Episode 13 To Build or Not to Build


Episode 13

Series following some of the UK's 20,000 self-builders. Wendy and Ray Black from Suffolk are building a modern home in the style of a traditional country cottage.


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Transcript


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We all dream of owning the perfect home.

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But finding a place that suits your wallet and your way of life isn't easy.

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Well, I have a solution.

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Stop searching for something to buy and consider somewhere to build.

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Every year in Britain, 20,000 people build their own home.

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We'll be following some of them

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as they go from foundations to finishing touches.

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Along the way, our brave self-builders will experience amazing highs...

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This is my life at the moment. It's everything I'm living for.

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..and some frustrating lows.

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It would be heartbreaking if we had to sell it.

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But if they can overcome these trials and tribulations...

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You can achieve top-end look for not a colossal amount of money.

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..they'll end up with the home they've always desired.

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So if you're looking for your perfect pad,

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the question is simple.

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To build or not to build?

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The couple self-building a new home

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with a vintage twist in beautiful Suffolk.

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It's the house we want, on the plot we like. The two are coming together.

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Cheddar gorgeous. The Doncaster self-build shaped like a wedge of cheese.

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It's always been my ambition to do a one-off project like this.

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I didn't want to build a red brick house with a pantile roof. I wanted to do something different.

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And will I nail it when it comes to making a partition wall

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at building school?

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I don't work well under pressure!

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Quaint cottages with thatched roofs, village green, duck pond,

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winding lanes. Polstead in Suffolk is the embodiment of an English village.

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I'm here to meet a couple who desperately wanted to buy into this timeless lifestyle,

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but were put off by the upkeep of a traditional cottage.

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If only there were a way to fuse a hassle-free house of today

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with an atmospheric dwelling of yesteryear.

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Well, that's exactly what our self-builders plan to do.

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To fulfil their ambition to fuse old and new,

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IT project manager Wendy Black and her PE teacher husband Ray

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bought a plot of land in Polstead eight years ago.

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The positives - more than two acres of luscious green space and gorgeous views.

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What could possibly be the downside?

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Ah.

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Occupying the site is this rather interesting property

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that one would hardly call quaint.

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Wendy and Ray bought this place for the building potential, not the house on it.

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But they've had to live in this less than beautiful bungalow first.

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Oh, yes, indeed!

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-Oh, I like your bathroom!

-Kind of retro, isn't it?

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-The wildlife's doing very well!

-Don't, it's appalling.

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-We didn't want to spend money on the property so...

-You haven't!

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It did look slightly better in 2002,

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but not having lived in it for over a year...

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-There's no point, is there? It really would be dead money.

-Yes.

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Ray did really well with this kitchen.

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When we moved in, he picked up the entire kitchen for £50.

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Typical Scotsman. Everybody loves a bargain, don't they? Yes?

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-Yes!

-Even at 50p I think Ray might have overpaid!

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Surely the living room can't be as bad as that, can it?

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Well, it's a period place. It's of a certain period, isn't it?

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Oh, it's absolutely... Oh, dear.

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There should be some sort of preservation order on those polystyrene tiles!

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Don't. Then we wouldn't be able to knock it down!

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Just getting to this stage in their self-build journey

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has been a painful experience for Wendy and Ray.

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What they hoped would be a short planning process dragged on for six years

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before they eventually got the go-ahead to demolish the bungalow.

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But just when they thought they could replace their run-down residence,

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the British economy started to crumble too.

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The credit crunch came along

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and our mortgage was with one of the banks that was hit by the credit crunch.

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So borrowing the last bit of money to get roughly the amount we need

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-was a no-no!

-Oh, that's just nasty, isn't it?

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Finally we've got planning permission, now we can't afford to build it.

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Unable to obtain the extra finance, they reluctantly put the plot back on the market,

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ditched their self-build plans and began searching for a ready-built home.

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They eventually fell in love with a modern home to buy

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that ticked all the boxes.

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Suddenly you found this house that was perfect. Why are you not living there now?

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Well, we put the offer in. Put it in on a Sunday,

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and had it accepted on the Sunday evening.

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The couple who were living there, one of them wanted to go to a bungalow round the corner,

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and the other wanted to go to their daughter in Devon.

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They were arguing for two days about where they were going.

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So they've taken the house off the market.

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Sorry, I shouldn't laugh!

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You have to laugh, or you'd cry.

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-Well, I did!

-Somebody was!

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Fortunately, the tears didn't last long.

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Through the internet, Wendy tracked down the man who'd built the house they'd just lost out on.

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When he revealed he could replicate the exact design at a price they could afford,

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their long-standing self-build ambition was about to become a reality.

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It was exactly the same design as the one that we'd just lost.

