Following people trying to build a house on less than £100k. Can you build a family home for just £50k? Neil and Amanda give it their best shot.
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Can you build your dream home...
This is the exciting bit, seeing the first bit of dirt come out.
..for under £100,000?
If you think outside the box, you can build something extraordinary.
Architect Piers Taylor will push what's possible with their homes...
How about reconsidering the structure?
No. I like the structure.
'..while I, Kieran Long,
'will challenge them with fresh ideas on design.'
-Focus on how you feel right now.
'And show them ingenious solutions possible in any home.'
This is the kind of thing we want to do for our grandchildren.
'And they needn't be expensive.'
-What do you reckon?
-I'm really impressed.
-That's two good ideas you've come out with today, Piers.
'We'll all be pushed....'
I have to put my cards on the table and say I hate the roof.
-I just hate it.
-'..as the homes take shape.'
We are risking all the money.
And, once it's gone, it's gone.
But some will turn low-cost self builds
into extraordinary homes.
It looks great.
This time, we help Neil and Amanda...
This would be my perfect home.
..attempt an ambitious build...
Taller, taller, taller!
..on a tiny budget.
Ours is like the poor man's version of this.
But will endless delays...
So, we've not even started. He's not even dug a hole.
..and the stress of the build...
The other day I screamed at Neil and said,
"I wish we'd never started this."
..derail their plans?
I think we've just got to start again.
I think they can't build this. We can't let them.
It's a bit harder than I thought.
Three years ago,
Neil and Amanda bought this single-storey house in East Anglia.
It's definitely harder than I thought.
Now, with lively two-year-old Indy and new baby Tishan...
Move your head back.
That's a good girl.
..they've outgrown their tiny house,
but simply can't afford a bigger one.
We moved house when I had six weeks to go with Indy.
This time, we've taken it a little further.
We're not moving, we're just knocking the whole thing down
and starting again.
We didn't really want to get rid of it. We wanted to build up.
But the house wasn't stable enough,
and it was easier and probably quicker to build a brand-new house.
Graphic designer Neil
is taking time off to do most of the work himself,
but has zero experience.
Six months ago, I was just thinking,
right, I'll just have to get the builders,
because I've got no idea how on earth you make a house.
Whereas, like, now, if I dismantle this,
I've got ideas of how it actually goes back together.
But the budget for their new house is incredibly tight.
They have just £50,000 to build their dream family home.
Because we're on such a tight budget,
it's are we going to be able to do it for this budget?
Because, once we run out of money, it stops.
I'm going to do as much as I possibly and physically can.
I'm not skilled at it,
but I'll have a go at it and hopefully we can do it.
But their tiny budget and lack of experience is not restricting
the dreams they have for their new home.
Look at the detail above the windows up there.
They've got the little arches.
The medieval town of Lavenham in Suffolk
is one of their favourite places to visit.
This is where we first got our inspiration for our build.
We want rustic.
We want the beams showing.
I want it to look like it's been here 100 years,
even when it was made yesterday.
We just love the character of the buildings,
and this is what we want with our house and our home.
The family have moved into a tiny caravan, ready to start the build.
It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, really,
for the likes of us.
And this is going to be a forever home.
But, before they even start, their medieval dream is slipping away.
Their 50K budget is simply not enough to fund what they want.
On the budget that we have, because of how the planning works,
and all these health and safety, and the building regs,
it kind of stopped us doing what we wanted to do.
When I look at these plans, I think we could afford to do it like that,
but it's actually not what we want.
The house won't end up being as chunky,
old worldy, as we originally planned it to be.
With their old house completely demolished,
they're past the point of no return.
We need to step in before they blow their budget
on a house they don't even like.
I've spent 20 years writing about architecture.
And I'm fascinated by the history of old buildings.
As an architect, Piers is renowned for designing
experimental timber buildings.
I've come to his studio to see if we can find a way to revive Neil and
Amanda's original dream on one of the tiniest budgets
we've ever worked with.
This is the first time we get to see those plans.
The current design is for a standard house-builder's softwood stud frame,
rendered on the outside.
Inside, insulation will be fitted between the studs,
and then the walls will be lined with conventional plasterboard,
meaning no structural timber is on display.
The ground floor is an open-plan, living kitchen space,
with a small bathroom entered through a lobby by the front door.
A switchback staircase leads to the first floor,
which has three conventional bedrooms.
The only nod to a medieval look are the timber planks
added to the exterior.
This is such an interesting story about taste, really, isn't it?
Because they want a new house, but they want it to look old.
I mean, they want this timber-framed,
medieval atmosphere somehow.
And this is absolutely not what they're getting.
I know why they're disappointed with this,
because this is pretending to be a timber building
with some timber stuck onto the outside.
If you took off that timber,
painted it white internally, put carpets down,
it would be the same house that could be built
anywhere by any developer.
And that's not what Neil and Amanda want.
This is one of the biggest challenges we've seen on the show.
And I'm really excited to see
if there is something we can actually do on such a tiny budget.
Mostly, we find ways of tweaking a building to make it better.
But, in this case, I think we've got to start again.
I think they can't build this.
We can't let them. We've got to start again here.
They need to do this properly.
And that means looking carefully at timber technology.
What we need to do is manage their expectations,
because they can't build this quickly.
I agree with you completely.
And, clearly, we need to raise their aspirations.
But my question is
do you think they can actually have anything for £50,000?
I'd love to say yes, but, actually, I don't know.
