Series following some of the UK's self-builders, including a landscape gardener building his own home in Northamptonshire. Plus Simon O'Brien learns the perfect painting technique.
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We all dream of owning the perfect home.
But finding a place that suits both your wallet and your way of life isn't easy.
Well, I have a solution.
Stop searching for something to buy and consider somewhere to build.
Every year in Britain, 20,000 people build their own home.
We'll be following some of them as they go from foundations to finishing touches.
I've built it in my head a thousand times. It's exceeded all expectations.
Along the way, our brave self-builders will experience amazing highs...
It was like, "Yes! We've done it!"
..and some frustrating lows.
I didn't expect the level of hatred that's been thrown at us by having a house built!
But if they overcome these trials and tribulations,
they'll end up with the home they've always desired.
So if you're looking for your perfect pad, the question is simple.
To build or not to build?
Coming up today:
digging in, the landscape gardener single-handedly building a new home in Northamptonshire.
I think a builder, a brickie, perhaps they do 5,000 bricks a day.
I get 50 blocks done a day!
From salvage to self-build. The couple whose bargain hunting left them flushed with success!
The thunder box was about £80.
But inside is a toilet which I got out of a skip!
And my teacher gives me the brush-off when it comes to painting at building college.
-You need to pull your finger out, sunshine!
When it comes to our homes, we Brits can certainly be competitive.
When landscape gardener John Barraclough found a fabulous plot in Rushden, Northamptonshire,
he realised he'd have his work cut out.
Not keeping up with the Joneses, more like keeping up mit der Schmitz.
Because right alongside John's site is an uber-contemporary German kit house.
Undaunted, John is determined to build something just as stylish
with his own hands at a fraction of the cost.
And the garden will be wunderbar, too!
As boss of his own landscaping company, John's been digging into the Rushden soil for seven years.
But he's putting the gardening business to bed for a year.
For his latest project he'll definitely require more than a trowel!
Ah, that's more like it! It's John's aim to transform this muddy patch of land
into a house as stunning as the one next door.
After a month's hard work, the plot's been cleared and foundations laid.
He's now ready to start building.
It's time for me to meet the man with a very ambitious plan.
What is it about you, what is it about your personality that makes you want to do all this yourself?
I've always done gardening. Because the gardening projects have got bigger and bigger,
and we've done up houses in the past, I've got enough confidence to think, "Yeah, I can do that."
And I think you've got to think like that.
If you worry too much about it, you wouldn't start.
Now, gardening is one thing. But building a whole house from scratch
is an entirely different ball game.
The very fact he's intending to do the bulk of the work himself
will surely be giving John the odd sleepless night.
What's eating you up? What's the worry?
Sometimes getting things in the right order.
There's an awful lot to remember rather than just being a plumber or brickie.
I have to keep everything churning around.
The thing I'm more worried about is when I find something and can't judge if it's important.
So you have to go and ask somebody. Sometimes they'll say, "No, that's fine. Don't worry about it."
-You've been thinking...
-I say, "This bit, I'm going to do later." "No! You have to do it now!"
So that's the sort of thing I worry about.
-That I don't know what I'm doing!
-That's the learning curve you've taken on.
But if John can pull it off, this DIY option
could save him as much as £80,000 when it comes to labour costs.
With John's two children having flown the nest,
he's decided now is the ideal time to build.
With the help of an architect, John's come up with a four-bed house
that he hopes will complement the modern German architecture next door.
He's using a traditional build method of breeze blocks and a steel frame
which will be rendered to give a clean, simple look.
That's roughly the same price as similar-sized detached homes in the area.
But few will be as contemporary and bespoke as John's house.
However, building it is going to take some serious hard work.
With a bit of assistance from his friend Alex,
the cement foundations of the house are set firm.
That's OK. It's a bit low over there.
It's only a few millimetres.
Allowing the dynamic duo to get busy with some breeze blocks.
It takes eight specialist builders four days to erect a kit house like the one next to John's plot.
John and Alex aren't quite as quick.
They're only just getting around to laying the ground floor.
It's build month three and time I chivvied them on a little.