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So you'd stumbled across the designer of the house you'd just lost.

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-Yes.

-Amazing!

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So this time, it's for real.

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With the planners happy with their latest design,

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they're building a four-bed timber-framed kit house

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that replicates the local country cottage style.

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This house is cheaper than their previous build quotes and now the bank was happy to lend the money.

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The estimated total project cost, including the plot:

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Hit that target and they could save over £250,000

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compared to buying a similar property in the area.

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That's where we are. We're getting the house we want

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on the plot we like

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and the two are coming together.

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Ten days after my visit,

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it's time for Wendy and Ray to say bye-bye to the bungalow - if they can bear it!

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If I really want to say no, it's now. But I really want to do this!

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So it's all go, it's all on its way.

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I think you've made the right decision, Wendy.

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Making sure it definitely is a final farewell is builder Tony Benfield.

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As well as the demolition, he'll be overseeing the construction of the Blacks' new home.

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We told Ray and Wendy no tears, no domestics today!

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The building's coming down, then we start the build.

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Without further ado, it's time to bash this bungalow to bits.

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I'm really excited. Thoroughly enjoying it!

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There's the old door coming out.

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Whoa!

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In just an hour, the guys have already made rapid progress.

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It's all going to plan. We're on time, where we thought we'd be.

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I fancy keeping some of the wallpaper, though!

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Never mind the wallpaper! You should have seen the bathroom!

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Ripping through a building with a ten-tonne digger looks straightforward.

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But there's a high level of skill needed to ensure the structure comes down safely.

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The proximity to the neighbouring property means the team has to be extra careful

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to prevent the wall collapsing onto next door.

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It wouldn't be a great start to being a neighbour

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to get half of our demolished house landing in a garden. We've got great neighbours,

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so we want to keep them that way.

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As everyone watches nervously, the digger tackles the tricky roof section.

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One slight error and the neighbours might be needing a new car!

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But no need for anyone to panic.

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That was dramatic!

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It's not long before the bad bathroom bites the dust too, much to Ray's delight!

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Hooray!

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Done!

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After eight years of patient waiting and numerous setbacks,

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the self-build is officially under way.

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-Exciting!

-You're having a wonderful day, aren't you?

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I'm like a five-year-old!

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Clearing the site continues for the next few days.

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But it's not as easy as builder Tony anticipated.

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We're on the fourth day of demolition.

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Where we thought we'd find the old bungalow sitting on a thin layer of concrete as the footings,

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we found we actually had not a reinforced slab,

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but a raft of concrete that's probably 90 years old

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spread over the whole of the surface.

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Hence we've ended up with almost like an extra layer

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to remove and break up.

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What does that mean in terms of costs and extra work?

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It hasn't cost you anything, Ray, but it's cost me,

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because I gave you a price for the job.

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It's probably cost me £1,000.

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Because the quality of land is hard to determine prior to digging into it,

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self-builders are often hit with extra costs

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to put in more stable foundations once work's begun.

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But because Wendy and Ray have a fixed-price deal with the builder,

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they haven't lost out and the rest of the groundwork goes without a hitch.

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However, later, an unexpected £5,000 bill will leave their finances totally drained.

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I didn't realise there were no drains included in the quotation whatsoever.

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The beauty of building your own home

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is that you get a place that's completely suited to your own tastes.

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For some, a tried-and-tested design fits the bill.

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However, one Yorkshire couple's uniquely-shaped self-build

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is more off the wall than off the shelf!

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When it came to designing their new home near Doncaster,

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Sue Beaumont and her partner Mike Jones

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decided the traditional dull detached house didn't quite fit the bill.

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So they decided to break the mould and go for something totally different.

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And they certainly achieve that with this distinctive three-bed home shaped like a block of cheese!

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I've always wanted to build my own house. My dad and my brother are builders

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and it's been an ambition of mine to do a one-off project like this.

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I didn't want to build a red-brick house with a pantile roof.

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I wanted something different. So we engaged with an architect

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who helped us come up with this design.

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Sue had looked for the perfect plot for three years.

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She struck lucky when a friend suggested a former sand quarry near where she was brought up.

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It was the unusual shape of the sandpit-cum-plot

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that led to the cheese wedge design of their house.

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It wasn't obvious where to site the building.

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The architect has made it grow organically out of the bank.

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We had to dig quite a long way into the bank then it sort of shoots out.

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They decided to project manage the construction themselves to save cash.

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In another break with tradition, they started with the garden.

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We wanted to do the garden before we started building the house,

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mainly because once you'd built the house, there's no access round the back.

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So we commissioned a garden designer who designed this.

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So the garden's quite mature even though the house is only a year old.