Recreating historical architecture
carries the real risk you could end up with a tacky pastiche.
We need to understand exactly how medieval Neil and Amanda want
their new build to be.
-It's beautiful, isn't it?
-It is stunning.
'I've brought them to Avoncroft Museum in Worcestershire.
'It's home to a range of historic buildings that have been rescued and
'painstakingly reconstructed here.'
So, this is really what I've brought you to see.
This is a 15th-century house that was transported here
in the '60s to the museum. But it's a beautiful example
of a box-frame, medieval house.
I mean, is this the kind of thing that you are interested in?
Yeah, this is perfect for me.
This is exactly...
I would love this.
I'd love to just start dismantling it now at this very moment,
and start putting it on a trailer.
And then start rebuilding it at home to the size that we require.
-So this is, basically,
-you take this off the peg.
-Yeah, off the peg.
What is it specifically that appeals to you
about this image that we have before us now?
It's the honesty of it. You see the strength of the building.
You see how the actual wood holds it up. It just looks interesting.
'This is a far cry from their current plans.
'Inside, the whole timber frame is on show.
'The layout is typical of a medieval townhouse,
'with a large central hall
'that would have been used by the entire household.'
I think this space is quite surprising.
From the outside, you expect it to be perhaps small, intimate rooms.
But this lofty, hall-like space is so fantastic, isn't it?
We would love a space like this.
But because of what we can afford, it's all a compromise.
But I think that should be absolutely possible.
I love the idea that at least one place in your house,
you get the full height of the building.
And, in a way, this becomes the kind of heart of the home, doesn't it,
with the amazing hearth in the corner?
Oh, this is fantastic. I love it.
'Next to the hall are smaller, more private rooms,
'just used by the family.'
So, there's a real shift in atmosphere, I think,
when you come into this room.
-And it's kind of intimate.
It's very different to that room, isn't it?
Yeah, it's lighter as well.
But I think I prefer that room.
I like the darkness of it.
And I think it makes it more cosy and homely.
I think the interesting thing here
is that you can have both of these atmospheres in the same house.
So, you've got that extraordinary, lofty, you know,
bang your pewter tankard on the table atmosphere out there.
But here it feels much more domestic.
Neil, I can see that you're noticing other things that your...
Oh, yeah. I love the texture of stuff.
-I don't want the walls, you know, nice and smooth, clean lines.
I just like the honesty of this where it meets the wood.
And it's all that it needs.
'Unlike modern construction,
'the only materials used here are locally-felled oak
'and wattle and daub, painted with limewash.'
For me, being in this space
and being surrounded by the structural frame
and all these kind of nice rough-and-ready materials,
it's a wonderful atmosphere.
If we could get the building to look exactly like this,
this would be perfect,
with the rough plaster, the wood shining through.
This would be my perfect home.
I think with all the regulations that we've got to jump through,
I think a lot of the wood would be hidden with all the insulation.
But if we can just get a little bit of it in.
So, it's finding a way to do that that's authentic
and honest to the way that you're building your building,
and what that means in today's construction.
'I love Neil and Amanda's enthusiasm
'for this area of architecture,'
and I totally share it. But my fear for them is how they're going to
escape the risk that they try to turn their building into a pastiche,
and their home becomes a kind of theme-park version of a house that
actually is from half a millennium ago.
This is a huge challenge for Piers.
He has to find a way to give them the authentic medieval feel
they want while still meeting the requirements
of 21st-century building.
All on an impossibly tiny budget.
So, it's really good to see you here in my patch,
because I really want to talk to you today about timber.
He's invited them to see a perfect example of a low-cost, timber-framed
building - his studio.
Fundamentally, timber buildings are born out of a necessity.
And this building, which is my studio,
I made it with the trees that grew on this site and I used people that
live in this valley, who had never built a building before,
and the building ended up costing about £15,000.
That's really good.
So this is, I have to say,
the rawest and the cheapest building I've ever done.
This is a structural timber frame.
So, there's a post-and-beam frame that runs through.
I love the tree trunks that come up.
It's just the rawness of it.
That's what we said we wanted, isn't it, right from the beginning.
Then things got squashed.
What you need to gather is the confidence to do it your way,
and to know the things that you want to do are valid and achievable in
-your own house.
Piers hopes that this simple,
exposed structural frame of his studio could
hold the key to cracking the challenge of their 50k home,
which will be subject to regular consultation with their structural
engineer, and building control authority.
So, looking at your plans, I mean,
one thing I do have a problem with is these bits of stuck-on timber
that try and make it into something that it isn't.
What I think we need to discuss is a better way of using timber.
Piers wants to show them a way to make the structural frame
the star attraction in their new home.
What you could do is design the house around this notion of using
a post-and-beam frame, not a stick-built frame.
And I think if you did that,
you could have exposed posts running through downstairs.
Your beams would be on top of those with the smaller pieces of structure
spanning between those frames.
A big advantage of post-and-beam construction
is that it IS the structure
of the building, cutting out the need for internal supporting walls.
What you could do is just lose that wall,
because you actually don't need it because the floor above is taken by
-I mean, I like the idea of having it all open.
-They've struggled to find a way to meet required
insulation standards without covering up the timber inside.
Piers is suggesting that they put insulation
on the outside of the frame.
What that means is that you end up with a timber frame that is exposed.
You would actually see the beams like this.
Like you would have done, actually, in medieval times.
-My mind's just toying with the idea.
-It could work.
I love it.
This fundamentally changes the way this house is built.
