0

How to Build a House Yourself - Five Innovative Ideas

So you've been dreaming of building a house yourself for years but you're unsure where to start. You want to do as much of the work as possible yourself but there's so much to consider when building a home yourself. There are a few options that are more straightforward for the less experienced builder, from container homes through to prefab home kits and we detail them below.

If all this seems too much for you and you're looking for a general contractor to help you with the project, contact Fortress Home in Chicago today for a free consultation: [email protected] or +773-770-8607

The main options for building a house yourself

When people talk about building a house by yourself they can mean a whole range of things from building a house without a contractor all the way through to doing everything themselves.

How to build a house yourself from the ground up

Fully DIY construction is the most hands-on option and should only be attempted by people with plenty of experience in build and construction. This may not be an option where you are, depending on zoning and permits for your city or state, but might be possible with certain types of less-permanent structure, such as a container home.

With this building process, you will try and do as much of the work as possible, saving money on labor costs. You may still need to work with specialist subcontractors especially for electrical and plumbing work unless you are qualified in these areas. Your house will almost certainly be subject to inspections and may not pass if this work is carried out by unqualified individuals.

This can be the cheapest way to build your own home but can be very stressful and time-consuming so should be undertaken with caution.


Managing the project yourself

In many states, you can act as your own general contractor, instead of hiring someone with a general contractor's license, and manage the construction process yourself. In this instance, it's likely that you will do some of the work but still hire many of the subcontractors needed to build a house.

If you take this route it may not require quite so many specialist building skills but will still require a lot of work. You will need to:

  • Ensure your plot is suitable for building on, with soil tests and surveyors reports
  • Obtain your building permit and make sure your plans are to code
  • Manage the building site and everyone working on it
  • Source and purchase all materials
  • Hiring professionals and managing their schedules
  • Ensure all inspections take place as required
  • Ensure there is adequate insurance in place for the building site

Being involved with sweat equity

You might wonder how to build a house yourself and decide that you need some help. One way to do this is to hire general contractors but attempt to save a few thousand dollars by doing some of the more straightforward jobs yourself. This will need to be organized in advance with your construction manager, to ensure any work you do fits in with the schedules of the other contractors and laborers.

The types of tasks you might undertake include:

  • Hanging drywall
  • Painting and decorating
  • Laying flooring
  • Assembling kitchen units
  • Laying garden paths

Doing tasks like these can help save money and will help give you a special sense of ownership over your dream home. You'll be able to say 'I did that!' without all the stress and headaches that come with DIY building a house.

Building a house with a general contractor

You can still say you're building a house yourself if you work with an experienced contractor, especially if you choose to build a custom home. You will be heavily involved in the design stage and will need to make a lot of decisions along the way, from the floor plan through to the interior finishes.

This may not be the cheapest way to build your dream home but it is the option that is most likely to result in success. It also has the best chance of being completed on time and within budget.

  • Get started building today!
    Custom Home Builders
    We will design a new home that fits your life by finding out what is important to you, your family and your lifestyle.
custom home builder in Chicago

5 affordable techniques to help you save money

You've made the decision to build a house yourself but you're not sure what type of house to build. These options are generally more affordable and straightforward to build as a less experienced builder.

1. Shipping container home

You may have heard about the latest eco-friendly trend for houses made from shipping containers. This trend is not only good for the environment by using materials that would otherwise be discarded but it's also good for your pocket too.

Using shipping containers is a very affordable housing option as the basic containers cost between $3-5,000. If you manage to get a refrigerated unit they will already have insulated walls, which can be useful in climates with extreme temperatures and will save you time installing your own insulation.

You can buy multiple containers to assemble your own floor plans and this can be one of the cheapest house building options per square foot.

Unless you're building off-grid you'll need to ensure you have utility connections and will have to make sure your containers are well ventilated, as they are manufactured to be almost airtight.

2. Tiny home

These days tiny houses are all the rage, with people reducing their square footage for a more minimal way of life. They save money not only through cheaper construction costs but also through reduced utility bills and giving you less room to store an excess of possessions.

Currently, in the US, tiny homes are not always eligible for traditional mortgages but new financing options are becoming available. There are many building plans for tiny homes available online, so you should be able to find your dream tiny home.


You can even build a tiny house on a trailer, specifically designed for the purpose, and use an RV hookup for your utilities. This gives you the flexibility to move with the season and means that you will probably not need any building permits.