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Building on sand meant they had to shell out an unexpected £10,000 shoring up the former quarry walls.

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It is almost continually stressful.

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Every day you're making hundreds of decisions

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from the shape and size of the door handles and where you'll get them,

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to big decisions about how much you can afford to spend on glass, et cetera.

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Being on site every day enabled them to get things exactly how they wanted.

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This included taking over the design of the interior

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after they decided the architect's original plan didn't feel quite right.

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We ended up totally redesigning the interior.

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The stairs were going to be in here. We moved them to the hallway.

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We changed the layout of the bedrooms and the kitchen.

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We completely redesigned it.

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The look and feel of the inside of the house is solely down to us.

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One thing we wanted was an open-plan living space with the kitchen and dining area together.

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One of the jewels of this build is the glamorous bathroom.

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I love the way we get natural light through the skylight

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and we put some funky lights in as well.

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At night time, it's fantastic with a lovely atmosphere in here.

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You can have a bath and stare up at the stars.

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Upstairs, the sloping design of the house adds to the spacious feel.

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This is the master bedroom. We spent a lot of time designing this.

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I love the idea that it's high ceilings, it's spacious.

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You don't feel claustrophobic.

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We've designed walk-in wardrobes and an en-suite.

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One of the most important things for me in the design of the house

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was to have an area to display all my books.

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I've got thousands of books. I'm a budding jazz musician, so I've got saxophones and thousands of CDs.

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It took two years to get the project from design to completion.

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Despite making substantial changes, their overspend was kept to £20,000.

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But with the property now worth an estimated half a million quid,

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this canny couple have saved a tidy £125,000 because they built rather than bought.

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The overall outcome is absolutely fabulous.

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Sue and Mike have got the taste for self-build through their individual cheese-wedge home.

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So this might turn out to be just an appetiser.

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Maybe in eight, ten, 12 years, I'd like to build a retirement home

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that's eco-friendly and sustainable

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so as I go into my old age we don't have to worry about heating and that sort of thing.

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It's being able to commit two years where you're not working to do it again.

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We'll be retired!

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So for these two, their tasty self-build project

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has given them plenty of food for thought and raised the tantalising possibility

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of them rolling up their sleeves again when retirement finally comes.

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It's a month since the demolition of Wendy and Ray's bungalow.

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The new foundations are in place

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and the exterior walls are about to go up on their country cottage.

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The house is being built using timber-framed kit panels

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pre-made to Wendy and Ray's specifications and assembled on site.

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The main advantage of this system is that the initial construction is incredibly quick.

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I can't believe that we'll have a complete house by the end of the week.

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It's Tuesday and the ground floor is going in.

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They'll put the structure for the floor in tomorrow, Wednesday,

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and then the upper storey on Thursday.

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On Friday they'll start putting the roof on.

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But while the pace might be to Wendy's liking, she's not sure about the actual space.

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So when we saw the groundworks go in and the flat concrete floor,

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it really looked quite small and we stood on it and went, "Ooh!"

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So I'm really hoping that we'll see this getting bigger as the day goes on.

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And it'll look much larger by the end of the day.

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Too late to change anything now, Wendy. They've just built your kitchen!

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Husband Ray doesn't share Wendy's concerns about size.

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Here we are. First time through the patio doors into the kitchen.

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And it's big.

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I think it's big.

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Just get this feel of where the units come out to.

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Ground floor is quickly taking shape. But it's not long before Wendy spots a problem.

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It appears an additional door has been added to a fitted larder that's part of the frame.

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They've already built the door into there for the internal walls?

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That's on the final plans.

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-We haven't actually made a decision on that.

-That's on the drawings, so that's what we've built.

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But you'll ask me to make a decision and authorise the spending and I haven't.

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This might not seem like a big deal,

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but Wendy's worried this minor mix-up could cost her extra cash.

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Fortunately, there's a simple solution to ease the tension.

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-So if we don't want a door here...

-We'll just cover it over.

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We haven't lost ground or money and we haven't lost people's patience!

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-No, fine.

-Yet!

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Ray's happy, whereas Wendy... Maybe best to give her a minute or two!

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When you're self-building, it's crucial to be in communication with everyone involved

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to ensure it runs smoothly and without error.

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For Wendy, the larder door soon turns out to be the least of her worries.

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She's realised a misunderstanding, this time over the drains,

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has left the couple with an expensive bill they weren't expecting.

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I had anticipated a cost for the drains would have been included in the quotation.

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I understood if there were problems, yes, there'd be extra.

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I didn't realise there we NO drains included in the quote whatsoever!

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How can you build a house when you know you need drains

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and hard cash. It was an extra £5,500.

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That's a sizeable sum of money to throw down the drain.