Piers' plan removes the typical softwood stud frame,
replacing it with a heavyweight post-and-beam frame.
Wrapping the outside in a blanket of insulation means internally
the posts and beams can be on show.
Now, with no load-bearing walls required,
the interior space is completely flexible.
Moving the bathroom door from the lobby to the main living space
allows for a better layout.
Outside, the house will be finished with simple render.
Fundamental changes such as these
will need fresh assessment by building control.
To show Neil and Amanda just how beautiful their frame could be,
Piers is taking them to his local framing yard.
This is an entire wall for a house.
Here they specialise in high-end oak construction using traditional
-This connection is a very beautiful thing, isn't it?
I mean, all this would be on show with your frame.
For centuries, oak has been the first choice for post-and-beam
construction. But on their £50,000 budget, that's not an option.
Oak is about the most expensive timber that you can use.
But I think you guys could use spruce or a very low-grade softwood,
because you're going to protect it and it will still be beautiful,
-I'm absolutely sure.
-That's an excellent idea, yeah.
Then, really, it's a question, I think, of getting started,
getting the frame under way.
Having a look at the material today up close gives us a sense of really
wanting to go back to this framework and putting the house up,
putting the frame up, and then building everything onto that frame.
Piers' design has reignited Neil and Amanda's enthusiasm
for their build.
I never thought I'd be drawing my own house.
But it has turned a conventional plan into a specialist job.
So, it's up to them to find the right person to make their frame
within their tiny budget.
Roll top baths and the sinks.
This is what I want for the kitchen.
-After a lot of research,
they've managed to find a local reclamation yard,
whose owner, Roy Baker,
also specialises in post-and-beam construction.
This is something I've drawn earlier.
So, that's, like, the plan looking down.
Looking at it like this to me just looks like a greenhouse.
But we don't want to hide any of the woodwork on the interior.
Yeah, I'm sure we can make it rustic.
And one of our main issues is it's on a tight budget, as well.
Yeah. The fact we can get all the materials straight from the forest.
When we do a frame, we're getting the materials cheap
as we can get them, really.
The cost is the worry from day one.
It's the main worry, isn't it, the cost.
I mean, the time span...
that's not a major worry.
We did sort of say, "Oh, it would be nice if we got in for Christmas."
But, at this stage,
it would be nice if we've just got started for Christmas!
Starting to go stir crazy,
stuck in this little space.
It's February, and the project has stalled.
We've not even started.
No, not even out of the ground.
Not even dug a hole.
It's been ten months
since Neil knocked the house down and they moved into the caravan.
Everything's on hold while the new plans are carefully
checked by building control, and approved for fire safety.
It's not as easy living as it was in the summer.
In the summer, it was easy living.
Now it's winter, things get damp
and you've just got to be on top of it all the time.
If you see a little patch of black mould,
you've got to be cleaning it up straightaway.
So, this is in the awning.
It's just survived the winter.
But it is a bit rough, isn't it?
Neil has stockpiled material
from the old house to use on the new build.
He is constantly looking for other ways to stretch their tiny budget.
Amanda's always wanted a roll top bath.
So I was idly looking on the internet and locally one came up.
We got it for a miraculous price of £50.
-How are you doing, you all right?
-Yeah, not too bad.
They've finally been given the go-ahead
from the structural engineer
so they can start to build their new home.
Putting the insulation on the outside of the frame means they can
use much cheaper materials for its construction.
They've opted for Douglas fir,
a readily available and sustainable softwood.
These are a couple of the Douglas firs we felled the other day.
-Basically, nice, big trunks, nice and straight.
They look really chunky, don't they?
-These huge logs will become the bones of their home.
The timber frame is costing 12,500, which is a lot of money to us,
but, apparently, it's a good price.
Right, all right. We'll get it square.
It's amazing, within about 20 minutes
they can turn a log into a usable piece.
Once the posts are cut out, every joint will be hand measured and cut.
These days, it's possible to buy steel plate connectors
to fix the beams to the posts.
But Roy has opted for traditional pegged mortise-and-tenon joints,
like they would have done 500 years ago.
We chamfer the end of each joint by hand.
We'll be doing, basically, there's about 100 joints on this job.
But that's just the sort of nice, traditional way we do it.
We'll get all the joints done, get it ready for assembly on site.
We're going to jack it up a little bit.
A full 12 months after Neil demolished their old house,
the timber frame for their new home is finally going up.
It's been a long time coming.
But now it's here, it's so exciting.
This is, like, the most important part.
They've gone from a faux frame to the real thing.
The frame is supported by a sole plate bolted into the foundations.
For added strength, all the joints are pegged with oak dowels
that Roy's team are hand-making on site.
These look great. On the plans,
they look like they're much smaller than this.
We've upgraded them
to something that looks in keeping with the frame.
And, obviously, we've put a bit of a curve on them as well.
That's the detail that makes the build.
The frame will take just a few days to go up.
How high is that?
Taller, taller, taller!
It's a specialist job, but Neil is helping where he can.
When we originally spoke to Piers,
the best thing he did was literally put his hand down and said,
"Look, the house that you've got designed is nothing like
"what you actually wanted." And that's what we needed,
we needed that chair kicking from underneath us
to find out what we could actually have done.
it's, like, ten times more than we dreamt of what it would look like.
It is basically becoming our dream house.
Now the frame is up,
Piers is keen to find out how they plan to tackle the next stage of
-Morning. Are you OK?
-Look at this!