3. Shell home

If you choose a shell home you will work with home builders who provide you with a shell house. This usually includes

  • the site preparation work
  • laying the foundation and concrete slab
  • framing and siding
  • roofing
  • installing exterior doors and walls

A shell home may also include some basic plumbing and electrical work, but this will depend on the house builder.

This will leave you to complete all the interior work including finishing the interior walls, laying flooring, decorating as well as plumbing and electricals. You can choose to hire other subcontractors to do this work for you or do as much as possible by yourself.

Recommended reading

Custom homes on your lot!
If you currently own a lot, or need help finding one, Fortress Home is excited to offer comprehensive on-your-lot home building services. We have many ideal floor plans for building on your lot, don't worry - we can modify our standard plans or develop a fully custom plan just for you.
Contact us

4. DIY prefab homes

Another self-build option is the DIY home kit or prefab home. These kits vary from very basic, simple houses to designer homes using premium materials and can range in size from 60 to over 1,000 square feet. Imagine if you were to order a house from Ikea, complete with the complex instruction manuals.

The parts that you assemble to make your home are made in factories and then sent directly to your home site. The amount of work required and how much has been partially assembled depends on the kit you choose.

These kits are unlikely to include any major systems like plumbing or electricals, and you will probably have to arrange for the foundation to be built separately as well, but they take away a lot of the hard work when it comes to sourcing materials and assembling the basics.

5. Modular homes

If the work required for kit homes sounds too much, you might be interested in modular homes. They come in a wide range of floor plans and usually come with plumbing, electricals, interior walls, and sometimes even built-in closets, already installed.

Depending on the desired size of the house you will buy multiple modules, which will be transferred to your building plot for installation.

Unless you have construction experience it's still recommended to hire a builder to help assemble and connect your modular home and ensure it meets local building code requirements.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to build a house by yourself?

Depending on your level of experience and exactly how much work you intend to do yourself, it is certainly possible to build a home yourself. Depending on where you live the regulations may differ so certain tasks may need to be done by a qualified professional. If that's the case, and you don't have the required qualifications, then you will need to find an experienced subcontractor to assist with your build.

But be aware that building a house is no small feat and requires a lot of time, energy, and expertise to complete safely.

Is it cheaper to build a house if you do it yourself?

If you decide to be your own contractor for building a house you can potentially save a lot of money. General contractor fees can be as much as 10 - 20% but if you've never built a house before and don't work in the construction industry, those fees can be very worthwhile.

There are several ways that working with a contractor will save you money:

  • Contractors get trade discounts on building materials.
  • Builders have a network of experienced subcontractors so you won't waste time looking for the right plumber or electrician.
  • With years of experience, the time required to build a house will be reduced.
  • If you are leaving a well-paying job to build your own home it may end up costing more in lost wages than it would have cost to hire an expert.

How much does it cost to build your own house?

When wondering 'how much does it cost to build a home yourself' you have to consider many factors, including the style and type of house, the location of the house, and most importantly the size of the house.

One of the biggest deciding factors on the price of a house is the square footage, although there are other ways of saving money, other than building a tiny house.

The average cost for building a house in the US at present is around $100 - $200 per square foot, with most people spending between about $150,000 and $450,000 on their new home.

Can you get a loan to build a house?

While construction loans are not as common as standard house loans and mortgages it is certainly possible to get a loan to build a house.

If you are working with a licensed general contractor you will find it easier to get a construction loan, although you will still need to have full plans, a schedule, a plot of vacant land, and a contract with your contractor in order to be approved for the loan. This loan will cover the costs of construction but you may still need more money, so will need to get additional loans to cover the extra costs.

If you decide you want an owner builder loan, where you act as your own general contractor, this will make the process more complicated, as you will need to prove your expertise and experience in construction in order to get approved for the loan. You will also need very thorough plans and schedules to convince the bank to give you a loan.

Building a house yourself in Chicago

If you've decided you want to build your dream home but building it by yourself is too much work, contact Fortress Home, who will guide you through the process of building your own house from acquiring your building permit, to the day you break ground all the way to the final inspection and move-in day.

With 20 years of construction experience, building homes for the residents of Chicago, you know you're in safe hands: [email protected] or +773-770-8607

modern kitchen cabinets in Chicago

FORTRESS HOME

Fortress Home combines the roles of a general contractor, a construction partner, and a construction manager. Our talented workforce helps us professionally manage all aspects of on-site construction.

How we build