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Whilst she's used to managing complex projects and big budgets in her day job,

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this unexpected overspend has hit Wendy hard.

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Just out of control!

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And you can tell that I do like to be in control!

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It's getting tougher for Wendy, and her tail-spin only gets worse

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when she discovers their local electricity supplier wants over £6,000

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to dig up the road to connect the new property to the grid.

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Fortunately, hard negotiations and a pragmatic solution

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manage to dramatically cut the connection cost.

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I've managed to get that down to just about 2,500

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and that means we need to have a pole in the hedge

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but as we already have a pole for BT,

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to have another pole in the hedge with electricity - C'est la vie!

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Even at this early stage, Wendy's considering some drastic measures

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to get the budget back on track.

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It might be that we have to at some point say to Tony,

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"Sorry, but we'll have to finish this ourselves." Depends how many surprises we get!

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Thankfully, over the next few days, the only shocks Wendy and Ray receive are pleasant ones.

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Day four of the frame being erected.

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You can see that the top storey is now going in place. It's so quick.

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The build team have stuck to their rapid schedule.

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By the end of the week, the upper floor is built and they're going higher.

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Things are cracking on. We've got the felt moving on to the roof.

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The roofers are doing the battening.

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The tiles have arrived ready for that stage.

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Now it's really beginning to look like a real house.

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Ray's camerawork aside, things are looking good.

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The build is on schedule and the guys are making speedy work preparing for tiling.

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It's just ten weeks since the first timber panel was fitted into place on the foundations.

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The house is rapidly coming together.

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Time I headed back for a site inspection.

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The last time I popped down to Polstead to see Ray and Wendy Black,

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I had the, er, delightful experience

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of visiting their dilapidated bungalow.

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Fortunately, that has now gone and it's being rapidly replaced by a modern cottage

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with a vintage twist.

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So, how's their self-build journey into yesteryear coming on?

0:21:390:21:43

It's three months into the build

0:21:430:21:46

and I'm impressed by what's been achieved since I was last here.

0:21:460:21:50

Well, well. This has changed now, hasn't it?

0:21:500:21:53

It has a bit since you were last here.

0:21:530:21:56

Not quite the dingy bungalow it was.

0:21:560:21:59

No, no.

0:21:590:22:00

It took just a tad longer to get this up to here

0:22:000:22:04

rather than the three hours that the bungalow took to come down.

0:22:040:22:07

Did you think at any time, "This is insane, knocking this place down."

0:22:080:22:13

Just before it went down, I thought, "This is it.

0:22:130:22:16

"This is the minute that if I want to say, 'Stop!'".

0:22:160:22:20

After that it was a little bit like getting married.

0:22:200:22:25

You're really nervous, you really want to do it, but by God it's for life!

0:22:250:22:30

Absolutely, yeah. That's fair comment, isn't it?

0:22:300:22:33

And just like any marriage, there are always good times and bad.

0:22:340:22:38

So is the honeymoon period over?

0:22:400:22:42

I can hear a mixture of glee and stress.

0:22:420:22:45

Is that fair to say?

0:22:450:22:47

I think any project has glee and stress.

0:22:470:22:50

You're always going to get some parts of it that are, "Yes! That looks excellent."

0:22:500:22:56

And there's other bits that are, "Oh."

0:22:560:22:58

The extra £8,000 Wendy and Ray had spent on drains and electricity

0:22:580:23:03

clearly was one of those "Ooh" moments.

0:23:030:23:05

However, sometimes it can be the smaller things that cause the biggest upset.

0:23:050:23:10

First thing I notice, everything else is in. You're missing a front door.

0:23:100:23:14

-Yes, we're missing a front door.

-Yeah.

-What do you mean, "Yeah"?

0:23:140:23:18

-Problem with the colour.

-What problem with the colour?

0:23:180:23:22

-We'd like an oak-coloured front door.

-Traditional.

0:23:220:23:27

But the colour we've been given

0:23:270:23:30

-we hate. We loathe.

-It's orange.

-Ah.

0:23:300:23:34

Now, you might think the colour of a door would be the least of their worries.

0:23:340:23:38

But when it's your self build, ensuring every aspect is exactly right,

0:23:380:23:42

can become an obsession.

0:23:420:23:44

-The devil is in the detail.

-Yeah.

0:23:440:23:46

Otherwise we'd have bought a house off an estate

0:23:460:23:51

-and said, "We'll have one of those."

-It is what it is.

0:23:510:23:54

It's a tiny little detail

0:23:540:23:56

but it seems monstrous at the time.

0:23:560:24:00

Actually, in the scheme of things, it's tiny

0:24:000:24:02

but that was the first time that we've come to a point

0:24:020:24:05

-where we were not going to do it.

