Episode 8 To Build or Not to Build


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Episode 8

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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Transcript


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We all dream of owning the perfect home.

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But finding a place that suits both 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 as they go from foundations to finishing touches.

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I've built it in my head a thousand times. It's exceeded all expectations.

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

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It was like, "Yes! We've done it!"

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..and some frustrating lows.

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I didn't expect the level of hatred that's been thrown at us by having a house built!

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But if they overcome these trials and tribulations,

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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, the question is simple.

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To build or not to build?

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Coming up today:

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digging in, the landscape gardener single-handedly building a new home in Northamptonshire.

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I think a builder, a brickie, perhaps they do 5,000 bricks a day.

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I get 50 blocks done a day!

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From salvage to self-build. The couple whose bargain hunting left them flushed with success!

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The thunder box was about £80.

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But inside is a toilet which I got out of a skip!

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And my teacher gives me the brush-off when it comes to painting at building college.

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-You need to pull your finger out, sunshine!

-I'm going!

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When it comes to our homes, we Brits can certainly be competitive.

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When landscape gardener John Barraclough found a fabulous plot in Rushden, Northamptonshire,

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he realised he'd have his work cut out.

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Not keeping up with the Joneses, more like keeping up mit der Schmitz.

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Because right alongside John's site is an uber-contemporary German kit house.

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Undaunted, John is determined to build something just as stylish

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with his own hands at a fraction of the cost.

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And the garden will be wunderbar, too!

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As boss of his own landscaping company, John's been digging into the Rushden soil for seven years.

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But he's putting the gardening business to bed for a year.

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For his latest project he'll definitely require more than a trowel!

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Ah, that's more like it! It's John's aim to transform this muddy patch of land

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into a house as stunning as the one next door.

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After a month's hard work, the plot's been cleared and foundations laid.

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He's now ready to start building.

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It's time for me to meet the man with a very ambitious plan.

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What is it about you, what is it about your personality that makes you want to do all this yourself?

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I've always done gardening. Because the gardening projects have got bigger and bigger,

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and we've done up houses in the past, I've got enough confidence to think, "Yeah, I can do that."

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And I think you've got to think like that.

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If you worry too much about it, you wouldn't start.

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Now, gardening is one thing. But building a whole house from scratch

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is an entirely different ball game.

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The very fact he's intending to do the bulk of the work himself

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will surely be giving John the odd sleepless night.

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What's eating you up? What's the worry?

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Um...

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Sometimes getting things in the right order.

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There's an awful lot to remember rather than just being a plumber or brickie.

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I have to keep everything churning around.

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The thing I'm more worried about is when I find something and can't judge if it's important.

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So you have to go and ask somebody. Sometimes they'll say, "No, that's fine. Don't worry about it."

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-You've been thinking...

-I say, "This bit, I'm going to do later." "No! You have to do it now!"

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So that's the sort of thing I worry about.

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-That I don't know what I'm doing!

-That's the learning curve you've taken on.

-Yeah!

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But if John can pull it off, this DIY option

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could save him as much as £80,000 when it comes to labour costs.

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With John's two children having flown the nest,

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he's decided now is the ideal time to build.

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With the help of an architect, John's come up with a four-bed house

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that he hopes will complement the modern German architecture next door.

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He's using a traditional build method of breeze blocks and a steel frame

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which will be rendered to give a clean, simple look.

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That's roughly the same price as similar-sized detached homes in the area.

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But few will be as contemporary and bespoke as John's house.

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However, building it is going to take some serious hard work.

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With a bit of assistance from his friend Alex,

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the cement foundations of the house are set firm.

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That's OK. It's a bit low over there.

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It's only a few millimetres.

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Allowing the dynamic duo to get busy with some breeze blocks.

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It takes eight specialist builders four days to erect a kit house like the one next to John's plot.

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John and Alex aren't quite as quick.

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They're only just getting around to laying the ground floor.

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It's build month three and time I chivvied them on a little.

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-Hello, hello! Hi, John. How are you?

-Hi, Simon.

-Getting stuck in?

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-We're getting there.

-The floors are just starting to go in? The ground floor.

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Yes. This arrived yesterday. We've got thousands of them, which is off-putting!

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But exciting!

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Sometimes we get up in the morning and think, "My God! What am I doing?"

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The next minute, you think, "It's one step at a time."

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Doing this today, that the next day and then you're there.

