Tips for Owner Builders


If you want to build, extend or renovate your own home, you might be interested in doing the job yourself. Sounds like you? This would make you an owner builder. 

Read on for our checklist and tips for owner builders to help get you started.

What’s an owner builder?

You can be classed as an owner builder if you are:

  • a tradie who’s extending or renovating your house using your own skills
  • a home or land-owner who’s overseeing a build or renovation on your property by managing sub-contractors to do the work
  • a registered builder who’s building, extending or renovating your own home.

What does an owner builder do?

Becoming an owner builder is a big responsibility. You need to:

  • Know all Victorian building regulations
  • Check licences of contractors
  • Organise building permits and inspections
  • Manage occupational health and safety on site
  • Arrange insurance

Owner builder projects are heavily regulated by the Victorian Building Authority, which means there are a lot of regulations in place to ensure work goes safely.

What are the benefits of being an owner builder?

1. Saves money

According to The Owner Builder Club, building yourself can save you 20-40%.

There are two reasons it’s so much cheaper to do building work by yourself. First, because you’ll “cut out the middle-man”. Secondly, you can find qualified tradespeople who will work to your budget.

2. Give you full control

If you’re building your own home or rental investment, you want it to be the best it can possibly be for your budget. As an owner builder you have control of the whole building project.

3. Flexible timeline

You’ve got a lot of things going on in your life, whether it’s work or family. Becoming an owner-builder means you can work on the project when it suits you, e.g. on weekends, across winter etc.

Owner builder checklist

Use our owner builder checklist below to tick off each step as you go.

1. Get a white card

Also called Construction Induction Training, this is required before you can build. It can only be done face-to-face at a registered training organisation (RTO).

2. Get a certificate of consent

Needed before you do domestic building works over $16,000. Required for all owner builders who are not registered builders, or a registered building practitioner wanting to do more work than is covered by their licence.

3. Apply for a permit

You might need a planning permit, a building permit, an occupancy permit, or all three.

4. Hire licensed contractors

A must-do for electrical wiring, plumbing, draining, gas fitting, air conditioning and refrigeration.

5. Sign contracts

If you’re going to work with other builders or tradespeople, make sure you sign a domestic building contract to outline the scope of work and costs.

6. Ensure builders have domestic building insurance

Make sure any builders you work with are covered by insurance for the value of their work. This protects you if they disappear or aren’t able to complete the job.

7. Do inspections

Inspect work regularly and keep track of everything with a notebook and photographs. You might need these if you get audited by the VBA.

8. Get insurance

You’ll need workers’ compensation and public liability insurance to cover the period of the build.

Tips for owner builders

Avoid first-time problems

First-timers often encounter some challenges and run the risk of spending more time and money than they expected. When you hire a builder or tradesperson, you can avoid problems with:

  • Site lay-out
  • ventilation
  • waterproofing
  • wiring
  • materials ordering

Do a course

In Victoria, an owner-builder course is not compulsory and you don’t need training to get a permit. But Consumer Affairs highly recommends owner builders do a course to gain a thorough understanding of the process

Builders Academy provides training to hundreds of owner builders. 

By taking our CPC40120 Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Building), you learn about planning, regulations and processes for managing domestic builds.

Hire professionals 

In some situations, you’ll need a registered builder. For example, reblocking or restumping should be done by a licenced professional. 

Keeping up with regulations

Victorian regulations change all the time, that’s why it’s important to keep up to date. Check the VBA website frequently.

Don’t get scammed 

Has a builder asked you to apply for an owner builder permit? If so, alarm bells should be ringing.

Dodgy and unlicensed builders sometimes ask homeowners to apply for permits to cover their work. Only get an owner builder permit once you understand the legal responsibilities involved.

How can I become an owner builder?

Becoming an owner builder is a lot of work and responsibility. It’s a great option for those already in building and construction jobs, because you can save money and take control over the full project.

By following the owner builder checklist and tips for owner builders, you’ll get the job done safely and legally.

Got questions about our building and construction courses or want to know more about how to become an owner builder? Our friendly staff can help.Call 1300 LEGEND or fill out our enquiry form today.


This article has been revised and republished on 23 May 2023.