Modern man. Here you are, childcare, building, everything.
-Hello. And look at that!
Yeah, spectacular, isn't it?
-I'm so pleased you've done it.
So are we.
The guy that's put it up as well, he's proud of it as well.
Is he? Oh, good.
The frame is beautiful.
But they're a long way from a finished house.
They've already spent around £25,000 on the ground works and frame.
That's half their budget.
-Each of those bricks represents £1,000.
So, the critical thing is keeping the rain out.
-How much is your roof?
-About five grand.
-Five grand for the roof.
Just for the roof. And the skylights.
And the skylights. OK.
What about the external walls?
Don't even know how much that's going to cost.
It's going to be at least the same again?
-I mean, there's more surface area than the roof.
So probably that.
The windows is another five.
The wiring is probably three grand.
-You know, that's another...
three grand. By the time you've done half the studwork upstairs,
you've got no light fittings, no finishes, no kitchen.
So, clearly, you're going to have to be resourceful.
Oh, yeah. As frugal as we can be.
As frugal as you can possibly be everywhere.
And it seems like you're going to
have to do things, like finishes, for next to nothing.
I think you could do a huge amount with what you've already got.
Yeah. But already,
last November, I found a cheap bath on the internet and bought it.
It's sat in the middle of the awning all winter.
Really, I think the baths are one thing.
But getting a roof over your head,
getting in the warm and dry, has to be the critical thing.
And then finishing it to the point that you could live in it.
What Neil is trying to do here is almost impossible.
Now the frame is up, finishing the building is entirely down to him.
And he's just a novice builder with almost no money.
Piers needs to find some practical ideas
that can help Neil finish this build for next to nothing.
Successful self builds for under 50 grand are hard to find,
especially something as unconventional as theirs.
So, Piers is taking Neil further afield to Normandy,
to see a house where experience and a tiny budget
hasn't compromised ambition.
Wow, it's huge!
This house, which is a lot bigger than your house in terms of its
footprint, cost £50,000.
The house was built by architect Jean-Baptiste Barache
and his brother in 2005 as a holiday home for his family.
He wanted to show that housing can be sustainable,
affordable and beautiful.
This guy did use somebody to put up the frame.
The equivalent of Roy.
-But then they did most of the other stuff themselves.
And they had no experience of building before.
More than anything,
it shows how budget is a complete driver for design.
It's almost the perfect low-budget house.
I think it looks spectacular. It's great, isn't it, from this angle?
Just like Neil's house, the timber frame IS the architecture.
-Tell me what you think, Neil.
-I think it's spectacular.
And it's just not what you expect.
The architect has done away with conventional doors,
ceilings and walls, allowing the structure of the building
to mark out the living spaces,
while also saving on materials.
Everyone needs a swing in their living room, don't they?
I think that, you know, I couldn't get enough of this.
But the rest of the space, this is a low-budget, tiny budget house.
-Yeah. It's unbelievable. Really, it's unbelievable.
You've got to have a go!
The house is great fun,
but it's the clever use of low-cost materials that set it apart.
All of this interior is made out of one material,
which is the cheapest form of plywood.
This is about 13 quid a sheet.
-It doesn't need decorating.
It's incredibly durable.
-And here, I love the way they've just screwed it on the wall.
And the great thing about plywood is that it's one trade
that you can do yourself.
You can do this cheaper than you can plaster and paint a building.
And I like that it's not just plain wood.
It actually has its own patterns on it and each piece is different.
By sticking to the same material and bulk buying, you can make savings.
If you go for ply,
plan your layout carefully to use as many whole sheets as possible
to minimise cutting.
Any offcuts can be used for shelving, doors and even handles.
When using exposed timber linings as a finish,
you must consult with building control.
In most cases, painting a specialist fire retardant treatment is needed,
and should be factored into the overall cost.
The kitchen, of course, not an elaborate 30-grand kitchen.
This is probably, you know, 500 quid's worth of kitchen.
Could you do something this simple?
I could. Yeah, I could have a go at this.
I've got enough wood from recycling from the old house.
-Because they reclaimed a lot of wood for this house.
The central space is dominated by an unconventional ply and polycarbonate
box, which houses the bedrooms.
-Isn't it fantastic?
it feels bigger inside than it looks from the outside.
Bedrooms are just curtained-off pods.
Look at how light comes in here.
This is borrowed light from the main space.
-And this is...
..polycarbonate. A really cost-effective way of doing it.
Here we are, bedrooms.
One of the architect's inspiration for this house was the barns he used
to play in as a kid where they made little nooks and dens,
and then had lots of space to run around in.
And you can really see that here, can't you?
You don't need walls to make rooms.
Curtains and simple screening can help you squeeze more out of spaces.
While built-in storage around and above beds
frees you from wardrobes and drawers.
The mind just boggles at our obsession
with studwork, and plasterboard, and door linings,
doors, skirtings, architraves.
Light fittings. All of that stuff.
And this just proves you don't need any of that.
In a sense, you're kind of just stripping all that money away
-from the build.
These are things that I've never seen before now,
which is great seeing it in the flesh.
If you think, right, that stuff that if you do this,
it would work in our house.
What I've tried to do today
is to give Neil a mechanism of finishing his house himself.
And he can't default to conventional ways of doing things.
He's got to find beautiful ways that he can do things himself.
We need to measure the bath and sort of see where the bath comes to.
I'll just go and measure the bath.
Inspired by his trip to Normandy,
Neil is trying to push the build forward.