-Hello, hello! Hi, John. How are you?
-Getting stuck in?
-We're getting there.
-The floors are just starting to go in? The ground floor.
Yes. This arrived yesterday. We've got thousands of them, which is off-putting!
Sometimes we get up in the morning and think, "My God! What am I doing?"
The next minute, you think, "It's one step at a time."
Doing this today, that the next day and then you're there.
We've done an awful lot of work just to get to this.
And yet it looks like nothing.
But if John ever finds himself lacking motivation,
he only needs to glace at the impressive house 25 feet from his garden fence.
Do you feel pressure to emulate that?
Er, it's pretty imposing.
But we've designed the house to take advantage of some of the nice bits.
The nice overhanging roofs, it comes away from the balcony.
I've got a balcony at the back and we're reflecting that roof shape in mine.
Where are you living whilst this is going on?
This bungalow had two plots. Tony, who's an ex-architect,
has bought that one and he was renting that.
So as he moved out, I moved in. It was quite amazing timing.
So I've got a hole in the fence and I walk through there
and I can make a cup of tea.
We forget stuff, so go in and get a screwdriver and we're sorted.
With that bungalow being so conveniently placed,
-any chance of a cup of tea?
-Yeah, we can do that.
Considering this is John's first foray into the world of self-build,
you can't fail to be impressed by the way he's turning his hand to pretty much any job on site.
And today is a significant day in the life of this build.
In just a few hours' time, John hopes to have the ground floor base completed.
To create a solid bedrock on which to build,
John's opted for the tried and trusted block and beam method.
It's a relatively simple system
where long concrete beams are laid parallel to each other
before small concrete blocks are slotted into them.
You don't need specialist skills to fit it, so it's a popular choice for self-builders.
You send the design of the house off to a block and beam company
and they do a design for you.
Then you basically follow the design.
So the beams sit on where you're going to have a wall.
So if your walls are in the right place, they sit in the right place.
Hopefully! And they have all sat in the right place.
So we're OK so far. Not too worried.
It's early days for John, but so far everything appears to be going according to plan.
He's certainly made the switch from a green-fingered gardener to a savvy navvy with relative ease.
In fact, to listen to him talk, you'd think he'd been doing this his whole life!
Our water pipes are in. All our drainage is done.
The cabling for the water-harvesting tank is down there.
And we have to put a cable in for our sewage pump.
We've got plenty to do!
Five months in and John's house is beginning to emerge from his solid foundations.
Alex has gone back to his day job working as a gardener
so John really is left to build his home alone.
And he's making what can only be described as steady progress.
It's quite hard when you're doing it yourself.
But it seems to be working.
John's meticulous in his methods.
He's keen to make sure that every block is in exactly the right position.
And I do mean exactly!
But, being a self-confessed perfectionist,
he's still not 100% happy.
I certainly worry about levels and verticals.
Probably a bit too much.
You can't fault his attention to detail,
but he's almost halfway through his 12-month build schedule
and John still hasn't completed a ground-floor wall yet.
I have to do this all again when I go upstairs!
Doing everything himself is saving John tens of thousands of pounds.
But if he'd got the professionals in, this build might be finished!
I think a builder or brickie, perhaps they do 5,000 bricks a day.
I get 50 blocks done a day!
One thing he has found time to do, though,
is plant a vegetable patch.
This won't be the fastest build in the world, but John's learning as he goes along.
And, as usual, he's taking everything in his stride.
I don't want to think too far ahead, because if you worried about it, you'd panic.
I get up some mornings and I think, "Shute, I must be mad."
Then I look at the drawings of the house again and think, "That'll look nice"
and, you know, I check out the garden and stuff.
Then the panic drifts away.
Building at this pace isn't for everyone.
But John seems happy enough.
One thing's for sure, though,
he'll need to get his roof on before the winter weather arrives.
Self-building allows people to create something which suits their own taste and style.
So when our next couple decided to mix the opulent grandeur of a Venetian palace
with the American deep south,
they certainly let their imaginations run wild!
With sumptuous silk walls and glittering glass chandeliers,
Italian palaces became the byword for a European style
that would dominate interior design for centuries.
