AliG

Self building stress

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Hi Everyone,

 

Reading some problems of other forum members recently made me think about this.

 

My build is approaching the end, I am hoping to be into my house house in early December.

 

I have found the last two months by far the most stressful part of the build. Early on, there was a lot of heavy building work and decisions on that were made before we started, I didn't have to get involved.

 

Recently though the amount of input required by me has ramped up such as deciding where every socket and light fitting in the house goes and sourcing items I have specified such as fires where the builder can't really just go and buy them. We have also made some last minute changes.

 

The combination of working, and it doesn't help that I work in London but am building in Edinburgh, trying to sell our own house and also having to make decisions in conjunction with my wife on paint colours tiles, etc when up until now I could make most decisions alone has been very hard work and stressful.

 

I am sure that everyone's build has different kinds of stress, costs being more than expected, builders who let you down, planning issues etc.

 

So maybe it would be good to warn people what to expect and ways to make it less stressful. I thought I had put an enormous amount of work in so that it would be plain sailing once we actually started. That didn't allow for the fact that what works on paper may not work when they come to build it and that my wife only realised she didn't like some things once she saw them in real life as she struggles to understand plans.

 

Anyway I am sure it will all be worth it in the end and my stresses are much less than other people's but maybe it's worth just telling people what to expect before they start and helping to avoid some pitfalls.

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It's a very important point and one we've experienced now we're in the final furlong.

We were really struggling to make head way on paint. We popped into Farrow and Ball on Great Western Road purely by chance and walked out £195 lighter having paid for a 'ColourConsultation',something you'd never catch me doing. 

 

What sold it? When he said 'It might not be for everyone but could save your marriage'. I looked at my other half and we both laughed - and we signed up. 

 

It was money well spent. It's much much easier to agree when you have someone knowledgeable who can address the technical side of the debate confidently -  like 'no, that grey is the wrong base tone for that blue' - we don't argue,  just accept and carry on. 

 

We have the full house planned now after a 1hr 30mins session. We're not sure about two but the good thing is,we got there quicker and never fell out. Tiles were tricky as we did that ourselves - round in many circles! 

 

 

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I completely agree with the above, self building is incredibly stressful.

I would consider myself 'experienced' (Seems a strange word to link to stress?) in dealing with stress and cope well with it. 

I think the biggest factor with self build is that its highly personal, everything is for you and about you.

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Absolutely, we've had a rough ride this year with some other personal issues on top of issues with financing the build. What we've always come back to is an old project management adage control 'Cost / Quality / Time' pick any two. We are controlling costs and quality - therefore the timeline can slide. If you constrain all of them its a losing battle, it can't be done. 

Also - we are nearly all blokes here, if its getting out of hand have a chat to your GP, friends or family not just the bar maid. 

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Before I began the actual process, I couldn't understand all those Grand Designs episodes where people were working full time jobs then working on the house long into the night when they weren't actually building it. How much time can it take to make a few decisions, I naively thought. Interior doors? An hour's online research. Kitchens? Give it two or three nights' research, then a couple of trips to make a decision. In reality, even minor decisions took many, many hours of researching and thinking. Important things like kitchens probably had 100+ hours spent/wasted on them. That's a lot of time when you're working and have kids to entertain.

 

I find that the real stresses came later, because everything you do beyond a certain point is visible forever. Earlier stresses and difficulties are covered over and forgotten about, whereas a poorly installed run of skirting board reminds you of its existence every time you walk past it (well, it does me - my wife doesn't see any of those sorts of issues ¬¬).

 

People shouldn't underestimate the amount of stress that'll be involved. At times it was easily the most stressful thing I've done, and that was with the benefit of being not far off a cash builder with no money concerns.

 

That said, the end result is worth it. In my case, my marriage is definitely stronger as a result of what we went through (a couple of common enemies helped!), and I learned a lot about myself in the process.

 

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Some of you may remember Ben, over at the other place.

His project went totally pear shaped and he was looking to pull out.

http://www.greenbuildingforum.co.uk/newforum/comments.php?DiscussionID=8401

 

In hindsight, there was probably a lot that 'the community' could have done to help, even if just meeting him for a cuppa.  He did have the balls to put up his problems, which was a good thing I think.

I still wonder what happened to him.

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One thing I have found is that things often take way longer than realised, especially when dealing with other people.

 

You need a schedule of what work needs done when and then another schedule of when each decision has to be made regarding the work and when quotes have to be requested and orders made. A lot of items need at least 3 months notice, so you can find yourself having to make snap decisions on things that you thought were months away or scrambling around to find someone who can do a job next week and not charge an arm and a leg for it.

