Break up sheet goods efficiently


When you like to use sheet goods as MDF or plywood you’ll have difficulties calculating the ideal cut layout. When you prepare a project, it’s likely you’ll have a cut list. For bigger projects there’s a need to reduce the wasteful offcuts. In my attic closet build I managed to reduce my waste by 4 full sheets by using the right tools.


There’s software that calculates a certain cut layout according to your specifications. You type in your cut list, add your own stock of sheet goods and the program does the thinking. Some programs even take into account the grain direction and saw blade thickness.
I love the program Cutlist plus. It has a free trial period. What I like the most about it is that you can chose whether you prefer rip cuts or cross cuts. It lets you add prices so you know what the project will cost you. A professional can also add labour to the calculation. This way he can inform his client about the project’s cost.
If you are looking for a free program you should take a look at MaxCut. There are online tools if you fancy that. Optimalon is one of the best known sites to do so.


If you are plain lazy you could also decide to buy your sheet goods already cut in the store. If you go to a good quality local wood store, there’s a chance they have one of those robotic saws. These saws have a built-in software so you supply a cut-list and the machine will tell what type of sheet to feed it. The sheets can be stacked 5 sheets high (if the layouts are equal) and in less than 10 seconds your pieces are ready to go. No matter how hard you try to get that ultimate precision..I’ve never been able to attain the level of precision that machine has. It costs you 20 euro but it saves you a couple of hours. No back-pain when lifting MDF (40kg for a 19mm sheet), no dust for your lungs. Life couldn’t be more peaceful.


Cost prediction for our new home


Just before the end of 2015 we got a small ‘gift’ from our architect. He gave us the cost prediction for our building plan. We were shocked when we saw the price. The calculation totalled at 193,448.59 euro (around $210k or £150k).
We have to say that Dirk made the calculation without taking into account that we would be doing a lot on our own. The calculation includes everything from the foundation to the roof and technical installations (electricity, ventilation, central heating, water..). It also includes a walk-in shower, toilet, bath and double vanity. A garage, kitchen, (built-in) cabinets in the living room, bedrooms and dressing room are not included so we are talking about an extra 30k (at least).

Shrinking the costs

We hope to gain around 50k by doing a lot on our own. Maybe we will install the garage later on and start with a small and cheap kitchen. We have to say it’s very difficult to estimate how much money one can save by doing things by himself. Some say half the cost you pay to a craftsman is the cost of labour. I can see that that’s the case for a master plasterer. I’m less convinced that that same percentage is applicable to central heating.

A big part of the total cost is due to the amount of insulation required by law (30 000 euro). Because of the airtightness of modern buildings a proper ventilation (with study and inspection) is required to.
The architect has designed a new front of the house. Two windows on the first floor would become one less wide window. The window on the ground level would become slightly wider to fit the width of the other window. One of the two entries would be closed. Financially these changes require a lot of labour (that I don’t dare to do myself) so they will need to go. The old three-window-facade will remain as it is.

As I said before, we will pay some craftsmen to put the studs into place. From there on, the OSB-sheets, insulation, foil and so on can be DIY.

The windows will probably be installed by the manufacturer. In Belgium the tax rate on renovation is 6%. If you buy the products yourself, you have to pay 21%. I’m happy to help a man provide for his family instead of paying for bureaucracy. The architect is very fond of metal/aluminium windows. PVC windows are a cheaper alternative. The profiles are more chunky but I don’t mind that. Modern plastic window frames exist in a range of textures next to the plain white.

Technical installations will be (for the most part) installed by ourselves. We will install radiant floor heating on the ground floor. On the first floor we opt for radiators because they will not be heated that frequently. A natural gas powered condensation boiler will feed both the heating system and our warm tap water system. A professional will check everything and start the boiler up to avoid problems.
Installing tap water and ventilation tubes is another job that can be easily done by oneself.

We will leave the idea behind of plastering the walls. We will put sheet rock on every wall instead. That’s one of the jobs that require a lot of work but if it allows me to save up to 7000 euro, it’s a job that I will be happy to tackle myself.

In the cost prediction, our architect included a terrace in the garden. The material would be polished concrete that has been grinded into big tiles. It would be beautiful if we could have that same finish on the inside of the house (ground floor). We like the industrial look of it and it seems to be a lot cheaper (€20/m² or $2/ft²). The lower cost would be due to the lack of screed and joints.

It’s difficult to say how much we will be able to save while maintaining a good quality house. Only time will tell!

Hello world! Birth of a building blog

Hello world!!

We started the Built-it! website as a way of letting people follow our journey into renovating a fixer-upper. As we are inexperienced people, we’ll be learning a lot from master craftsmen and we will be making a lot of mistakes. The idea is that you all can benefit from this site so your own DIY-project will be going smoothly.

Building wood

We’re Belgians and over here in our hectic country, people tend to build Continue reading