt Agung which,in Ubud, Denpasar and anywhere on the main island of Bali south of here, is the North East corner. The least pure corner is the opposite one furthest away from Agung and this is where the toilet and bathroom are placed. Next to the toilet on the Southern wall you’ll find the kitchen and next to the temple on the northern wall you’ll often find a very well decorated building in which only old people and small children are allowed to sleep.

On the Eastern wall is the place for a bale in which the dead are laid out prior to cremation. Bedrooms are usually placed on the Western wall. If you want more information have a look at Made Wijaya’s classic illustrated book about Balinese traditional houses.

As with the outside wall the building of the house itself is often a progressive process. Important buildings might be built first and others added later as money or need arises. The buildings are often in a basic form at first then stone facings, wooden components may be added later. Later still a skilled carver may be commissioned to come and add the carvings to stone cladding ‘blanks’ around doors and windows. As time progresses the rough outer wall might (or might not) get finished and a Balinese gateway added. As a family grows more rooms may be added to the compound. A traditional Balinese is a work in progress and evolves as life progresses.

My landlord’s house is a case in point, it looked all complete to me but then, one day, sumptuous wood carvings arrived, doors, windows, posts even ceilings which took his house to a whole other level of Balinese beauty.

At this point it is interesting to note that many Balinese consider that our trendy minimalist style is for poverty stricken people. White painted concrete is the cheapest form of building you can get. Even a very ordinary house here has to have some stone cladding, carved doors and roof ornaments.

Construct your building in manageable stages

Taking a leaf out of the Balinese approach may provide a number of benefits. You might start by building some basic living quarters and what will later be a guest bedroom and bathroom. You can then move in and build your house around you. You will be onhand to more closely watch the subsequent work as it progresses. You can concentrate your attention on one area at a time and, if building in Bali is a new experience and a steep learning curve, you can learn your lessons without the whole project being jeopardised.

You can also start off by constructing just the basic buildings at first then, as time progresses, you can add the finishing as you go, nice floor tiles, some stone cladding on the walls, nice carved wood. This approach can remove a lot of the stress of the building process.

Breaking The Project Down Into Stages

It might also be a good idea to break your project down into specific portions for construction such as foundations, structure, roof, walls, joinery, plumbing, electrical installation and internal finishing. Each of these parts can be built as an independent project making it easier to manage.

Compile the whole budget at the start

However if you do break the project down just be aware that you should still carry out a complete costing of everything before you start so you know how much the whole project is going to cost. The time to start trimming the budget to suit your overstrained wallet is at the start of the project and not halfway through.

Reduce stress by breaking the project down into manageable tasks

Once you have the total cost you can then break down the project into smaller components allowing you to let several small contracts and manage them individually. This means you are not overwhelmed by the size of the whole job, you can watch each portion in detail and you can monitor performance and change the contractor if you are not happy.

Use different contractors for different parts of the project

If you are really on top of things you can select different contractors according to the type of work they are good at. Electricians are not generally very good at installing roofs (funny that) and, surprisingly, joiners don’t usually make the best brain surgeons. It is rather unnerving when you arrive on site one day to find the man that was digging holes for the foundations now has a screwdriver in his hand and is installing the main distribution board.

Set Priorities For Attention

It is important to have priorities in this process, the building structures and base elements should be built of high quality remember you can always change the windows and doors but if the base structure is flawed it is not easy to repair.

So you see that while building a house all at one go can be a traumatic experience the good news is that you can break it down into separate buildings and into separate skills leaving you with small bite sized chunks of work that wouldn’t even stress a chihauhau in a washing machine.

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Copyright © Phil Wilson July 2012
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