Maxim Peccaro and Keith Hughes
wanted their dream home near Stevenage to replicate the classical Italian look.
But with an exterior straight from Gone With The Wind.
We had several styles of home that we wanted to build.
Keith's was more of a mock Georgian house, really.
He wanted something traditional.
I wanted something modern originally, but we decided on something to suit the area
but that also looked pretty.
Keith did have the final say when it came to naming their new home.
My grandparents used to host Christmas for us, a big family Christmas and everybody would come.
When they died, I decided I would like to host Christmas for all of my family
because I have a large family.
That's why we built the house.
Keith and Max found a plot with a bungalow on it for £190,000.
They chose a timber-framed kit build and decided to do much of the work themselves
in order to keep the costs under control.
The main reason we did this is cos we couldn't afford to buy the house we wanted.
We could never afford to buy a house like this in a million years, straight off.
The way to do it was to build it, using our skills,
so it ended up costing us cheaper to build the house of our dreams.
They really threw themselves into this project by getting hands-on with all aspects of the interior.
Keith took care of the woodwork and soft furnishing
and Max specialised in electrics and plumbing.
We would look at something and say, "If it costs that much, how much would it be if we did it ourselves?"
We always tried the do-it-ourselves option.
You always say I've got champagne toes. But we've always had a beer-bottle pocket!
I love nice things. Everybody likes nice things at some point in their lives.
-We tend to go OTT!
-I think you do,
-then you realise if it costs a lot, you can make it for less money.
One major saving came in the kitchen, which they built for just £1,600
after recycling units from the Victoria and Albert museum
which they found in a reclamation yard.
This has to be one of my most favourite spaces in the whole house.
That's our sitting area. We love it because it's huge
and where we used to live I had no space whatsoever.
But here we can't complain because there's lots of space.
This is my favourite room because of the vaulted ceiling
and the Venetian fabric on the walls.
Because Keith and I love Venice, and we go quite a lot,
we wanted a piece of Venice. Centuries ago, they used to line their walls with fabric or silk.
So we managed to get hold of some fabric from Venice and this is the result.
It's slightly padded, it keeps the room soundproof and keeps it warmer.
The bathroom is another place where an eye for a bargain
has enabled them to mix retro and modern.
The washstand was about £25 from the reclamation yard.
And the thunder box was about £80.
But inside is a toilet
which I got out of a skip outside a London hotel.
Taking time to source bargains wherever they could,
coupled with their DIY approach paid off massively for Max and Keith.
They actually came in £50,000 under their original £200,000 budget.
That's a substantial saving that few self-builders can boast about.
It's sublime that we've done it under budget.
The feeling is like no other, it really is.
With the house now valued at a staggering £1 million,
they saved more than 650 grand compared with buying an equivalent home.
And they enjoyed the experience so much,
this might not be the end of their self-build ambitions.
When you first build your house and move in, you think that's it.
But you get the bug again because it's exciting.
It's thrilling and gives you a sense of well-being.
-It's all of those things.
-But it's very hard work.
-Very hard work.
In Rushden in Northamptonshire, John Barraclough has put his gardening business on hold
and spent five months building the home of his dreams.
I need a block.
Incredibly, he's doing almost all the work himself.
John's already laid a back-breaking 1,000 breeze blocks and he's still on the ground floor.
Today, though, is going to be a big day for John.
The build is about to take a giant leap forward
and for once he'll need a little help on site to make things happen.
Bit of a funny day today. We're having the first lot of steel.
Which is good. We've got about ten bits
and they are all going
on the first floor stuff.
Not had the best night's sleep, thinking about doing all this today.
If the thought of it is enough to make you lose sleep, John,
best not look now because a lorry laden with steel girders
has just arrived.
And as the metal bars are lifted into place, the project takes on a whole new look.
It's a nervous time for John. The girders have been precision manufactured
so if he's made even the slightest mistake with his walls, the metal bars simply won't fit.
As the girders glide into place, John's perfectionism and precision
seem to be paying off.
It's a real triumph!