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We've done an awful lot of work just to get to this.

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And yet it looks like nothing.

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But if John ever finds himself lacking motivation,

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he only needs to glace at the impressive house 25 feet from his garden fence.

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Do you feel pressure to emulate that?

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Er, it's pretty imposing.

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But we've designed the house to take advantage of some of the nice bits.

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The nice overhanging roofs, it comes away from the balcony.

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I've got a balcony at the back and we're reflecting that roof shape in mine.

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Where are you living whilst this is going on?

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This bungalow had two plots. Tony, who's an ex-architect,

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has bought that one and he was renting that.

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So as he moved out, I moved in. It was quite amazing timing.

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So I've got a hole in the fence and I walk through there

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and I can make a cup of tea.

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We forget stuff, so go in and get a screwdriver and we're sorted.

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With that bungalow being so conveniently placed,

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-any chance of a cup of tea?

-Yeah, we can do that.

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Considering this is John's first foray into the world of self-build,

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you can't fail to be impressed by the way he's turning his hand to pretty much any job on site.

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And today is a significant day in the life of this build.

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In just a few hours' time, John hopes to have the ground floor base completed.

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To create a solid bedrock on which to build,

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John's opted for the tried and trusted block and beam method.

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It's a relatively simple system

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where long concrete beams are laid parallel to each other

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before small concrete blocks are slotted into them.

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You don't need specialist skills to fit it, so it's a popular choice for self-builders.

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You send the design of the house off to a block and beam company

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and they do a design for you.

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Then you basically follow the design.

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So the beams sit on where you're going to have a wall.

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So if your walls are in the right place, they sit in the right place.

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Hopefully! And they have all sat in the right place.

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So we're OK so far. Not too worried.

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It's early days for John, but so far everything appears to be going according to plan.

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He's certainly made the switch from a green-fingered gardener to a savvy navvy with relative ease.

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In fact, to listen to him talk, you'd think he'd been doing this his whole life!

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Our water pipes are in. All our drainage is done.

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The cabling for the water-harvesting tank is down there.

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And we have to put a cable in for our sewage pump.

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We've got plenty to do!

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Five months in and John's house is beginning to emerge from his solid foundations.

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Alex has gone back to his day job working as a gardener

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so John really is left to build his home alone.

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And he's making what can only be described as steady progress.

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It's quite hard when you're doing it yourself.

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But it seems to be working.

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John's meticulous in his methods.

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He's keen to make sure that every block is in exactly the right position.

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And I do mean exactly!

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But, being a self-confessed perfectionist,

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he's still not 100% happy.

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I certainly worry about levels and verticals.

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Probably a bit too much.

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You can't fault his attention to detail,

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but he's almost halfway through his 12-month build schedule

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and John still hasn't completed a ground-floor wall yet.

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I have to do this all again when I go upstairs!

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Doing everything himself is saving John tens of thousands of pounds.

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But if he'd got the professionals in, this build might be finished!

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I think a builder or brickie, perhaps they do 5,000 bricks a day.

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I get 50 blocks done a day!

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One thing he has found time to do, though,

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is plant a vegetable patch.

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This won't be the fastest build in the world, but John's learning as he goes along.

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And, as usual, he's taking everything in his stride.

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I don't want to think too far ahead, because if you worried about it, you'd panic.

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I get up some mornings and I think, "Shute, I must be mad."

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Then I look at the drawings of the house again and think, "That'll look nice"

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and, you know, I check out the garden and stuff.

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Then the panic drifts away.

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Building at this pace isn't for everyone.

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But John seems happy enough.

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One thing's for sure, though,

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he'll need to get his roof on before the winter weather arrives.

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Self-building allows people to create something which suits their own taste and style.

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So when our next couple decided to mix the opulent grandeur of a Venetian palace

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with the American deep south,

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they certainly let their imaginations run wild!

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With sumptuous silk walls and glittering glass chandeliers,

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Italian palaces became the byword for a European style

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that would dominate interior design for centuries.

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Maxim Peccaro and Keith Hughes

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wanted their dream home near Stevenage to replicate the classical Italian look.

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But with an exterior straight from Gone With The Wind.

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We had several styles of home that we wanted to build.

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Keith's was more of a mock Georgian house, really.

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He wanted something traditional.

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I wanted something modern originally, but we decided on something to suit the area

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but that also looked pretty.

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Keith did have the final say when it came to naming their new home.