66 inches in the old measurements.
But how wide is the bath?
I'll just go and measure the bath width.
He employed builders to do the roof rafters, but now he's on his own.
So there's enough there on that one for that one.
He's on site seven days a week,
while Amanda is working long shifts
at a supermarket to keep money coming in.
Neil gets stressed over the build.
A lot of it is the time span, I think.
It's not going as quick as he'd sort of hoped it would go.
Right, let me see where me pencil's gone.
Their budget is so tight, Neil's using as much of the material
he salvaged from the old house as possible.
But there's one valuable resource that is full of character
he's not exploiting. Reclaimed bricks.
He couldn't afford to buy them, or the atmosphere they could give.
Piers has a plan that could save money and help create the magical,
rustic interior that they want.
This is Robinson College, Cambridge.
Designed by Gillespie, Kidd and Coia.
So I think you can probably guess that I've brought you here to talk
about brick. And I think that you could do a lot more with your brick.
I think you need to use it in the fabric of the building.
Here, the architecture of the buildings
is defined by the use of the brick.
It's pretty extraordinary coming inside, isn't it?
It is. These windows are huge.
This was designed by an artist called John Piper,
and made for this chapel.
And it's curious how this has the quality of an ancient building.
I mean, this is a building that's 30 years old, or so.
And yet it feels like we're in a building
that's been here for hundreds of years.
And I think that's what brick and controlled light gives you.
These blue ones are very nice with the red, aren't they?
-These are typically fired at a higher temperature,
so they're slightly burned.
Bricks are available in a huge range of colours.
But you also have the option of stained and tinted bricks.
Different sizes, shapes and colours mean you could lay out a floor
in a variety of patterns.
And I think it's also really nice the way these bricks are divided up
into squares. And, here, they're framed by brick,
but, as you get up towards the altar,
they're framed by this other material, which is stone.
I mean, that's something you can imagine being timber, really?
Yeah, I can see that easy.
It certainly gives me ideas to do some of the flooring downstairs.
Not do the full flooring, but in, like, little pockets.
But Piers wants to persuade Neil to do the entire floor.
Why wouldn't you do lines of brick, lines of timber, lines of brick,
-lines of timber...
-..all the way across the whole house?
So, you know, that would bind the whole house together.
-You could play with the width of the timber strips,
or play with the width of brick strips.
But, actually, you're not doing a bit here and a bit there.
You're doing something everywhere.
I think it's not a big house,
and it will make it smaller if you start to do bits of this.
-Oh, yeah, itty-bitty.
-It'll be a bit itty-bitty, yeah.
I think, until we'd come here,
Neil hadn't thought about using brick on such a big scale.
I think he'd thought about the odd planter or using it in a fairly random way.
But, actually, he needs to REALLY think about how he uses the material.
Because it's that that'll make the difference to this house.
It's three months since the frame went up.
And most of the studwork is done.
The price of screws and things, they're absolutely extortionate.
So how much do you think at the moment?
35 we've got through.
I think we've spent about 30,000.
That leaves them with only £20,000.
Most of that is already allocated to big ticket items, such as windows,
plumbing and electrics.
So they need to watch every penny.
We've managed to save about £1,000 on the insulation
by buying it in bulk.
But, luckily, there was enough room inside the house to just stockpile
One big project they still have to tackle is the floor.
To do each brick, it's probably about...
Let's call it five minutes.
After Neil's initial enthusiasm for Piers' brick and timber plan,
the reality of the work involved in cleaning them is putting him off.
Round the corner there, I've got a whole heap of bricks to sit and chisel-clean.
So, it's all about making life easier for me.
But, really, I have warmed to the brick look.
-And I can picture me and Indy sat there putting the bricks in.
-And that's our contribution. You know, Indy's getting stuck in.
-Yeah, but I can picture me,
days and days sat there with no fingernails left,
because I've just rubbed my hands raw from chiselling and chipping away.
I can have a go at it.
We're starting to row now because he thinks I'm not into the house as much as he is,
but I think he's obsessed with the house and he has to put more
into the family life, the family side of it.
The other day, I screamed at Neil said, "I wish we'd never started this!"
But it's only because we was rowing.
But the house is going to be brilliant at the end of it,
and it's going to be worth the sacrifices.
The stress is getting to both of them.
To have any chance of finishing their build,
they must scrimp and scavenge wherever they can.
This is the kitchen sink.
That was a tenner. This'll all go into the design of the kitchen.
All these little bits. This could be a little runner where a drawer slides along.
With the furniture from their old house and all the bits that they've found
at car boots and on the internet, they now have three sheds full of stuff.
These are the sort of things that you can clean up and hang in the kitchen on hooks and that.
With their tiny budget, they've got no choice but to be resourceful.
But there's a danger they'll end up with a mishmash of stuff that will
detract from the medieval feel they want.
So, I've brought them to a house that's been designed around
the owner's passion for salvaging and recycling.
So, as timber frame connoisseurs, what do you think of this place?
-It's beautiful, isn't it?
-It is stunning.
-Ours is like the poor man's version of this!
This is the Ancient Party Barn, near Folkestone in Kent.
Once a collection of derelict farm buildings,
architects Liddicoat and Goldhill worked closely with their clients to
create a home that retained the atmosphere of the old buildings
while incorporating their unique collection.
'There are tricks on show here that Neil and Amanda could use in
'their home on a much smaller scale.'
I think it really works well here.