But as the final few girders are lifted off the lorry,
there's a problem. The work grinds to an almighty halt.
Got all the bits up. It fitted nicely.
Until virtually the last piece...
..was six inches too long.
So it's gone back in the van.
It's gone to get cut. And it'll come back.
By the time we've had our cup of tea.
Useful for using a local company.
It's not long before the re-cut beam is back on site.
It's down with the tea and back out with the tools.
It's taken lots of hard work to get to the stage where the steelwork can be fitted.
And when this huge A-shaped steel structure is lifted into place,
you finally get a real feel for the size and shape of John's house.
But having all these mammoth metal bars in place
has led to a startling realisation.
The nightmare thing I've just realised
is that it shows how high I've got to build the walls!
So this wall here will also have to be that high in blockwork.
And then one in the middle.
So I've got one, two, three walls in blocks that have to go that high!
That'll keep us out of trouble for a month or two!
The following day, John's moved on from the number of blocks he still has to lay.
Right now he has bigger concerns.
Much bigger concerns.
In fact, 30-foot high concerns!
It's a bit worrying today cos it's moving in the wind, if you look up.
The towering A-frame weighs almost half a tonne.
If it were to come down, it could do some serious damage to John's walls.
Or even worse to John himself.
John needs expert advice, so he gets on the phone.
It's pretty windy here at the moment.
OK, no, that's fine.
If I put a bracing strap onto the steel at the bottom,
then I'm up to the apex of the sitting room bit of the roof.
One phone call later and John's gone back to his blocks.
I've been assured by the engineers that it's not a problem
so I'll relax about it.
I've never seen anyone as unfazed as John before in my life!
He's so laid back about this build,
he's practically horizontal!
But he's never lost sight of his dream,
to build a house that will complement the distinctive dwelling next door.
And he's keen to keep up with his soon-to-be next-door neighbours.
The idea it's the same height as the Huf house.
And the pitch of the roof is the same.
So his roof is 60 degrees. Mine will be 60 degrees.
So the design and overhang of the roofs was thought about.
We thought it would look better to sort of complement.
It'll be very satisfying when it's finished.
Building a house pretty much single-handedly is an astonishing achievement.
You really have to take your hat off to John.
He's learning new skills every day. He's come up with some inventive labour-saving methods.
But even John can get lonely, so he's managed to rope his kids, Jack and Zoe, into helping out.
You see, this is what Zoe does.
Another Zoe block face. And this is a Jack block!
Let's see. It's a Jack block!
They've all come and given me a hand, both my kids.
They'll do it for a bit, but soon want to go off and do something else.
Even threatening to pay them doesn't seem to work.
But with their help, John has finally reached the upper level of his house.
So it won't be long before he can raise the roof!
It's six months since I visited John at his contemporary self-build in Northamptonshire.
This truly is a self-build in every sense of the word
because John is doing most of the work himself.
This is a labour of love.
But I wonder, if after laying thousands of breeze blocks,
whether he's still loving the labour!
I'm about to find out.
But I'm not the only one dropping in on John today.
As I arrive, he's taking delivery of another lorry-load of metal.
Tonnes of steel girders he's hoping to have in place by the end of the day.
Looks like I picked the perfect day to pay him a visit!
-It's close, isn't it?
-It is close!
-I can feel the excitement today. A bit of tension and excitement.
The plan is for these huge metal bars to be hoisted into the air
and set down onto these narrow breeze blocks.
For the first time since I've met him, John looks genuinely apprehensive.
Has Mr Unflappable finally met his match?
We've thought about what might go wrong. We've just got to stop it happening!
What might go wrong?
Well, the gables are fairly fresh.
-Not that long!
-We've been doing them in the last few days.
Ideally, it would be nice if they were rock hard.
This is critical.
The cement is so fresh, it may not have had enough time to harden.
The gable ends may not be able to support the huge weight of the girders.
And that's not the only issue.
Some of them are only a four-inch wall. So it doesn't matter how hard it is.
-You've got six, eight feet of brick wall, 24 inches wide,
and the steel bangs down on it, it can move anyway.