-Dug your heels in.

0:24:050:24:08

Let's forget the front door. The rest of the house looks great,

0:24:090:24:13

including the old look exposed beams and traditional fireplace.

0:24:130:24:18

Upstairs, the master bedroom also benefits from more handcrafted features.

0:24:180:24:23

Now, this is starting to look impressive.

0:24:230:24:27

You're immediately drawn to these fantastic beams.

0:24:270:24:31

-Yes. Haven't they done well?

-It's as if they're weather-bent all green oak, which they're not.

0:24:310:24:37

-We wouldn't get this if we were buying off the shelf.

-No.

0:24:370:24:42

-And neither would you get the stress!

-No,

0:24:420:24:44

-but we'd expected some of the stress.

-I think it's fun.

0:24:440:24:48

I love it. I like you two. Your glass is half-full, not half-empty.

0:24:480:24:53

-Even in a half-finished house.

-Yes.

0:24:530:24:56

Because that's the thing, isn't it?

0:24:560:24:58

You stand here now, going, "What colour will the walls be?"

0:24:580:25:02

But there's still a long way to go.

0:25:020:25:04

Yes, it doesn't have any plumbing. It has a few wires.

0:25:040:25:08

A rat's nest of wires.

0:25:080:25:11

But nothing attached to the end of anything yet.

0:25:110:25:14

Ad infinitum. There's still a long way to go.

0:25:140:25:17

That's the thing with self-building.

0:25:170:25:20

There's always another job to do.

0:25:200:25:22

I'd best leave them to it.

0:25:220:25:23

It's been a matter of days since my visit and one project is finished with fantastic results.

0:25:250:25:30

I've just popped in to the house to see what's been going on today.

0:25:300:25:35

The fireplace has been finished and it's beautiful.

0:25:350:25:40

The beautiful herringbone brick on the bottom is lovely.

0:25:400:25:45

It's no wonder Wendy's excited.

0:25:450:25:48

This fireplace will be a real showpiece in the cosy living room.

0:25:480:25:52

However, as the build nears completion,

0:25:520:25:55

the Blacks discover it's money they're burning at a rapid rate.

0:25:550:25:59

-The number of nights I haven't slept.

-Wendy worries about it.

0:25:590:26:03

It's doing my head in!

0:26:030:26:05

I fancy myself as a pretty handy DIY man.

0:26:130:26:16

But have I got the skills needed for self-building a house?

0:26:160:26:20

Time for me to go back to school to sample another trade at Leeds College of Building.

0:26:200:26:25

Today, it's woodwork, with Mr Gibson.

0:26:250:26:29

Right. Joinery. Mark, what have we got in store?

0:26:400:26:43

Today we're going to fix a stud wall just like this one.

0:26:430:26:47

Stud walls are lightweight structures that form interior walls and door openings between rooms.

0:26:470:26:53

They're commonly used to quickly and cost-effectively alter the layout of rooms

0:26:530:26:57

such as dividing one large room into two smaller ones.

0:26:570:27:00

Looks simple enough to me!

0:27:000:27:02

How do you do this right and how do you do it wrong?

0:27:020:27:05

When you're measuring it, don't measure it too tight.

0:27:050:27:08

You need clearance to pack it off in case your wall is out of plumb.

0:27:080:27:12

You need to determine where you'll have openings, like here we'll mark out for a door opening.

0:27:120:27:19

How long are you giving me to replicate this fine structure here?

0:27:190:27:24

-Half an hour.

-Half an hour?

-Maximum.

-Maximum half an hour.

0:27:240:27:28

-I'm not here to make it easy for you!

-Thanks very much!

0:27:280:27:32

The sleeves are getting rolled up. Right.

0:27:320:27:35

Seeing as he's only given me the time this would take a pro,

0:27:350:27:39

Mark's agreed to do some cutting for me while I handle the measurements.

0:27:390:27:43

Two 1475, please, Mark!

0:27:430:27:45

If he's not measured it right, it's going to really show. Really show.

0:27:460:27:51

I need to fit the wall into this bay and craft enough space for a door.

0:27:560:28:00

I wish I'd paid more attention in Maths!

0:28:000:28:03

-It's wrecking my head already, this!

-You'll need half an hour to measure it out!

0:28:030:28:08

I know what I need to do now. OK. Think, Simon. Think, think.

0:28:110:28:14

Think. Think.

0:28:140:28:16

Things are going well until I found out that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to doors.

0:28:160:28:21

The door we're going to fit. Measure that door against that wall first.

0:28:220:28:27

-Write the measurement of the width of that door down first.

-I measured that one there!

