How to cope with the stresses of building a house

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And while we discuss aesthetics verses technical, the build keeps going up ... 

Michele Powles is building a house in West Auckland and is documenting the weekly trials and tribulations of the process in this weekly catch up.  

Building a house is stressful you say?

Back to those absolute truths of house building: it will be stressful. We have chosen to take a potentially more stressful route by project managing the whole puppy ourselves, and having small children who are determined to "help" at every opportunity (those boxes of nails really did need emptying into that puddle, oh yes they did).

Yet I know people who have bought an off-the-plan, ready-to-go, build-and-design option and still had issues with keeping their hair on. Not to mention the poor folk in Christchurch who have recently watched their savings and retirement plans disappear as their builder went into receivership.

At least for us, with our labour-only contract, it's on us if issues come up with products or contractors. And if it really goes badly with our builder we can walk away and get a new one. (Luckily it's all good though. Our Man Of Hammers, Mike, is doing a fine job).

So, what are the issues?

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I'm in charge of aesthetics and Mr Building Boxes is in charge of technical.

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There's the whole money thing, of course. I am desperate to stick to the budget, and Mr Building Boxes is a fan of things "done well". Of course I want things done well too, but not at a premium, so we are in continual discussions over whether we really need this or that pipe to be 10mm or 20mm. 

The problem here of course is that I care very much about what can be seen in the final house, and Mr Building Boxes cares very much about what will be unseen, but what essentially is the core of the house.

Nuts and bolts cost money, just like paint does, but unlike paint, you get the wrong nuts and bolts (and obviously other much more technical materials), and, well, paint isn't going to hold the house up for very long. It means a lot of explaining for Mr Building Boxes (who is a technical boffin and has project managed a build before) and a lot of upskilling for me. 

But it's OK right? They're not big issues?

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His and hers ... we come with our different opinions and desires.

It's perhaps not so much that there are issues, but that there are differences in the way Mr Building Boxes and I see the world. It was agreed, very early on, that he was in charge of technical matters, and I was in charge of all things aesthetic. I don't want to wield a nail gun – no thank you, I've seen what those babies can do – and he is the first to admit he doesn't know how to pick which orange shade is fresh and perky and which is a musty throwback from your grandma's closet. 

That could have been the end of it. The folk at Resene have shared a few hilarious stories about the disagreements husbands and wives have over paint colour (mostly resolved when she picks it, he paints it and then they both have a beer to celebrate). But when building a whole house, the line between technical and aesthetic is somewhat fuzzier. And there are so many decisions to be made, suddenly disagreements can mount up into a whole pile of stress.

Happily the builder thinks we are hilarious

It's not often Mr Building Boxes and I are on site at the same time. He works full time and usually only gets there after work and I'm there with kids and a camera in tow. But we met there this week to finalise the windows.

Mike – Our Man Of Hammers - chuckled the whole way round as I questioned why that window had a mullion in it when there was no longer a structural need for it, and he laughed out loud when Mr Building Boxes accidentally espoused that having it or not having it would look "exactly the same". I admit I resorted to my stern look, and replied that I didn't think "exactly the same" meant what he thought it meant.

Happily, Mr Building Boxes is not easily offended, and when we are both calm we can talk things through. Equally happily though, the mullion is coming out and we're getting a much bigger view.

How do you avoid the tensions turning into real problems?

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Working through the window measure was ... interesting - but the view is still magic.

If you know the answer to this one, do let me know, just in case. So far though it has been about me trying very hard to care about structural matters, and learning where I can.

And for Mr Building Boxes, it's been about discovering what is an aesthetic decision as well as a technical one (hint to other Mr Building Boxes at large: the length of a pergola is an aesthetic decision as well as a technical one). We try and check in with each other every day about where we are at both in terms of the build schedule and the look of the place. Who knows how we'll do by the end …

* Introducing the family and the build

How to price a new build

* How to find a builder

How to get resource consent

* How to work around rain

* How to: concrete foundations

* How to: build an outside office

How to: sell your own property

How we sold our house by ourselves

The truths of building: you're bound to change your mind

* Timber framing goes up

Michele Powles is a writer and mother of a Lego engineer and destruction specialist. You can read more about their New Build Love over at or on Facebook

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