It's another tough test for John's workmanship.
If his self-taught block-laying skills let him down this time,
it's more than his pride that'll be taking a tumble!
It does seem very thin to rest a huge steel on top of.
You can actually see the mortar is darker than that below it. It was a cold night last night,
and it could be like sugar!
We'll find out whether it's set or not, won't we?
It's not just the strength of the mortar John has to worry about.
Like the last time he had steel work installed,
if the measurements are slightly out or his walls are uneven,
there'll be some serious head-scratching going on here!
Here we go, then, fella. Does it fit?
Yeah, it'll fit.
Amazing. The steel engineers have measured it. John measured it. I daren't look!
After all the planning, measuring over and over again,
you don't know whether it fits until it actually sits in - or not!
Looking good, John!
Yes, all right so far!
It's a fraction out, but it should still do the job just fine.
So it's now down to perfectionist John to decide whether to crack on
or risk damaging the blockwork by having another bash.
Let's leave it there. It's got what it needs. It's on the pad.
John decides to let that go. So they're 3mm out
before they put the big piece on and hopefully that won't cause trouble down the far end.
One down, two to go.
As the next girder is prepared,
there's enough time to quiz John about the life of a lonesome builder.
Let's talk about self-build. Some people's idea is to draw a picture,
-give it to an architect, come back.
-No, I wasn't going to do that.
Self-build to me means a self-build.
Must be nice just to speak to someone.
-The days you've been here on your own.
-There have been days where you're thinking...
How many more thousands? How many more? How many thousand blocks?
-Not quite 8,000 yet.
-But 8,000 has got to be...
My elbow. Talk about tennis elbow!
Thankfully for John, today's heavy lifting is someone else's responsibility.
But, as always, he's 100% hands on when it comes to the crunch.
It's pretty much where it needs to be now. Watch that end pad.
Can't be far off?
That's spot-on, that is.
This time, it's absolutely millimetre perfect. Result!
He's a modest man, John, but if you think about it,
he built these walls, he did all the height, all the levels,
all these measurements.
And it is absolutely perfect!
-You must be happy, mate.
-Yes, it's satisfying. It's all right.
It's not all right, it's bang on!
Right. One to go.
Last one. If this goes on, John has a building!
Just filling in the gaps!
The third and final bar is the biggest and the heaviest of them all.
It needs to go to your right. Three millimetres.
It's got to go 5mm left.
OK. We're OK here.
It's a perfect fit. And the mortar is holding up nicely, too.
It's absolutely bang on.
This fella knows what he's doing.
It's the end of another successful day for John.
But still time for a bit of banter with his new next-door neighbour.
1mm out, down there.
That's German engineering. This is English engineering!
-It looks in the right place to me!
-It's at the top of the house, yes!
No, but whether it's swinging left or right.
No, that wouldn't matter so much. But is it the perfect height where it needs to be.
From what I've seen today, your measurements are bob on!
-They're not bad.
-Not bad?! What did you have to change?
Who needs Germans, eh? Nothing wrong with British engineering.
I've never built my own house, but I've renovated a few derelict properties in my time
and while I consider myself quite handy, it's worth learning a few new skills.
When it comes to basic DIY, decorating is the one most people are prepared to dabble at.
Today I'm at building college to have a brush with the painting professor.
Right, Shaun, what are we up to today?
The challenge today is to paint a flush-panel door with gloss over base gloss finish.
-Sounds easy enough.
-Lots of people think it's quite easy,
but it's one of the most difficult challenges a decorator undertakes.
So my hopes of a nice easy day are out the door!
Shaun, I'm no painter and decorator, but first obvious question.
I'm painting blue over yellow.
For the purpose of the challenge, it's over a contrasting colour,
to highlight any mistakes you may make once you're painting.
-It'll show up better.
-Or you may make!
Possibly! Hopefully not!
Shaun's given me ten minutes to paint the door. To pile on the pressure, it's a race!
-You can buy all sorts of different quality brushes.
Is it worth forking out for the more expensive ones?
You see them in the baskets by the checkout.
Buy eight brushes for three quid.