0:28:270:28:31

You're not fitting one of those doors. You're fitting an internal door.

0:28:310:28:36

I've measured it!

0:28:360:28:38

You know what they say. If you're not sure, ask questions.

0:28:380:28:42

Start again. OK.

0:28:420:28:44

803. 803.

0:28:440:28:48

Excuse me, sir!

0:28:480:28:50

If the door's 803, what should I allow for the frame and casement?

0:28:500:28:54

You should add a clearance of 2ml around the entire door.

0:28:540:28:59

I've had enough of Maths!

0:28:590:29:02

No, divided by two. Good lad. OK.

0:29:030:29:05

I need to get building!

0:29:050:29:06

OK.

0:29:060:29:08

-I'm ready to go.

-Are you confident?

-No!

0:29:080:29:12

Pre-drilling is for wimps and people with time.

0:29:170:29:20

For me, it's straight in with the nails.

0:29:200:29:22

Five minutes to go, Simon.

0:29:260:29:28

I don't work well under pressure!

0:29:340:29:37

-If you'd hit the nails as much as the wood, you'd have been nailed up five minutes ago.

-Stop it, you!

0:29:370:29:43

Never mind nails. I'm starting to wonder if I should hit the gym a bit more!

0:29:430:29:48

I've gone off joinery.

0:29:480:29:50

I think I might be a brickie.

0:29:500:29:53

Let's see. The moment of truth!

0:29:580:30:01

'Now, I don't like to blow my own trumpet...'

0:30:040:30:07

That's not bad, that!

0:30:070:30:09

'..but I can feel a big ten out of ten coming my way.'

0:30:090:30:14

I'm happy with that.

0:30:140:30:15

Just a couple of final nails needed.

0:30:170:30:19

Right, Simon.

0:30:190:30:21

-I give up, anyway.

-You should have given up before you started!

0:30:210:30:25

What? That's all right, that!

0:30:250:30:28

What's wrong with that?

0:30:280:30:30

These lips are nearly equal to your studs.

0:30:300:30:34

They'd stop the plasterboard going flush.

0:30:340:30:36

That's what plasterboard is for, to hide stuff like that! Everyone knows that!

0:30:360:30:42

-Out of ten?

-If I based it on how much you've got done

0:30:420:30:47

and the fact that it's not very well fixed, to put it politely,

0:30:470:30:52

I'd give you three or four out of ten on that.

0:30:520:30:55

-Four out of ten?! Is that it?

-Yep, that's it.

0:31:000:31:02

I think it was better than that!

0:31:020:31:05

Back in Polstead, it's four months since Wendy and Ray demolished an undesirable bungalow...

0:31:150:31:21

..to make way for a period-style des res.

0:31:240:31:26

And from the outside at least, it's starting to look like home.

0:31:260:31:30

It's been quite exciting today

0:31:300:31:32

cos the scaffolding's come down.

0:31:320:31:35

So it's the first time we've actually seen the house

0:31:350:31:38

without it having chunks of wood and metal surrounding it.

0:31:380:31:43

The planners have got it right in that it's not too big, not too small.

0:31:430:31:48

It fits in with the houses around it. We're very pleased about that.

0:31:480:31:52

It looks like it's been there for ever.

0:31:520:31:55

It's just lovely. It looks really textured and interesting.

0:31:550:32:01

The house has come together quickly. Much of the credit must go to their builder, Tony.

0:32:010:32:06

The importance of good foundations in this relationship really can't be underestimated.

0:32:060:32:11

He is a perfectionist.

0:32:110:32:14

He really is.

0:32:140:32:16

We have absolutely no - nothing whatsoever - to quibble about

0:32:160:32:22

with the finish of anything.

0:32:220:32:24

We haven't got a builder we have to go behind, saying, "That's not right, this needs sorting."

0:32:240:32:30

We never, ever come into here and say, "That isn't right. It has to be re-done."

0:32:300:32:37

Well, there was a slight issue with one thing, wasn't there, Wendy?

0:32:370:32:41

The only thing we've done it with is the colour of the door.

0:32:410:32:45

If, at the end of the day, that's the only thing we've got to complain about, well...

0:32:450:32:50

But with the house nearing completion,

0:32:510:32:54

Wendy and Ray's funds to finish the project are running very low.

0:32:540:32:58

Wendy's decision to fit high-spec IT and audiovisual wiring

0:32:580:33:03

has added an additional six grand to the budget.

0:33:030:33:06

Coupled with the earlier overspend on the drains and electricity, cash flow is in crisis.

0:33:070:33:12

That's probably the worst bit. That bit of uncertainty.

0:33:120:33:17

If money wasn't a problem, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

0:33:170:33:21

If only this insulating floor tar could stop money as well as warm air escaping from the house.

