Ever thought of building your own home? For our guest writer Lady Janey and her husband, it was a lifelong dream that became a reality. So how did they see this huge project through to completion?
We’ve been in Gloucestershire for 10 years, first arriving from the South East during the floods of July 2007 for a lifestyle change. Once we’d dried out, we went on to spend seven years building our own home.
Yes, that’s right, seven years. It isn’t that we were the worst builders ever, it’s just that there’s so much more to building your own home than you may think and a lot of work involved if you do most of it yourself.
My husband had always wanted to build his own house and although to me, it was a completely new concept, he had been silently preparing for years and had researched heavily as to how to go about it. Even so, despite his vision and forethought, neither of us could have envisaged what we would face on our journey to achieving our dream. I certainly went into it blind, naïvely underestimating the enormity of the project.
Firstly, we hadn’t bet on battling with our local council for planning permission, so our first year in Gloucestershire was spent going backwards and forwards trying to reach an agreement. This was by no means an easy feat. We didn’t leave one stone unturned in our bid to achieve our goal.
Even when permission was granted, it was delivered with a crushing blow in the form of the removal of our permitted development rights. This effectively means that if we so much as want to put up a satellite dish in the future, we would need planning permission.
I would definitely advise thorough research into planning regulations in your chosen area and employment of a planning consultant if necessary to advise with the application.
The next stage was to appoint a builder and I’m a bit ashamed to admit that we made the mistake of being influenced by others and appointing a local firm who specialised in standard estate-build houses. As a result, it soon became evident that our project was way beyond their capabilities and when the main structure was complete, after a great deal of upset and stress, we parted company and completed the work ourselves.
My top tip, never feel obliged to go with a particular contractor or trader for any personal reasons. Your gut feeling is often the right one.
Our house is no ordinary build. Friends always joked that we should have applied to Grand Designs, but I’m quite glad we didn’t. In all honesty, the project broke us both. It was a never-ending rollercoaster of emotions – once you were on there, you were on there for the ride, and there was no stopping until it was finished.
We must have made our way through hundreds of traders over the years and I am disappointed to admit that there’s just a handful that we would now recommend. I don’t understand why it was so exasperatingly difficult to get a job done properly without having to do it ourselves. Is it just getting more difficult to find good traders, even if you do your research well?
Dream come true
The house build pushed us to our absolute limits but the final product is 100% worth it. We’ve succeeded in building our dream home and it is everything we could ever have hoped for and more.
I don’t think I could ever go through this again but if I did, I would plan everything down to the very last detail before even one brick was laid. There are so many decisions to make in the course of the project that it quite easily becomes overwhelming.
This is a guest post by Lady Janey. All views expressed here are Lady Janey’s own and not necessarily those also shared by Which?
Are you thinking of building your own home? Maybe you already have? How did you find the experience?