They're awful. The bristles will fall out and they'll fall to pieces in minutes.
You don't get the quality of paint, either.
Even if I was using all eight of those brushes, Shaun would still be quicker than me.
A big part of glossing, especially a flush panel door like this,
is to make sure you get consistency of your paint line.
What do you mean? How? It just comes out the can, doesn't it?
As it comes out of the tin, depending on conditions if it's cold or freezing,
the paint tends to thicken up.
The best thing is to submerge your paint can in a bucket of warm water.
The warm water thins the paint naturally.
'So I've worked out my first excuse!'
-This isn't the right temperature!
-Yours is the same as mine!
Though I could have doctored it cos you weren't there when I poured it!
I reckon we've painted for about three or four minutes.
-You need to pull your finger out, sunshine!
I'm going, I'm going!
I think the race is already lost.
Aye, aye, wait for me!
'But I can keep finding those excuses!'
This dodgy brush you gave me. The hairs are coming off!
'Five minutes gone, Shaun's done.'
Well, mine's bang on.
I'll be the judge of that!
It's not looking too bad!
Never mind that. I hate it when people look over my shoulder!
Say you were going to decorate a standard bedroom.
-How long should that take a professional decorator?
-Maybe a week and a half.
-OK. That would get you a real good quality finish.
-Yeah, I'd say so.
Well, unless you were doing it!
-Am I there?
-About ten seconds.
We're not bothered about the customer's laminate floor.
-We'd put some sheeting down.
-Never mind that.
-I sheeted it.
-Let's have an inspection.
What do you think? Would you be happy paying somebody for that?
-If you got a decorator in?
-Don't ask me!
I can still see brush strokes. A few misses. It's not on evenly there.
The top half of your door isn't too bad.
Did you get fed up as you got lower down?
-I ran out of time!
-You were talking too much.
No, it's pretty good.
-Having said that, you can see the difference.
-No runs, no misses.
I think it's the lighting!
A big problem students tend to get, DIY people,
is getting the paint on quite thickly.
They worry if you put it on thick, it'll run, but if you get it on thick and even, it holds up.
I put it on thickly, and that's why it's held up.
-That's why it looks a lot...
-How many out of ten?
-Out of ten?
Probably 6.5 or 7.0, maybe?
Seven? I'll take the seven.
Cheers, mate. Thanks very much.
Back in Rushden, the diamond-hard, self-fuelled machine that is John Barraclough
is slowly chipping away at his dream.
In the friendly competition between John and his neighbour
over who can build the most stylish new house, John is now a definite contender.
The roof is up, and suddenly the race looks a bit more even.
But it's a marathon, not a sprint,
and after his Herculean efforts putting everything in place block by block, screw by screw
to get this far, making the roof watertight is another massive task.
There are a lot of battens up here!
It was about 4,000 metres of batons.
It was kind of repetitive and easy,
so once you've done one batten, you know how to do the other 50,000!
Oh, and then there's the tiles.
Shingles. Shingles for the roof of the garage.
There's 56 bundles here. Couple of metres per bundle.
So there's about 100 square metres I've got to put up.
With every single one of them, there's a couple of pins.
A lot of work there. I'm not thinking about that!
But there's one harsh truth John has to face up to.
The bungalow next door, where I've been staying,
that rental has come to an end.
It's a pain, because I'm not finished.
But I do have a couple of months' notice. I've got eight weeks.
But it does put pressure on.
It's a major blow. Living on site has meant John could come and go
and he was able to act as night watchman to keep the whole area secure.
I'll have to be organised for the first time!
If I'm somewhere else, I have to turn up with what I want on the day
so that'll be a bit tricky.
John's build is already running three months behind schedule.
The extra time he'll now need to get to and from site
is bound to have a knock-on effect.
There's still plenty of major work on the inside to do.
The kitchens, bathrooms, underfloor heating, plumbing and electrics to do.
But it'll be fine. I'm happy so far!
And for this rooftop philosopher, now's not the time for any regrets.
You learn a lot. You're making something and leaving something behind.
That's a nice thing. This is going to be here for a while.