0:33:210:33:27

Wendy had hoped to find the extra cash by increasing their current mortgage.

0:33:270:33:32

But their lender is unwilling to extend the loan.

0:33:320:33:34

Switching to a new mortgage provider is an option,

0:33:360:33:39

but to do so, they'd incur an expensive penalty charge to ditch their current mortgage deal.

0:33:390:33:44

We have a penalty of five per cent of the mortgage to be paid.

0:33:440:33:49

It's 9,200 and that's money completely down the drain

0:33:490:33:55

because we're needing to remortgage.

0:33:550:33:57

The expensive early release fee is a bitter pill.

0:33:570:34:02

But if it allows them to finish the build, it's one Wendy and Ray have to swallow.

0:34:020:34:07

-The number of nights I haven't slept.

-Wendy worries about it.

0:34:070:34:11

Ray just says, "Oh, it'll be fine. It'll sort out. We can do it.

0:34:110:34:15

-"What are you worried about?"

-It's like playing tough games of sport.

0:34:150:34:19

You've got to motivate, encourage. As she is, she worries about things

0:34:190:34:26

and I'm more laissez-faire about them. Doesn't mean I don't care.

0:34:260:34:30

It's doing my head in!

0:34:300:34:31

But there are ways we could do it and do it differently.

0:34:330:34:36

If we decide to do it differently, there's more money again!

0:34:360:34:40

It's always...

0:34:400:34:42

Three weeks later. Despite the financial stress, the site's extremely busy.

0:34:480:34:53

In the spirit of economising, Ray takes on some of the work himself

0:34:550:34:58

and is cutting costs for the couple, hopefully not corners.

0:34:580:35:02

Ray's putting down the board that goes underneath

0:35:020:35:06

the under-floor heating in the bathroom.

0:35:060:35:09

We're doing it ourselves to save ourselves £1,000 putting it in.

0:35:090:35:13

We think we can do this.

0:35:130:35:15

This is rather nice, cos in reality, I'd rather have done the whole lot.

0:35:150:35:20

Not using all these trades.

0:35:200:35:23

But I'm trying to do a little job here that one, will save money,

0:35:230:35:27

two, give me a bit of satisfaction that I can do it.

0:35:270:35:30

It's all hands on deck, and in the space of a week,

0:35:310:35:35

the kitchen arrives, there's plumbing and painting and finally,

0:35:350:35:38

after all their problems with the utility company, power. It's coming together.

0:35:380:35:43

Everything is just changing so quickly.

0:35:430:35:46

It's incredible. Yesterday and today we've got everybody on site together.

0:35:460:35:51

Yesterday, Ray called it Manic Monday. It's very busy and very exciting.

0:35:510:35:57

Five months later, having given them time to finish the furnishings and settle in,

0:36:050:36:09

I'm back to cast my eye over the finished cottage.

0:36:090:36:13

Well, look at that. Something brand-new, that looks like it could have been here for ever.

0:36:160:36:21

It's certainly a Suffolk stunner.

0:36:250:36:27

-Hello, hello! All right!

-Hello, Simon.

-May I?

-Come on in.

0:36:300:36:34

Nice door!

0:36:340:36:36

Wendy and Ray's home is a mix of old-world charm

0:36:410:36:45

combined with simple, clean design.

0:36:450:36:48

From the feature inglenook fireplace to the exposed beams throughout the house,

0:36:480:36:52

this place certainly has got character.

0:36:520:36:55

You're invited into this as soon as you walk through the front door.

0:36:580:37:02

It's lovely. We love the width of the passageway, the corridor there.

0:37:020:37:07

And it opens out. We just love this house.

0:37:070:37:10

Ray, what do you like about this room?

0:37:100:37:13

Space, light, things matching the oak beams.

0:37:130:37:18

I like the brickwork. We love the brick because it's reflected throughout the house.

0:37:180:37:23

We find that very pleasant and pleasing to our eye.

0:37:230:37:26

-And the inglenook.

-Yes, the inglenook is brilliant.

0:37:260:37:30

It is huge, but it's a bit of a statement and it is just part of the house.

0:37:300:37:36

It's great.

0:37:360:37:38

There's a real open, light feel to this home

0:37:390:37:42

and that continues in the kitchen.

0:37:420:37:45

-So this is the kitchen. Obviously!

-Yeah!

0:37:480:37:51

I'm an expert in these things. I'd have spotted it, you know!

0:37:510:37:55

-Just in case!

-Great space again.

-Yes.

0:37:550:37:58

Once more, opens up to outside.

0:37:580:38:00

Yes. I asked for French windows to be put in instead of just a window

0:38:000:38:05

so that we could get out onto the patio from here.