 

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Well, I am in a very fortunate position, I don't get stressed!!!!!. I am retired, I have all the funds to complete the build plus contingency, we don't have a firm completion date (temp rental just down the road on a month by month basis). I have a wonderful builder working for me.

 

A word of warning, Stress causes illness, I know, after many years of a stressful life with more than my fair share of illness myself and even the death of a person very close to me I suddenly said " NO MORE", I am very lucky that I can do this, not everyone can. If something goes wrong, shit happens, so what! get over it. It's things like Ian's (recovering academic) misfortune with builders and bankers that make me feel even more lucky.

 

"RANT"

We went out for a meal with friends last night as we are about to move from Bristol to near our build site in Devon, the evening descended into a tirade of "you cant do this, you cant do that anymore, pay tax on this, pay tax on that, government don't know what their doing. It reminded me of the "grumpy old men" programme on TV. Both other couples were successful, had good health (in fact one couple had just collected their brand new convertible Mercedes Benz after returning from their boat on the Med. I confess I kept quiet but felt very annoyed. I dont suffer negative people very well. I consider myself very lucky.

"RANT OVER"

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Yes stuff is never as important as it seems at the time, and things can nearly always get fixed. I have a lot more perspective as I get older.

 

Although in fairness often fixing things costs money and I can see that it would be enormously stressful if you don't have the funds to get things done. I am very fortunate not to have to worry about that, yet it doesn't stop things being stressful.

 

I always think of the guy on Grand Designs who built the house where the roof was an upside down wing. He was so clearly making himself ill, I really feared for him.

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7 minutes ago, joe90 said:

"RANT"

We went out for a meal with friends last night as we are about to move from Bristol to near our build site in Devon, the evening descended into a tirade of "you cant do this, you cant do that anymore, pay tax on this, pay tax on that, government don't know what their doing. It reminded me of the "grumpy old men" programme on TV. Both other couples were successful, had good health (in fact one couple had just collected their brand new convertible Mercedes Benz after returning from their boat on the Med. I confess I kept quiet but felt very annoyed. I dont suffer negative people very well. I consider myself very lucky.

"RANT OVER"

 

My parents in law have a number of wealthy friends - sold their businesses for £10-30 million type of well-off (after years of raking in hundreds of thousands of quid per annum from these businesses). All are retired with huge houses, expensive cars every couple of years, large holiday houses in France, trips all over the world. Yet to a person, all they seem to care about is foreigners, benefits cheats, regulations inconveniencing them ("health and safety gone mad!") and the amount of tax the government "steals" from them. I have a lot of difficulty sitting in the same room hearing them talk about how hard they worked to get where they are, as if every poor person just needed to a work a bit harder to get everything they've had. Oh, and it seems they all read the Daily Wail!

 

I think the problem is that selfishness makes you unhappy. All the research shows that true happiness comes from giving, not getting. If these people spent a bit less time (and money) trying to fill the voids in their own lives with "stuff", and a bit more time trying to make the lives of others better, I'm sure they'd be happier. Not really a conversation you can have with them of course!

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10 minutes ago, jack said:

 

I think the problem is that selfishness makes you unhappy. All the research shows that true happiness comes from giving, not getting. If these people spent a bit less time (and money) trying to fill the voids in their own lives with "stuff", and a bit more time trying to make the lives of others better, I'm sure they'd be happier. Not really a conversation you can have with them of course!

Very well put! 

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That probably describes me except I think I am a lot more positive. Nothing gives me more joy in life than helping people. You can't take it with you and we're all going to die eventually. Once you accept those things there's a lot less to worry about.

 

I notice a lot of the guys on here seem to be retired and have a lot of time to help people out, I am sure they really enjoy it.

 

The media has a lot to answer for, they seem to have taken the view that misery sells and scaring people gets clicks. Politics has also taken the same tack, scaring people into voting for you. I wish someone would come out with a positive upbeat view of the future.

 

In fact I will. Despite what people say and the move to measure everything relative to what everyone else has..

 

People have never been richer, had a higher standard of living, lived longer or had more opportunities than they have today. Perhaps someone needs to point that out.

Edited by AliG
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Must confess, my (our) hearts are in our mouths at the minute.

 

And the real irony is that for a few years, I gave lectures to 200 students at a time on Resilience in the Professional Context !  Ha!

Good deal of careful thinking and discussion due this weekend.........