You've got a mixture of new timbers, of engineered timbers like plywood.
Then you've got the old timbers of the original barn.
But also we've got steel here, just like red painted steel,
looks quite industrial. I think they've made some choices here about
keeping everything with that industrial loft kind of atmosphere.
-Maybe that's a bit of a lesson for you guys as you're bringing all of the various things
you've brought together. What is the overall atmosphere you're looking for?
It's such a big space, but it's still cosy.
And it's homely.
It's still rustic-looking.
Which is the feel we want for our house.
This is exactly what we want.
To make sense of such a large space,
different types of flooring have been used to create zones.
It's a clever trick that can be interpreted for any open-plan space.
You can use timber like this, but rugs, carpet,
or even laminate would achieve the same contrasting effect.
This actually has had more people walking over it than you might think,
-because this is timber from an old bridge.
So this is timber that's been reconditioned, but still has all that character, weathering in it.
Even these dark patches I think are really beautiful.
The kitchen is a great mix of old and new materials.
Reclaimed wood sits alongside new stainless steel.
The cupboard doors are white ply treated with linseed oil.
By just adding brass handles,
you can give new materials like these a sense of history.
I think this is great. Because we're using plywood for different things,
and it just looks so good.
And it doesn't look out of place with the old wood.
This does prove, doesn't it,
that you can bring together quite disparate elements and make them part of
a coherent whole. But I would say they've chosen those elements very
carefully. Because there is a danger with having a taste for nice
knick-knacks and things that you find bit by bit that it suddenly becomes
like a theme pub, and you've got to stop before you get to that stage.
-It's just a case of playing with things,
seeing what fits and what doesn't fit.
-And then knowing when to get rid of them.
'To complement their salvaged materials,
'the owners of the barn also commissioned bespoke pieces.'
This is great. Who on earth would have thought of this idea?
The centre of the barn is dominated by a huge brick chimney surrounded
by a spiral steel staircase, which follows the line of the radiating trusses.
Repeated patterns and shapes is a clever way to pull a design together.
'The stairs lead to a rather unusual mezzanine.'
Oh, this isn't what I expected.
It's not? What did you expect?
Just like a little seating area.
No, it's nice, this bedroom.
Not an en-suite bedroom.
It feels like it's a bit more playful up here, design wise.
You've got this kind of amazing pattern of the floor, following the
trusses we saw downstairs.
And then this industrial material.
And there's a toilet behind here, which is not what you would normally expect.
When you walk through our main door, you're going to get the kitchen,
and it's going to be like a U-shaped kitchen.
So instead of seeing the backs of the cupboards or the backs of the fridge,
it would look quite nice with something like that.
Yeah, you can imagine this in any thin, dark material.
'In keeping with the industrial loft style,
'the owners have also used exposed copper pipes.'
Neil would love the tap design.
Which I assume you wouldn't love.
No, I prefer the posher, nicer, more girlie, I suppose,
taps with a little shower head.
-No, but it's a choice, isn't it?
-Something that they're trying
to keep, I think, in general in this house, is natural materials.
So seeing copper is a nice thing.
In this house, every piece of furniture, whether reclaimed or bespoke,
complements the original beams.
-This is a fantastic find. This is the kind of thing you could find.
-This looks like it's out of a Victorian firemen's...
-I don't know what it's from.
That's kind of what it's about, isn't it? I mean, carefully chosen,
these things can just add tremendous character.
I mean, this is quite eclectic.
There are things old and new.
It works really, really well.
Neil and Amanda are at a really crucial stage of their process.
And it's been great today to bring them to a place where they can look
at the details about how they can realise the final stages of their build.
They've got a kind of mania for collecting and assembling,
and gathering together odd, strange bits of furniture.
Now I think it's time for Amanda to put the brakes on a little bit and
start to take Neil's nervous energy and translate into something that
can create a calm, beautiful background to their family life.
Because that's, in the end, what their interior needs to be.
It's five months since the timber frame went up,
and, in spite of their tiny budget, they've made great progress...
Hi, Neil. Hi, Amanda.
How are you doing? This is fantastic!
..and are well on the way to a watertight shell.
Look at all this exposed studwork.
Are you actually going to see that?
-This is your old studwork that you've reclaimed.
And because your insulation sits outside this, you can expose all of this.
And, to see this, I think that's incredible.
When we came to your studio,
you was using like these little alcoves as little shelves and things.
And I just love that idea.
And upstairs, again,
it looks like you're going to see that fantastic ceiling.
This is how they would have done it in medieval times -
just use what they had and see the lot,
and not get too precious and self-conscious around the concept of finishes.
The interior layout is starting to come together.
But this is a tiny house,
and Piers is worried that they're about to make a massive mistake
with the position of the stairs.
Where the ladders are, we kind of come up here.
Because there's quite a lot of space that you are potentially losing,
-You could do the stairs in a single run.
-You actually only need to lose that much space, if you want.
Downstairs, we're thinking about making the bathroom in that kind of position.
And what that means is that you could potentially bring your
stairs up, you know, like that here.
But what this gives you is space for a room either side, rather than
just lots of open space for a staircase.
This would be another significant change.
On their current plan,
the bespoke switchback staircase compromises the living area,
creating an L-shaped layout.
Replacing this with a standard single run staircase opens up
the living space and effectively takes up no room as furniture can be positioned
beneath the stairs.
Upstairs, the floor space is significantly increased,
allowing them plenty of scope to play with the layout.
