Owner Building

The Challenge of Owner Building

This web site is aimed not only to assist those building their own homes, but to inspire home builders and anyone who has decided to try owner building. Having owner-built ourselves, several times, we have loads of advice to give others. Having written, illustrated and produced scores of books relating to owner-building, DIY and how to do certain projects in and around the home, we have access to thousands of inspirational photographs, many of which we will share with you on this site.

When it comes to owner building and building new houses, there are many challenges, not only cutting costs and getting a build completed on time, but also choosing a design that will work for you and your family. Most people will work with an architect or architectural designer, or at least with a draughts-person, but unless you have a good idea of what you want – or the parameters of what you are trying to achieve – you may be disappointed with the end result.

Owner building is a concept that occurs on a variety of levels. Some people strive to do all the work themselves; others prefer to simply oversee the project. You may even want less involvement than this: but want to keep your finger (and eye for that matter) on the pulse of activity. We are here to help you to build a house, every step of the way.

There is no doubt that construction (even building the tiniest cottage) is, by its very nature, a technical sphere. This web site will give you a broad understanding of the construction process. If there are elements you want to know more about, just ask. We will endeavor to provide you with the knowledge you require, and/or point you in a direction that will enable you to find it elsewhere. Special problems though will require input from professionals, and in many – if not most – cases building projects (owner built or not) will need assistance from a number of professionals.

Apart from design ideas and construction information, we have information about building regulations (check out our sister site) and some of the important concepts owner builders need to know about – like competency (in South Africa there is legislation that makes the involvement of a competent person mandatory) and what is involved if you want to be the project manager of your build. We also have lots of landscaping ideas, suggestions for swimming pools, and plans that you may like to use for garden structures.

This web site will continue to evolve over time, and we invite you to add your experiences. If you’d like to post photographs, then contact us and we’ll let you know what to do. Check out our Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/OwnerBuilding) page where there are new ideas put up regularly. Please like us as well-Thanks.

Here is a short list of some articles that we have on the site:

A Guide to SANS 10400XA
Why Owner Build
Be your own Project Manager
A Competent Person
Regulations in SA
SANS 10400
Concrete Mixes & Batch Ratios for Different Applications
Concrete Mixes by Weight & Volume
Concrete Foundations
Concrete Setting in Cold Weather
Concrete Slab Step-by-step
Floors & Flooring
Decorative Concrete Floors
Boundary Lines, Walls & Fences
Boundary, Walls & Fences (link)
New Electric Fence Law (link)
Minor Building Work
Home Additions
Site Clearing
How to Anchor a Roof Structure
Electrics & Lighting what’s involved
Thatch Roofs and Lightning (link)
Glazing Regulations
All about Glass and Glazing-SANS 10400XA
Glazing & Fenestration Calculations (link)
Sustainable Homes – Going Green
Green Roofs – Energy Efficient & Environmentally Friendly
Cool Roofs Reduce Energy Bills by up to 70 Percent
Innovative Home Design
Container House
Alternate Building Technologies
New Building Materials
Are Drywalls Destroying the Environment?
How to Build a Masonry Arch (link)
Landscaping Your Garden – Part 1 & 2
Landscaping Part 1
Landscaping Part 2
What is a “Garden Structure”
Outdoor Spaces for an Outdoor Lifestyle
Why a Pro Pool Builder
How to Build a Treehouse
Free Document Downloads
Enviornmental A to Z
How to Contact Your Local Municipality  (link)
Home Building DefinitionsPlanning & Building By-law Definitions
Town Planning Definitions (link)
House Plan Submissions – What is the Process?



Owner Building: the book

If you are planning to build or renovate your home, the book Owner Building in South Africa is an indispensable guide.

Whether you are a hands-on builder or simply want to  monitor the sub-contractors, this practical reference book about owner building will enable you to tackle the project with confidence.


Written for the 21st century owner builder whose idea of a ‘notebook’ does not mean a pencil and paper, this full colour, coffee table-type book provides all the information you need for every  aspect of the project, including:

• purchasing the land • costing and financing • planning and scheduling • selecting and purchasing building materials • working with subcontractors • site preparation • construction, from foundations to the roof • adding basic and decorative finishes • landscaping • securing the property against intrusion

First published in 1992 as The Complete Book of Owner-Building in South Africa, this NEW edition has been completely revised and updated to take account of the latest changes  to building legislation, regulations and standards. Every photograph has been replaced and the design is totally different.

With easy-to-read text, clear drawings, and photographs  that reflect contemporary trends in building, architecture and design, the new Owner Building in South Africa provides all you  need to know to build your own home, in one volume.




  1. Hi I have a double garage which is attached to the main house by means of a courtyard wall
    I know want to convert thiS garage into a flatlet, add in ceilings and brick up the existing garage doors add windows and re do the attached shower room into a shower toilet and wash basin with hot water would I need plans for this

    • Hi Jean, Yes you will. The way it works is this, all the rooms on your original building plan that is on file at the local municipality planning department have been classed with a occupancy code. Bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms all have a class, as well as a garage. The garage code means that it is not fit for human habitation so if you want to make it into a flatlet then you will have to put in plans with the appropriate request to alter the habitation code for that section. A “competent person” will have to do the plans for you and oversee the renovation up ot the final occupation approval by the council inspector. I hope this helps.

  2. Hi Penny, my wife and I plan on building our own cute little house end of the year. We are passionate about building as green as we can afford. So my husband studied your book in detail, 1992 edition, and we love it. Some advise please? Plans are being drawn up at the moment so next step is finding a builder or contractor. But first we need to do the billcost. How did you get the correct prices from the different suppliers? Thanks in advance. JP & Dorien

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the book… but … we have though completely updated it for the 2012 edition. I have rewritten large parts and all the photographs are new. Many illustrations and tables have changed in keeping with the new building regulations and improved technology. Sadly there is not much “green” in the 1992 edition – just a bit more in the new edition. If you “like” this site and our sister site buildingregulations.co.za (maybe you have already) your name will go into the draw for a free digital copy of the new edition. (We’ll be drawing towards the end of March). I think Kalahari has quite a good price on the new 2012 printed edition.
      Anyway, to try and answer your question. Billcost is a computer program that does the calculations (it’s currently selling for +R6000). For various reasons, we made a decision to remove all references to it in the new edition of the book. The same company that now owns Billcost (our original co-author sold it many years ago) also owns Merkel’s which also does costings. But there are many different software programs around. Merkels and Billcost I think appeal to building companies more than one-time builders (because of the cost factor). The beauty of them is that prices are constantly updated. So you literally load the program and get the prices from that. I’m not familiar with other programs, but if I was building now, I’d do some research to find out and see what my options were.
      If you are doing your own costings, the simplest, most reliable process may be to phone suppliers and get prices from them. A contractor will usually get discounts, which may or may not be passed onto the customer. But if you have an idea of what is being charged in the marketplace, you’ll be able to assess the building quotations you get in.
      I hope that helps. Good luck.

  3. Want to move 2 bedrooms on top and where ensuite main bedroom was convert to 3 garages if possible.