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1 hour ago, Lesgrandepotato said:

 

Also - we are nearly all blokes here, if its getting out of hand have a chat to your GP

 

Following on from this there is another benefit - I've been on some anti-anxiety drugs for about 4-5mths now. The net benefit apart from some more mental clarity is that i'm much more comfortable walking about up on the top of the scaffold :-) 

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1 hour ago, jack said:

I find that the real stresses came later, because everything you do beyond a certain point is visible forever. Earlier stresses and difficulties are covered over and forgotten about, whereas a poorly installed run of skirting board reminds you of its existence every time you walk past it (well, it does me - my wife doesn't see any of those sorts of issues ¬¬).

 

 

I'm exactly like this. It doesn't matter if you miss a stud once or twice with the nailer (so long as nobody is standing on the other side!) but once you reach the point where things are going to be on show, you have to be much more careful- I've found that I've slowed down quite a bit. Everyone else seems to think it's daft that I'm more apprehensive about fitting s piece of skirting board than I was about installing a joist, or pouring founds.

 

On the general question of stress and timescale, I've found my enthusiasm waxing and waning throughout the project. I wish I could go back to the very start when I was spending hours on Sketchup trying out different layouts (none of which I used in the end- the final one only emerged after I'd started plasterboarding). If you could bottle than endless energy, and use a bit of it at the end of the build, wouldn't that be wonderful?

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Great thread - I find it instructive, to remember that stress cuts both ways and in all directions both enhancing perception while often being the root cause of unintended consequences. Reflecting after reading the thread so far I particularly feel that my other half is going through this as well and she still works. Curiously while I am buried in the details she gets her stress from seeing the bigger picture and this past week she has been worrying about the project - why did we do this - remind me, will it be OK. Yes I say, we always said we would do this, the money is in place and I don't think they can take it away - it may not be enough but if that happens we will finish the project out of revenue, it was designed by a proper Architect so the design should be good, it should cost less than it is worth (not that that matters), we have the skills and the time plus life insurance for either of us to finish it if anything happens to the other. To me that looks like all bases are covered. However I get the sense that the my male approach of providing down to earth evidence based practical advice in a situation like this has only limited impact on the stressors she has. I (perhaps we) need to find ways of de-stressing in the affective domain (attitudes, perceptions and values) where I suspect the real stress arises.

 

 

I am therefore stressed by her stress and I need to help her differently which will, in turn, help me. So if you want practical advice I guess its to try and see things from the other half's perspective.

 

 

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50 minutes ago, Lesgrandepotato said:

[...]. The net benefit apart from some more mental clarity is that i'm much more comfortable walking about up on the top of the scaffold :-) 

 

xD

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15 minutes ago, MikeSharp01 said:

[...]

I am therefore stressed by her stress and I need to help her differently which will, in turn, help me. So if you want practical advice I guess its to try and see things from the other half's perspective.

 

The trick is to try not to both be stressed at the same time

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1 minute ago, recoveringacademic said:

 

The trick is to try not to both be stressed at the same time

...you've not met my wife then ;)

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well, along with the build, renting out our current house in Bristol ( i refuse to watch tv about nightmare tenants) moving into rental in Devon, my wife is also changing jobs and being mucked about by lack of co-ordnation by current and future employers. she is also lamenting missing her friends and colleagues here in Bristol so i have to be overly optomistic (which i am anyway) and keep  saying "what could possibly go wrong" (with my fingers crossed behind my back).  My stress is painting our current house ready for tenants , I LOATH painting.:) 

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Systems and people show themselves for what they really truly are when things go wrong.

 

When all's well or just OK, or there's no contest for resources (the most common stressor) we can make good progress. The trick for me (us) is learning how to react appropriately to many challenging events, often with little time separation between them.

It's the lack of control that gets to me. Many of us here came from an environment where we were quite senior - if not in rank then in terms of control. We knew (know) our jobs very well indeed. In research terms, we are experts by experience. (Usually occurs at 50,000 and over hours on the job). We can handle exceptions, we have the contacts, we have the in-depth of knowledge attitudes and experience sufficient to handle most things.

 

House building strips that 'expert status' away. So, the challenge is the thing. It's our reaction to challenge that really matters. And we all know how we individually do that. Just look back at how you've faced other challenges. Chances are you'll do the same or (importantly) nearly the same  as you've done before.

 

We've all had challenges, so we know how we've faced them. Sometimes well, others not. They are, therefore, a huge resource which we can mine. How can we adapt the way we faced previous challenges to this one?

 

Cherish them.

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This is a hard one. Self-build is definitely stressful.  Maybe Ian can comment on this one but I remember an analysis of job stress and there was a general observation that top managers had little stress or managed it well fundamentally because they were in control and had the power to make decisions.  It was people that were in middle management that were the most stressed because they had lots of responsibilities in their job, but also had to work within (often incompatible or even impossible) constraints imposed by their senior management: caught between a rock and a hard place.  This is a situation that you should try to avoid wherever possible.