0:38:050:38:09

-It seems you want to tie in all the house with outside space.

-Yes. It's a fantastic property.

0:38:090:38:15

-And it has a fantastic space outside.

-Once more, you have the oak beam in here,

0:38:150:38:21

-this theme running through.

-We love wood. Wood is a theme right through.

0:38:210:38:27

Lovely big kitchen. Great space.

0:38:270:38:29

A view of the back. Absolutely fabulous room.

0:38:290:38:33

More! Come on, more! After you.

0:38:330:38:36

While much of the house is neutral in style,

0:38:380:38:42

they have put their individual stamp on the place.

0:38:420:38:45

Mainly with the carpets. From the tartan in the study to the zebra print deep pile in the guest room.

0:38:470:38:53

But it's how they finished off the master bedroom that I'm interested in.

0:38:540:38:59

I remember during my mid-point visit these beams were just going in.

0:39:010:39:06

If I remember rightly, they're just for show, not load-bearing.

0:39:060:39:09

-No, not load-bearing.

-But they really add something.

0:39:090:39:12

-Yes.

-Yes, I think they give a big wow!

0:39:120:39:15

With four spacious bedrooms, two en-suites and a family bathroom...

0:39:180:39:23

..this place is certainly a world away from the house that stood on this plot.

0:39:250:39:30

I distinctly remember when we looked round that gorgeous old bungalow,

0:39:320:39:36

that you said what you wanted was a very modern house but that felt very traditional.

0:39:360:39:43

-Have you achieved that?

-The aim was to get something people might recognise as a Suffolk home.

0:39:430:39:48

That looks a little bit old but isn't old,

0:39:480:39:51

cos I didn't want all the draughts and the repairs that go with it!

0:39:510:39:56

-So you've got your new house and I've got my old traditional looking.

-Indeed.

0:39:560:40:01

-And that's the marriage you were after.

-Yes.

0:40:010:40:04

We've had nice true compliments from people

0:40:040:40:09

saying it looks like a traditional house.

0:40:090:40:12

It sits well in the village.

0:40:120:40:14

And yes, that's great,

0:40:140:40:17

but we were doing it for us.

0:40:170:40:19

But it's nice that we can actually add to it and it sits well.

0:40:190:40:24

But there have been stresses along the way.

0:40:290:40:33

From the unexpected costs of their drainage and connecting the electricity

0:40:330:40:37

to the expensive remortgaging process to fund the final stages of the build.

0:40:370:40:42

So has it been worth it?

0:40:440:40:46

The couple bought their plot and original house for:

0:40:460:40:49

They estimated £220,000 to complete the house.

0:40:510:40:54

The final project budget, including landscaping, garage and fees was:

0:40:570:41:02

That's more than they intended to spend.

0:41:090:41:12

What would an estate agent value the property at?

0:41:120:41:15

Our valuer is happy to give this place a market value at the moment

0:41:160:41:20

of £700,000.

0:41:200:41:23

-Really?

-That's good. Better than I hoped!

0:41:230:41:26

-Yes.

-I like that. I thought he'd come in at about 625.

0:41:260:41:31

-That's a fantastic result.

-Yes.

-Yes.

-That's good.

0:41:310:41:34

It's not good, it's brilliant!

0:41:340:41:37

You're being very modest about this process.

0:41:370:41:40

It doesn't matter because we're staying here.

0:41:400:41:43

So at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if it's worth 700

0:41:430:41:46

or if it's worth seven million - it's what it is to us.

0:41:460:41:50

There's a bit of location, location about it. It's a great spot.

0:41:500:41:54

£700,000 houses

0:41:540:41:58

can be anywhere or special places and this is our special place and we've got it.

0:41:580:42:03

You always said - we joked about the fireplace in the old bungalow -

0:42:050:42:09

and in this place you've made a gorgeous inglenook the focal point

0:42:090:42:14

of your lovely new home.

0:42:140:42:15

So I've got a little present for you. Don't move!

0:42:150:42:18

-Just as a little memento.

-That's lovely. Thank you very much.

0:42:260:42:30

It's something old and traditional,

0:42:300:42:33

to go in your brand-new but traditional-style house.

0:42:330:42:38

-It's lovely. Thank you very much.

-That does the part.

0:42:380:42:41

-Thank you.

-Well done, both.

0:42:410:42:43

It's been absolutely fabulous. A triumph of a house, this.

0:42:430:42:47

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:120:43:15

Wendy and Ray Black from Suffolk are building a modern home in the style of a traditional country cottage. Plus the Doncaster couple who have built an unusual wedge-shaped home, and presenter Simon O'Brien gets stuck in to building stud walls at building college.


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