Liking the idea of having a straight staircase because it cuts a lot of
money out. Because I've seen that you can just go and buy them off the
shelf at that size.
One job they still haven't made a start on is the floor.
Piers is keen to see if Neil has taken his advice about using his
The last time I was here, we talked in length about the floor,
didn't we? What are you planning to do now?
Because I'm lazy, the easiest way for me is to put a floating floor on.
As long as it's tongue and groove.
Have you got the tongue and groove boards here as part of your scavenged kit?
No, we've had to go and find a guy - locally up in Whittlesey there's a guy that does them.
He's going to cut them and trim them to size. It's a bit much. It's going to cost nearly three grand.
I think the thing that worries me most is three grand on the floor
when actually you're saying it's just because you're lazy and actually you've
got beautiful materials here.
But I still feel that the whole brick thing is a missed opportunity.
It's something you've got, it's something you could use.
Why wouldn't you?
But I've only worked with bricks for about four days now.
You hadn't worked with any timber and you've done all this.
So you're going to be a master bricklayer by the time you've done all this.
Isn't that what this house is about, though?
Working out what materials you've got and scavenged and working out how to use them effectively?
That's about as good as it gets, I think.
The thing about Neil is he's got everything around him and he's building
a great house, but he gets so easily distracted and this whole brick thing,
it's come full circle now.
What's he doing? Making noise?
Daddy's always making noise, isn't he?
It's October. With the windows now in, the house is watertight.
Winter's coming so I think we are all wanting to be in there now opposed to the caravan.
I think we're just ready to start living in it now.
But there's still a long way to go.
In my mind, it just feels like there's another year to do and now it's just
a matter of scrimping and scraping and then doing the last parts.
To finish the inside will push Neil's resourcefulness to the limit.
This will be like your worktop kitchen, your working area.
Neil and Amanda have taken on board a complete redesign of their house.
But will all Neil's projects come together
and help them achieve their medieval dream home?
Neil and Amanda wanted to build a medieval-style timber-frame house
not just for £100,000 but for just £50,000, an almost impossible task.
The original plans they had weren't giving them what they wanted so we
had to rip it up and start again and the big danger was that the result
would be a kind of theme pub of a house,
just a pastiche of what they really loved.
It's over 18 months since Neil demolished their old house.
'Piers and I can't wait to see what they've achieved.'
-Good to see you.
-And it's great to see you with a house.
-Nearly finished. Not quite finished, though.
The original tiny bungalow has been replaced with a three-bedroom home
that will accommodate their growing family for years to come.
The exterior isn't quite finished.
They'll have to wait for the weather to improve before they can render
over the grey cement boards, which they plan to do in a white finish.
Actually, I love the colour of this and I suspect many architects would
really get off on this honesty to construction
and suggest you left this.
When I put it up, I just felt it looked like a prison.
We quite like it but I can understand why you want to finish your house.
I must say, it sits really nicely on the street and I love the modesty of
-In a way,
you chose your battles because you wanted this beautiful,
crafted timber house but, on the outside, you focused on doing a very simple
building that just connected with the street and then focused on the
-I can't wait to see...
Wow! This really is like that feast of timber.
You've absolutely nailed it, I've got to say.
'The main attraction is the fabulous timber frame.
'The chunky posts are complemented by the recycled studwork.
'The ceilings still need insulating and finishing but, elsewhere, they've
'already captured some of that ancient character.'
For me, I think the striking thing is that it doesn't feel like a medieval pastiche.
It's not a chocolate box interior and I think that's a real
-compliment to you.
-The medieval feel,
that's just where we started and then it evolved.
It's a beautiful thing because you can see exactly how it's made and by
pushing the installation outside, nothing is covered up.
It's a much better way of building, actually,
because you have continuous insulation everywhere.
If we were to bury the timber under boards,
it would not have the same character.
It would just feel completely different.
All of this studwork looks as if it's been reclaimed and salvaged.
About 80% of it has been.
You've just built it with materials to hand and those materials now really sing.
Neil has taken recycling to the extreme
and made kitchen units out of old planks and a £20 sink.
We spend half of our time on these projects saying don't spend £5,000
on your kitchen. We clearly didn't need to do that with you.
'Neil may have stuck to his guns and laid a tongue and groove floor...
'..but he did find another way to use Piers' idea for incorporating brick and timber.'
I mean, it's brilliant. I mean, this is a real case study on how to use
Defines a room and absorbs all this lovely sunlight and will re-radiate
it at night. You've cleaned each one of those, haven't you?
Sat in the garden chipping away.
-You love it, really.
-When you think about...
What's took me for the different parts of the building.
I've done them in hours and a few days, whereas this is a colossal time period in
the way that I worked.
In the main living area, the timber frame shines through.
This is a really great space.
Look at this. It's a generous seating area.
I love how it's a bit tucked under the stairs.
I just think it's a really successful living area.
'Piers' last-minute suggestion to move the staircase has worked.
'It's yet to be completed but the improvements on the space around it are clear to see.'
It's just one big flexible space that you can use as you see fit.
And you can move it around if you have a party or your needs change or whatever. It's great.
In the bathroom, Neil's scavenging skills are clear to see.
The bargain basement roll top bath that spent so long in the awning
now has pride of place.
The splashback is off-cuts of timber and the loo was free from a friend.
There's another great example here, Neil,
of your resourcefulness in the reusing of bits of your old house because
this is the old external wall of your house.
Oh, yes, yes. Amanda's not quite ready for this green.