I've had a couple of houses, both old houses,
and they've been up for 100 years.
Hopefully, this will be as good. So, yeah.
Over the next couple of months, the windows are installed
and the roof shingles fitted.
But doing all this work single-handed means the build isn't progressing quickly.
It's now build month 18 and John's busy running the mile or so of electric cable
through the house.
And I'm back in Rushden to find out first hand how he's doing.
since I was here at John's place.
Well, it's not quite a house,
but it's coming on!
The roof looks fantastic! Bear in mind
he's done it all himself!
-It's amazing! It's a big space.
-Yes, it's nice.
Starting to look like a house now! Not finished, though!
Is it not?! My expert eye tells me that.
Even though it's not finished, it's possible to see how this will shape up into a fabulous home,
from the downstairs snug to the bedrooms to the main open-plan living area.
-Talk me through this space.
-This is the open-plan sitting room.
The idea was that you got a nice open fire, log fire,
sitting room, bean bags, maybe a TV.
This is massive.
It's a dining room, too, so...
-It's a big kitchen/diner.
Also because of the living room.
Yes. I want to cook here and look at the fireplace.
-Great for a party, hopefully.
-Eventually there'll be a house-warming party!
-Give me the invite!
If I'm not too old, I'll come!
'It's on the mezzanine level you can really appreciate what John's achieved.'
This is a really great space.
From here, you get to celebrate all the architectural features.
-They're working, I think.
This is nice. When the sun does come through here,
all this space gets lit up and there's a master bedroom behind that.
So those doors can be opened.
That light goes straight in there.
What amazes me most is the scale of the project that John's taken on.
This four-bed house is massive,
yet he's been prepared to tackle almost every aspect of the build himself.
Talk about determination!
Was there ever a point when you thought, "I don't want to do this any more."
Quite a few times!
But if you're going to do a self-build, you can't say to somebody, "Come and do it for me."
-So you just keep going.
-So it's a certain mind-set that you need?
-You're working in...
-I couldn't be an electrician constantly or a block-builder constantly.
You've got to mix it about.
That's the luxury of doing a self-build that you do a bit of everything.
-That keeps you going.
-I know you didn't have a definitive schedule,
but time has slipped a bit. What do you put that down to?
As you do the build, you realise it takes longer.
You can't sit down at the beginning and do a project spreadsheet as to what you're doing this week.
Unless it's a rabbit hutch. I don't think you can do it that way for this.
It evolved as well, in terms of how we've done it. How we've learned how to do things.
Sticking to the original £250,000 build budget has had a knock-on effect with regards to time.
I've done more of my day job at the same time than I planned to do.
That's partly out of necessity
because of costs.
Not because they've necessarily overrun. We're still pretty much on budget.
-In that sense.
On target to meet the overall £400,000 budget,
a recent valuation has justified all John's hard work.
A while ago somebody came and it was about half a million,
something like that, depending on how fast you want to sell it,
and present climate. But somewhere round there.
I think you're being modest about all this.
This is an incredible achievement.
-To have done 90-odd per cent of this on your own, is amazing!
-It will be.
You only do a few things, probably in your lifetime, that are significant
and leave something behind.
But this will be a quite nice lump!
With all those breeze blocks, it's more than a lump!
To mark this gardener's transformation into self builder
I've got him a suitable gift.
-I just thought that...
-For goodness' sake!
Oh, that's great. Thank you very much!
-It's certainly a memento.
-A building gnome.
It's one of the heaviest ones!
You're a block expert now!
I thought you meant the gnome, but you mean the density of the block!
That's good! I like that.
Thank you very much.
I can't tell you how impressed I am that you've got on with this place.
It's looking magnificent.
-I'd like to see it when it's all plastered.
-You're very welcome to.
No, it won't be that long.
Yeah, Christmas time, a good party.
You didn't say which Christmas!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Landscape gardener John Barraclough has swapped top soil for cement as he single-handedly builds his own home in Northamptonshire. Plus how recycling and reusing led to one couple building a one million pound house for a fraction of the price, and presenter Simon O'Brien learns the perfect painting technique at building college.