Why You Should Never Give A Builder Your Design Ideas

by Ryan Stannard | August 7, 2021

Why you should never give a builder your design ideas…

So, you’ve finally visualised and mapped out the plans to build your dream home…

You might have thought the hardest part was done, such as deciding on the number of rooms, aspect of the property and design of your new home… But unfortunately for a lot of consumers, bigger hurdles often lie ahead!

Bringing your design to life will end up in disaster if you share your ideas with the wrong building company. This is because once a designer or builder sketches out your ideas on paper, they can claim copyright over different aspects of the design.

We have seen this scenario happen time and time again. 

A consumer engages a company that is prepared to produce a concept design for free or at a very low cost, only to find that if they choose to not sign up with this builder, their design can no longer be implemented with someone else.

People may not realise it but they’re getting sucked into an obligation with a building company and giving away their ideas for free, putting themselves at risk of not being able to implement them in the future with a different building company.

The Heartbreaking Reality For Some Clients

Sharing Design Ideas With A Builder

I once had a distressed client come to me having lived this exact nightmare. They wanted me to quote their design and provided me with the drawings that had been created by another builder.

They weren’t happy with the experience they had with this builder because they were being asked to sign a contract without visibility of the full package.

They didn’t know what the inclusions would be and the contract was full of allowances such as prime costs items and provisional sums.

They advised me that the design was purely their idea and wanted me to recreate it, however I had to break the sad news to them that although these were their ideas, they no longer had copyright over this design.

It’s heartbreaking to see clients experience this situation, when in most cases they have spent time and energy putting their heart into the perfect design for their home.

And what was even more disheartening to tell them… is that we needed to completely redesign the house.

Don’t Be Fooled By The Common Copyright Myth

Sharing Ideas With Your BuilderThe Australian Copyright Council states:

“In most cases, copyright in drawing such as a house plans is owned by the person who does the drawing, even if the drawing depicts another person’s ideas. If you pay to create house plans, they will own the copyright.”

The best solution to this legal loophole that is often overlooked or misunderstood by consumers, is getting comfortable with the builder you want to work with and engaging them during the design phase so you can work together from inception to build.

Don’t base your decision on the fact someone is offering a free concept design! Do your due diligence first in order to be confident that this is the builder that you definitely want to build with...

There is a common myth amongst consumers that if you change design elements from the original drawings by 10%, you can avoid the copyright infringement.

However, this is simply not true. 

The real test for copyright infringement is based on whether elements of the original design have been used or not. It has nothing to do with percentages. 

You cannot take the original drawings and add 2 bedrooms or remove one bathroom and then assume the design is yours. 

Rather, the new design has to show little to no resemblance to the original drawing in order to get around the copyright regulations. Even then, resemblance is subjective and something lawyers enjoy debating amongst themselves!

Work With Your Builder To Save Thousands

Sharing Design IdeasAnother problem that consumers face when engaging large companies for a free concept design, is that these companies tend to use their existing standardised template and merely incorporate the client’s design into their model.

This adds to the level of copyright they can then claim on the design.

So, never start designing a home in the belief you can show the design to six other builders later down the track in order to get a cheap quote.  

Do your research, pick a builder you like, and then work with them on your design. The expertise a professional builder brings to the design stage or your project will save you thousands in construction!  

Professional builders will make sure you are fully informed on all aspects of the build process and will provide you with a 100% all inclusive fixed price, so you don’t have your ideas pinched or receive nasty surprises when it comes time to sign the contract.

It doesn’t matter if you are building your first home or if you have built many times before…

Designing a new home can be very overwhelming and when you hear new things for the first time, it's not easy to remember everything. So that’s why we’ve put together a quick guide for The 7 Things You Must Know Before Designing A New Home. 

It’s completely free, and it will help you to keep your design on budget and avoid any nasty surprises that can sneak up on you when building a custom home.

Click on the link below to download 7 Things You Must Know BEFORE Designing A New Home.

Download Our Free Guide For Building In Adelaide