It is only natural that amateur builders want to move ahead with their project as fast as possible. There can be a great deal of excitement when the initial planning is finished and the time to pick up tools finally comes. As the job progresses, a sense of wanting to finish and enjoy the completed home or extension will develop. Unfortunately, these feelings can develop into the attitude that any time not actually spent with a tool in the hand is time wasted. That is a big mistake. There are stages in any large building project when a few hours spent on planning will actually save time in the long run. They will also help avoid frustration and tension, and time-wasting mistakes. I will give two examples from my own experience of building a 3-bedroom, steel-frame home.

The first job was to set up profile boards to give the level of the floor, and to hold string lines whose crossing points marked the positions of the thirty stump holes. The block sloped so the profile boards were not all the same height. It would have been wasteful to run timber all around the perimeter of the house floor, so I needed first to find the most economical way of locating shorter boards which would mark all the holes. I needed enough timber so I didn’t have to keep going back to the lumber yard, but unlike a professional builder I didn’t have the luxury of buying more than enough, and using it up on the next job. My solution was to draw some simple scale plans. On the first I drew the positions of the stump holes to scale, then drew just enough profile boards to include all the holes. Working to scale gave me the length of them, which I simply added together to find how much timber I needed for the top rails. Next, also to scale, I drew enough of the profile boards in side view to cover the different heights all around. These drawings gave the lengths and number of the uprights (allowing for the part to be driven into the ground) and the lengths and number of the bracing diagonals. The two hours spent doing this gave me my shopping list. Everything I needed was to hand and I didn’t have to stop work later to go and buy more timber.

I used a non-assembled kit for the steel wall frames and roof trusses. When the floor was finished it was time to assemble and erect the wall sections. I certainly did not want to be climbing down off the house floor to fetch the hundreds of pieces of steel a few at a time, so they had to be up on the floor. However, I could see that if I put them just anywhere they would get in the way of the wall sections as I assembled them flat on the floor, and then put them into position. So I worked out a sequence of building and erecting the wall sections and numbered them on the scale plan (overhead view) of the walls which had been supplied. Then I marked the places where I could put the groups of steel pieces without them getting in my way. Again, a couple of hours saved me time, extra work, and frustration.

Taking this approach can seem like overkill when the job is waiting, but the time spent repays itself with interest, and equally valuable is being able to get on with the project efficiently, and without unnecessary stress and the mistakes that usually come with it.