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My grandparents used to host Christmas for us, a big family Christmas and everybody would come.

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When they died, I decided I would like to host Christmas for all of my family

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because I have a large family.

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That's why we built the house.

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Keith and Max found a plot with a bungalow on it for £190,000.

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They chose a timber-framed kit build and decided to do much of the work themselves

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in order to keep the costs under control.

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The main reason we did this is cos we couldn't afford to buy the house we wanted.

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We could never afford to buy a house like this in a million years, straight off.

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The way to do it was to build it, using our skills,

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so it ended up costing us cheaper to build the house of our dreams.

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They really threw themselves into this project by getting hands-on with all aspects of the interior.

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Keith took care of the woodwork and soft furnishing

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and Max specialised in electrics and plumbing.

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We would look at something and say, "If it costs that much, how much would it be if we did it ourselves?"

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We always tried the do-it-ourselves option.

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You always say I've got champagne toes. But we've always had a beer-bottle pocket!

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I love nice things. Everybody likes nice things at some point in their lives.

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-We tend to go OTT!

-I think you do,

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-then you realise if it costs a lot, you can make it for less money.

-Absolutely.

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One major saving came in the kitchen, which they built for just £1,600

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after recycling units from the Victoria and Albert museum

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which they found in a reclamation yard.

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This has to be one of my most favourite spaces in the whole house.

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That's our sitting area. We love it because it's huge

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and where we used to live I had no space whatsoever.

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But here we can't complain because there's lots of space.

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This is my favourite room because of the vaulted ceiling

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and the Venetian fabric on the walls.

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Because Keith and I love Venice, and we go quite a lot,

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we wanted a piece of Venice. Centuries ago, they used to line their walls with fabric or silk.

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So we managed to get hold of some fabric from Venice and this is the result.

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It's slightly padded, it keeps the room soundproof and keeps it warmer.

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The bathroom is another place where an eye for a bargain

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has enabled them to mix retro and modern.

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The washstand was about £25 from the reclamation yard.

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And the thunder box was about £80.

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But inside is a toilet

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which I got out of a skip outside a London hotel.

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Taking time to source bargains wherever they could,

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coupled with their DIY approach paid off massively for Max and Keith.

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They actually came in £50,000 under their original £200,000 budget.

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That's a substantial saving that few self-builders can boast about.

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It's sublime that we've done it under budget.

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The feeling is like no other, it really is.

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With the house now valued at a staggering £1 million,

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they saved more than 650 grand compared with buying an equivalent home.

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And they enjoyed the experience so much,

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this might not be the end of their self-build ambitions.

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When you first build your house and move in, you think that's it.

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But you get the bug again because it's exciting.

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It's thrilling and gives you a sense of well-being.

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-It's all of those things.

-Yeah.

-But it's very hard work.

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-It is.

-Very hard work.

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In Rushden in Northamptonshire, John Barraclough has put his gardening business on hold

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and spent five months building the home of his dreams.

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I need a block.

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Incredibly, he's doing almost all the work himself.

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John's already laid a back-breaking 1,000 breeze blocks and he's still on the ground floor.

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Today, though, is going to be a big day for John.

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The build is about to take a giant leap forward

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and for once he'll need a little help on site to make things happen.

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Bit of a funny day today. We're having the first lot of steel.

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Which is good. We've got about ten bits

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and they are all going

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on the first floor stuff.

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Not had the best night's sleep, thinking about doing all this today.

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If the thought of it is enough to make you lose sleep, John,

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best not look now because a lorry laden with steel girders

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has just arrived.

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Very interesting.

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And as the metal bars are lifted into place, the project takes on a whole new look.

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It's a nervous time for John. The girders have been precision manufactured

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so if he's made even the slightest mistake with his walls, the metal bars simply won't fit.

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As the girders glide into place, John's perfectionism and precision

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seem to be paying off.

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It's a real triumph!

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But as the final few girders are lifted off the lorry,

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there's a problem. The work grinds to an almighty halt.

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Got all the bits up. It fitted nicely.

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Until virtually the last piece...

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..was six inches too long.

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So it's gone back in the van.

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It's gone to get cut. And it'll come back.

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By the time we've had our cup of tea.

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Useful for using a local company.

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It's not long before the re-cut beam is back on site.

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It's down with the tea and back out with the tools.

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It's taken lots of hard work to get to the stage where the steelwork can be fitted.