I am. I'm ready.
That's beautiful, that green.
I love this sense of seeing the old house.
It tells a story of how the house was built, as well.
All of these materials have cost you nothing.
What has the staircase cost you so far?
The staircase was quite a bargain.
I think it was about £100 off the shelf.
We really need to get this worked on so we can get into the house quicker
and make it safe for the children, as well.
Neil has a lot of work still to do in treating all the exposed timber
to meet fire regulations but Amanda is already making careful choices on
what items make it into her home and what doesn't.
Neil was bringing in bits and then it was like, stop, stop!
There is a moment when you know you've gone too far.
Just stop, that's enough.
It must be a nice way of you starting to own the building in a way
-and starting to feel like it's yours.
-Yes, make it ours,
putting our personal objects in it.
It's the transformation from a
house to a home, I think.
I can only imagine how hard it must have been building this house while
living in their tiny caravan.
Well, my first time in the place you lived in for how long?
About 18 months.
Tell me about the way you guys have worked as a team on this build.
It's not always been easy, but...
And we've had our moments when we've had rows and the tension has got high
but we've sort of pulled it back and discussed it and sort of gone,
"Right, we need to move forwards.
"This is how we're going to do it."
I know it's been really tough at times for your relationship,
it's just a lot of strain, but there must be positives out of that, too.
You get to where you think, "Oh, my gosh,
"I thought we was a stronger couple
"and I thought we could have coped with this better,"
but then, once you've got past that,
you realise you are that stronger couple because you've worked through it
and, you know, you've got past that goal and you're ready to sort of hit
the next one.
And each one becomes easier and less fraught, you know?
Because you know that you can work through it.
Neil and Amanda faced so many obstacles and are now very close to finally
moving into their home.
So, how far has their 50K budget got them?
I must say that I think you two are two of the most resourceful builders
we've ever followed and the result is amazing, so impressed with it.
But I really want to know how much it'll cost.
We had 50 grand.
That was our budget and what you see today has cost 50,000.
I mean, that's so astonishing.
We have lots of projects that aim for the 100 and end up going over,
but £50,000 is a microscopic budget.
I mean, tell me how you've done it.
What do you think the key is, Neil?
I think the secret is being resourceful.
Because I was so lucky that I demolished the old house which gave me
the opportunity to store the wood, de-nail it.
That's not cost me anything except my time and my effort.
But it's not quite finished, is it? What is there left to do?
The upstairs is still to be finished,
we've got the staircase to finish off.
We've still got maybe six months or so of work to do.
We could quickly go and get some builders to do it and finish it off
for us but that would break the bank.
How much more do you need to spend to get this to the level you want it?
We reckoned another six grand in all.
So the final budget for a completely finished house, fitted out, £56,000.
I just think that's astonishing.
For Neil in particular,
this is a remarkable achievement because he's built a house and built
it beautifully and every bit of this house has been thought through.
It may not be everyone's taste but it's an incredibly complete bit of
design that uses materials resourcefully
and it's a real lesson for many of us.
This house really moves me.
It moves me in terms of the quality of space,
in terms of how clever the whole package is,
how clever it's been pieced together by Neil and Amanda and I'm really amazed
by how lovely this house is.
Are you going to miss this process, because this has been your life?
It would be so nice to just get up in the morning,
be able to use the bathroom, just to live normally,
just to relax and not have to think, "Right, breakfast is over,
"we've got a wall to build."
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Now it's finished, what are you going to do with your time?
Back to work.
Piers and I felt quite a big responsibility on this project.
We encouraged Neil and Amanda to rip up their plans and start again
from first principles and they did that,
but I think it's their resourcefulness that, in the end, has delivered
a building of extraordinary qualities.
It's homely, beautiful,
structurally ambitious and all of those things just shouldn't be possible
on this budget. When I walked through this door today,
I couldn't really believe my eyes.
It's been an extraordinary journey of discovery for me to find out that
you can build a house for this little money that ends up being a place of
real character and beauty.
Next time, Kevin and Lesley are planning a seaside home packed with design features.
It's like popcorn in my head.
Ideas are bouncing around.
'But have they got carried away?'
Not sure where we want the kitchen.
How about reconsidering the structure?
'And we meet two old friends...'
Welcome back. '..to help them complete an extraordinary home nine years in the making.'
Have you done this before, Piers?
I've never done this before, ever.
Can you build a family home for just £50k? Well Neil and Amanda are giving it their best shot.
With a brand new baby and a lively toddler, they have decided to knock down their dilapidated small house in East Anglia and try and build a larger one. But they don't want a typical new home with plasterboard walls and conventional rooms - they dream of something inspired by medieval timber frame homes.
Kieran Long's first concern is that it could end up looking like a naff Tudor-theme pub, but Piers Taylor has even bigger concerns. Their current plans are for a modern home with fake decorative timbers stuck on the outside, so he rips up the plans and begins to redesign the entire home from scratch. He begs them to invest their money in a handmade timber frame with traditional joints and handmade dowels, but in order to afford it, Neil will have to scavenge almost every other building material from the old house he has knocked down.
Kieran must give them the skills to avoid the home feeling fake. He manages to uncover a beautiful barn conversion which is furnished in such a way that it looks fashionable but also has a real sense of character. It is full of ideas and tricks that Neil and Amanda could use in their home even though their budget is almost all spent.
With much of their budget gone and the house still a shell, can Neil the novice builder possibly complete their entire home for less than what most people spend on a fitted kitchen?