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Anyone looking to build their own home as an owner builder needs to be well informed BEFORE building. Here are 19 awesome books available in print and Kindle editions for aspiring home owner builders.
So many people want to build a home of their own without paying a premium to hire a builder. If you feel up to the challenge of acting as your own general contractor or even building the house yourself with your own hands (like we did) you need to be as informed as possible.
It took the two of us nearly eight years of dreaming, two years of intense planning, and two years of actual building to complete our home from scratch.
And in the process, we read loads of books on our chosen building technique, home design, residential code, and everything from plumbing to wiring.
Most of these books are available in print and Kindle editions. While e-readers can be great for keeping a library small and portable, nothing compares to having actual books. Paper books are great to keep with you at the building site, especially if you don’t have an internet connection.
However, if you want to hoard books and don’t want to tote around a small library to your building site, a Kindle can be great. To each their own!
Here are some of our FAVORITE building reference books for home owner-builders.
19 20 Essential Books for the Home Owner Builder
Great “general” books for planning, design, and building management
Top picks for building “green”
UPDATE: The Owner-Builder Home Planner
The article used to just contain 19, but since then we’ve added a super important 20th to the roster. The Owner-Builder Home Planner is a comprehensive guide to planning out your home, from design and permitting to finances and organizing your build. It’s designed to help you save tens of thousands of dollars on the construction of your home, not to mention days worth of build time and infinite amounts of your sanity.
It comes with a free 7-day email course to help you make the most of your planner. Every home is different, so it’s designed to help you design and build the house that’s right for you and your family.
If you’re serious about building your own home, this is the book that will walk you through the process from start to finish. Many of the other books in this post will make a great supplement, especially with specific things like code compliance.
Great “General” Books:
These are books that cover the process more generally, help you to plan, and provide crucial insight into the process of building. Builders from all different types of construction can benefit from these books. Whether you’re building with a natural technique like we did or something more conventional, building yourself or hiring it out, there’s a load of information here for you.
The Owner-Builder Book: How You Can Save More Than $100,000 in the Construction of Your Custom Home
The Complete Guide to Contracting Your Home: A Step-by-Step Method for Managing Home Construction
How To Build Your Dream Home Without Getting Nailed!: Save Your Time, Money, Sanity and Relationships
Super House: Design Your Dream Home for Super Energy Efficiency, Total Comfort, Dazzling Beauty, Awesome Strength, and Economy
Designing Your Perfect House: Lessons From An Architect
The Visual Handbook of Building and Remodeling
The Complete Visual Guide to Building a House
What Your Contractor Can’t Tell You: The Essential Guide to Building and Renovating
Favorites for DIYers:
We built the majority of our home with our own hands, and having some great reference materials around was crucial. These are some of our favorite books for DIYers who feel confident in tackling some of the vital tasks.
Step By Step Guide Book on Home Wiring
This book is getting harder to find and you may only be able to get it used, but it was hands down our favorite for ease of use and ability to quick reference.
Step By Step Guide Book on Home Plumbing
Like the wiring book, a very easy to understand quick-reference book, which is exactly what you want on the job site.
We picked these up at one of our local big box stores figuring they’d at least be decent, but we were surprised by how helpful they really were. So much info and easy to follow! These guides became some of our most referenced during the building process. They have others on a wide range of subjects but these three are a great place to start. If you want to go into other facets of building you can find more of their guides here.
The Complete Guide to Plumbing
Books to Help You Build Green
Even if you aren’t a cordwood builder like us there are plenty of opportunities to design a greener home. Here are some of our favorite books for inspiration.
The Solar House: Passive Heating and Cooling
Building Green (my personal favorite for the pictures alone!)
Green Home Building: Money-Saving Strategies for an Affordable, Healthy, High-Performance Home
We were gifted with a LOT of home plan books in our planning years. The plan we ultimately ended up going with was a bit of a combination of plans we found in books with plans we found on Pinterest.
It was good for us to have these print references to make notes on and use throughout the planning phase. Even if you don’t end up using a stock plan for your build, these books are a great way to jumpstart your layout planning.
The Big Book of Small Home Plans
Easy to Build Expandable Home Plans
Looking for more insight as an owner builder? We built our own house from scratch and want to show you how to do it too. Check out these posts for more inspiration:
Natural Building and The Code: A Quick-Start Guide for Owner Builders
Financing Your Homestead (even if you’re flat broke)
6 Financial Tips for Buying Land for Your Homestead
Buying Land: 5 Things To Do Before You Purchase
10 Ways to Save THOUSANDS of Dollars on Your Home Build
6 Reasons You’ll Blow Your Construction Budget (and how to avoid it)
9 Ways to Get Building Materials Cheap or Free
7 More Great Ways to Score Inexpensive Building Supplies
Which one of these books would you recommend to start with as not to get confused or overwhelmed by the whole process of being an owner builder?
Honestly, either the first or second, but I’m not totally thrilled with either of them. I’m actually working on a book right now to address some of the big concerns other owner-builders have. I’m not sure if you’re following us on Facebook or via email yet but you should definitely do that if you’re interested in getting early access to it. Additionally, if you have code worries, I found a book since writing this original post that covers what you need to know. The caveat to all of that is that this edition is about to be outdated in some states (since different parts of the code are adopted at different times in different states) AND it’s super hard to get ahold of. You don’t want to settle for an older edition because there are a LOT of code changes (i.e. arc fault breakers vs. regular breakers). Here’s the link to their main page: http://www.codecheck.com/cc/index.html
Damian Simpson says
Thank you once again Emily, I am signed up to receive your emails and i’ll join your Facebook page after this reply. As for the building codes, seeing as I am located in Australia probably very little of your information on this would be relevant to my location.
I await eagerly the release of your book, if it is as informative as your blog posts it should be a good read.
Thanks so much for the kind words! Luckily for my international readers (a surprising number of you are from Australia and NZ, as a side note) the book I’m working on isn’t super focused on country-specific building codes and can work with builders pretty much anywhere across the world. I know we follow all of the International Building Code and include additional codes by country and state mandates, so I’m sure Australia is a similar way. Might look to see if there’s a similar code resource for Australia. I’ll keep my eyes open for you!