 

So perhaps the biggest issue is time and time management.  It is bad enough trying to get subs and suppliers to deliver to quality, but you have absolutely no leverage as a single buyer, so you can forget promised timescales.  And you miss dependencies.  And you miss work items that youneed to resource / source at the last minute.  So the build will take a lot longer than you plan.  I remember in our initial preplanning advice that Jan mentioned to the  planer that we were hoping to be in the house in 8 months and his chin almost literally dropped.  That was 3½ years ago and we are still finishing off decorating and a few 2nd fix odds and sods.  So plan for the long haul and make any milestone aspirations rather than hard deadlines wherever possible.  If you need subs to deliver by a date then consider offering them a "completion by date" incentive -- but make sure that you include quality checks, so they don't cut corners to make the bonus.

 

With any build, especially a passive-class one, the devil in in the detail.  So review, check and double check.  Don't trust your subs/suppliers, or if they've earned it trust, but verify. Make sure you or someone that you trust is on-site to monitor critical stages of the build in real-time.  The key here is the "tear it down and do it again" test.  If you do find some total crap work that needs redoing, then what is the true cost of doing this?  If you can't afford this, then you need to be there to correct the mistake as soon as possible.  Mistakes always happen whatever you want to happen: you make them; your suppliers get it wrong. your subs don't deliver the quality you expect.  But the sooner you detect and scope the mistake, then the smaller the knock cost and time consequence.

 

The other thing that fucks you up is interfaces:between contractors; between you and your contractors, so even if individuals feel that they are doing a decent job, if their assumptions are consistent then you can still get a balls up.  So try to keep interfaces simple, and always do extra checking at the interface.  We had 3 main suppliers/ subs do maybe 80-90% of the build by value, and even then the management issues were complex.  We also ended up doing pretty much all of the second fix (apart from boarding out/plastering, electrics and tiling) ourselves.  That way we were in control of detail and quality.

 

So one more: accept that you will need a contingency and that shit happens and you need to call off on it.  If you end up using less than this then you are ahead.

 

I am sure others can add or amend these leaning :-)

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I think there is also the added issue that some of us self-building have significantly higher expectations than some contractors who build stuff every day.  There are some really good tradespeople around, but my experience is that they are a bit thin on the ground.  There are many tales on this forum, and it's predecessor, that bear this out.

 

One consequence I found was that I ended up teaching myself to do things, rather than contracting it out.  Even if it takes me four or five times longer to do, at least it will get done to the very best of my ability.

 

Finally, a comment about the observations that it's the small stuff that gets to you, in terms of decision making stress.  Many years ago I was subjected to a "management transformation programme", one week a month away on the course for 6 months, that was intended to produce the needed new generation of senior managers for the brave new world of running defence research as an internally-trading "business". 

 

Generally it was a load of BS, but there was one session that was brilliant, so much so that I can remember practically all of it.  It was run by a psychologist, and as well as the usual stuff about personality types, building teams etc, there was an exercise to demonstrate how the importance of a decision was often inversely proportional to the amount of effort put in to the decision making process.  This is the sort of thing we've probably all seen; spending more time researching what new widget to buy than you spend on choosing what house to buy.

 

In this case we were divided into two sets, and sent off into separate rooms, where there was a sealed envelope with a question in it.  These rooms had video cameras set up, so that we could watch how we behaved afterwards.  In one room, the question in the envelope was "How many nuclear warheads should the UK have in order to form an effective deterrent?".  In the other room, the question was "What is the ideal size for a garden shed?".  There was a time limit, around 10 or 15 minutes I think, to come up with an answer.

 

The interesting point was that the team asked to decide on the number of nuclear warheads came up with an answer very quickly, after less than 5 minutes of debate.  The team asked to decide on the best size of garden shed didn't reach a conclusion; they were still arguing about it when their time ran out................

 

 

Edited by JSHarris
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2 hours ago, joe90 said:

well, along with the build, renting out our current house in Bristol ( i refuse to watch tv about nightmare tenants) moving into rental in Devon, my wife is also changing jobs and being mucked about by lack of co-ordnation by current and future employers. she is also lamenting missing her friends and colleagues here in Bristol so i have to be overly optomistic (which i am anyway) and keep  saying "what could possibly go wrong" (with my fingers crossed behind my back).  My stress is painting our current house ready for tenants , I LOATH painting.:) 

I've stopped watching the nightmare tenant programs

 

We have several rentals that we have rented over the past 15 years or so and never had a problem with any of our tenants

there are many WORKING people out there that will rent from you, pay on time and look after your property 

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