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And when this huge A-shaped steel structure is lifted into place,

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you finally get a real feel for the size and shape of John's house.

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But having all these mammoth metal bars in place

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has led to a startling realisation.

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The nightmare thing I've just realised

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is that it shows how high I've got to build the walls!

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So this wall here will also have to be that high in blockwork.

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And then one in the middle.

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So I've got one, two, three walls in blocks that have to go that high!

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That'll keep us out of trouble for a month or two!

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The following day, John's moved on from the number of blocks he still has to lay.

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Right now he has bigger concerns.

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Much bigger concerns.

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In fact, 30-foot high concerns!

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It's a bit worrying today cos it's moving in the wind, if you look up.

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The towering A-frame weighs almost half a tonne.

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If it were to come down, it could do some serious damage to John's walls.

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Or even worse to John himself.

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John needs expert advice, so he gets on the phone.

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It's pretty windy here at the moment.

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OK, no, that's fine.

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If I put a bracing strap onto the steel at the bottom,

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then I'm up to the apex of the sitting room bit of the roof.

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One phone call later and John's gone back to his blocks.

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I've been assured by the engineers that it's not a problem

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so I'll relax about it.

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I've never seen anyone as unfazed as John before in my life!

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He's so laid back about this build,

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he's practically horizontal!

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But he's never lost sight of his dream,

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to build a house that will complement the distinctive dwelling next door.

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And he's keen to keep up with his soon-to-be next-door neighbours.

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The idea it's the same height as the Huf house.

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And the pitch of the roof is the same.

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So his roof is 60 degrees. Mine will be 60 degrees.

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So the design and overhang of the roofs was thought about.

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We thought it would look better to sort of complement.

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It'll be very satisfying when it's finished.

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Building a house pretty much single-handedly is an astonishing achievement.

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You really have to take your hat off to John.

0:21:350:21:38

He's learning new skills every day. He's come up with some inventive labour-saving methods.

0:21:380:21:44

But even John can get lonely, so he's managed to rope his kids, Jack and Zoe, into helping out.

0:21:460:21:52

You see, this is what Zoe does.

0:21:530:21:57

Another Zoe block face. And this is a Jack block!

0:21:570:22:00

Let's see. It's a Jack block!

0:22:000:22:03

They've all come and given me a hand, both my kids.

0:22:030:22:09

They'll do it for a bit, but soon want to go off and do something else.

0:22:090:22:12

Even threatening to pay them doesn't seem to work.

0:22:120:22:16

But with their help, John has finally reached the upper level of his house.

0:22:160:22:21

So it won't be long before he can raise the roof!

0:22:210:22:24

It's six months since I visited John at his contemporary self-build in Northamptonshire.

0:22:260:22:31

This truly is a self-build in every sense of the word

0:22:310:22:35

because John is doing most of the work himself.

0:22:350:22:38

This is a labour of love.

0:22:380:22:39

But I wonder, if after laying thousands of breeze blocks,

0:22:390:22:43

whether he's still loving the labour!

0:22:430:22:46

I'm about to find out.

0:22:490:22:51

But I'm not the only one dropping in on John today.

0:22:510:22:54

As I arrive, he's taking delivery of another lorry-load of metal.

0:22:550:23:00

Tonnes of steel girders he's hoping to have in place by the end of the day.

0:23:000:23:05

Looks like I picked the perfect day to pay him a visit!

0:23:060:23:09

-It's close, isn't it?

-It is close!

0:23:090:23:11

-I can feel the excitement today. A bit of tension and excitement.

-Certainly tension!

0:23:120:23:19

The plan is for these huge metal bars to be hoisted into the air

0:23:190:23:23

and set down onto these narrow breeze blocks.

0:23:230:23:26

For the first time since I've met him, John looks genuinely apprehensive.

0:23:260:23:30

Has Mr Unflappable finally met his match?

0:23:300:23:33

We've thought about what might go wrong. We've just got to stop it happening!

0:23:330:23:38

What might go wrong?

0:23:380:23:40

Well, the gables are fairly fresh.

0:23:400:23:45

-How fresh?

-Recent.

-How recent?

-Not that long!

0:23:450:23:49

-How long?

-We've been doing them in the last few days.

0:23:490:23:52

Ideally, it would be nice if they were rock hard.

0:23:520:23:56

This is critical.

0:23:560:23:59

The cement is so fresh, it may not have had enough time to harden.

0:23:590:24:02

The gable ends may not be able to support the huge weight of the girders.

0:24:020:24:06

And that's not the only issue.

0:24:060:24:09

Some of them are only a four-inch wall. So it doesn't matter how hard it is.

0:24:100:24:15

-Yeah.

-You've got six, eight feet of brick wall, 24 inches wide,

0:24:150:24:19

and the steel bangs down on it, it can move anyway.

0:24:190:24:22

It's another tough test for John's workmanship.

0:24:220:24:26

If his self-taught block-laying skills let him down this time,

0:24:260:24:30

it's more than his pride that'll be taking a tumble!

0:24:300:24:33

It does seem very thin to rest a huge steel on top of.

0:24:360:24:39

You can actually see the mortar is darker than that below it. It was a cold night last night,

0:24:390:24:46

and it could be like sugar!

0:24:460:24:48

We'll find out whether it's set or not, won't we?

0:24:480:24:51

It's not just the strength of the mortar John has to worry about.

0:24:510:24:55

Like the last time he had steel work installed,

0:24:550:24:58

if the measurements are slightly out or his walls are uneven,

0:24:580:25:02

there'll be some serious head-scratching going on here!

0:25:020:25:05

Here we go, then, fella. Does it fit?

0:25:050:25:08

Yeah, it'll fit.

0:25:080:25:10

Amazing. The steel engineers have measured it. John measured it. I daren't look!

0:25:150:25:20

After all the planning, measuring over and over again,

0:25:200:25:24

you don't know whether it fits until it actually sits in - or not!

0:25:240:25:28

Looking good, John!

0:25:300:25:32

Yes, all right so far!

0:25:320:25:35

It's a fraction out, but it should still do the job just fine.

0:25:410:25:45

It's 20mm.

0:25:450:25:48

So it's now down to perfectionist John to decide whether to crack on

0:25:480:25:52

or risk damaging the blockwork by having another bash.

0:25:520:25:55

Let's leave it there. It's got what it needs. It's on the pad.

0:25:560:26:00

John decides to let that go. So they're 3mm out

0:26:020:26:05

before they put the big piece on and hopefully that won't cause trouble down the far end.

0:26:050:26:10

One down, two to go.

0:26:130:26:15

As the next girder is prepared,

0:26:150:26:18

there's enough time to quiz John about the life of a lonesome builder.

0:26:180:26:22

Let's talk about self-build. Some people's idea is to draw a picture,

0:26:220:26:27

-give it to an architect, come back.

-No, I wasn't going to do that.

0:26:270:26:31

Self-build to me means a self-build.

0:26:310:26:33

Must be nice just to speak to someone.

0:26:330:26:36

-The days you've been here on your own.

-There have been days where you're thinking...

0:26:360:26:42

How many more thousands? How many more? How many thousand blocks?

0:26:440:26:47

-Not quite 8,000 yet.

-But 8,000 has got to be...

0:26:490:26:53

My elbow. Talk about tennis elbow!

0:26:530:26:57

Thankfully for John, today's heavy lifting is someone else's responsibility.

0:26:570:27:02

But, as always, he's 100% hands on when it comes to the crunch.

0:27:020:27:06

It's pretty much where it needs to be now. Watch that end pad.

0:27:080:27:13

Can't be far off?

0:27:130:27:15

Touchdown!

0:27:210:27:23

That's spot-on, that is.

0:27:240:27:27

This time, it's absolutely millimetre perfect. Result!

0:27:270:27:32

He's a modest man, John, but if you think about it,

0:27:320:27:35

he built these walls, he did all the height, all the levels,

0:27:350:27:39

all these measurements.

0:27:390:27:41

And it is absolutely perfect!

0:27:410:27:46

-You must be happy, mate.

-Yes, it's satisfying. It's all right.

0:27:460:27:50

It's not all right, it's bang on!

0:27:500:27:54

Right. One to go.

0:27:540:27:56

Last one. If this goes on, John has a building!

0:27:560:28:02

Just filling in the gaps!

0:28:020:28:04

Fingers crossed.

0:28:040:28:06

The third and final bar is the biggest and the heaviest of them all.

0:28:080:28:12

It needs to go to your right. Three millimetres.

0:28:130:28:17

It's got to go 5mm left.

0:28:180:28:20

OK. We're OK here.

0:28:230:28:26

It's a perfect fit. And the mortar is holding up nicely, too.

0:28:270:28:31

It's absolutely bang on.

0:28:310:28:34

This fella knows what he's doing.

0:28:340:28:36

No question.

0:28:360:28:37

It's the end of another successful day for John.

0:28:370:28:40

But still time for a bit of banter with his new next-door neighbour.

0:28:400:28:44

It's out!

0:28:440:28:46

1mm out, down there.

0:28:460:28:48

That's German engineering. This is English engineering!

0:28:480:28:51

-It looks in the right place to me!

-It's at the top of the house, yes!

0:28:510:28:56

No, but whether it's swinging left or right.

0:28:560:28:59

No, that wouldn't matter so much. But is it the perfect height where it needs to be.

0:28:590:29:04

From what I've seen today, your measurements are bob on!

0:29:040:29:09

-They're not bad.

-Not bad?! What did you have to change?

0:29:090:29:13

-Nothing.

-Nothing.

0:29:130:29:15

Who needs Germans, eh? Nothing wrong with British engineering.

0:29:150:29:20

I've never built my own house, but I've renovated a few derelict properties in my time

0:29:320:29:37

and while I consider myself quite handy, it's worth learning a few new skills.

0:29:370:29:42

When it comes to basic DIY, decorating is the one most people are prepared to dabble at.

0:29:430:29:49

Today I'm at building college to have a brush with the painting professor.

0:29:510:29:55

Right, Shaun, what are we up to today?

0:30:000:30:02

The challenge today is to paint a flush-panel door with gloss over base gloss finish.

0:30:020:30:08

-Sounds easy enough.

-Lots of people think it's quite easy,

0:30:080:30:12

but it's one of the most difficult challenges a decorator undertakes.

0:30:120:30:15

So my hopes of a nice easy day are out the door!

0:30:150:30:19

Shaun, I'm no painter and decorator, but first obvious question.

0:30:190:30:24

I'm painting blue over yellow.

0:30:240:30:26

For the purpose of the challenge, it's over a contrasting colour,

0:30:260:30:31

to highlight any mistakes you may make once you're painting.

0:30:310:30:34

-It'll show up better.

-Or you may make!

-Yeah!

0:30:340:30:37

Possibly! Hopefully not!

0:30:370:30:40

Shaun's given me ten minutes to paint the door. To pile on the pressure, it's a race!

0:30:430:30:48

-You can buy all sorts of different quality brushes.

-Yeah.

0:30:480:30:52

Is it worth forking out for the more expensive ones?

0:30:520:30:55

Most definitely.

0:30:550:30:57

You see them in the baskets by the checkout.

0:30:570:30:59

Buy eight brushes for three quid.

0:30:590:31:02

They're awful. The bristles will fall out and they'll fall to pieces in minutes.

0:31:020:31:07

You don't get the quality of paint, either.

0:31:070:31:11

Even if I was using all eight of those brushes, Shaun would still be quicker than me.

0:31:110:31:16

A big part of glossing, especially a flush panel door like this,

0:31:170:31:21

is to make sure you get consistency of your paint line.

0:31:210:31:24

What do you mean? How? It just comes out the can, doesn't it?

0:31:240:31:29

As it comes out of the tin, depending on conditions if it's cold or freezing,

0:31:290:31:33

the paint tends to thicken up.

0:31:330:31:36

The best thing is to submerge your paint can in a bucket of warm water.

0:31:360:31:40

The warm water thins the paint naturally.

0:31:400:31:42

'So I've worked out my first excuse!'

0:31:420:31:46

-This isn't the right temperature!

-Yours is the same as mine!

0:31:460:31:49

Though I could have doctored it cos you weren't there when I poured it!

0:31:490:31:54

I reckon we've painted for about three or four minutes.

0:31:560:31:59

-Have we?

-You need to pull your finger out, sunshine!

0:31:590:32:03

I'm going, I'm going!

0:32:030:32:05

I think the race is already lost.

0:32:060:32:08

Aye, aye, wait for me!

0:32:090:32:12

'But I can keep finding those excuses!'

0:32:120:32:15

This dodgy brush you gave me. The hairs are coming off!

0:32:150:32:18

'Five minutes gone, Shaun's done.'

0:32:180:32:21

Well, mine's bang on.

0:32:210:32:24

I'll be the judge of that!

0:32:240:32:26

Beautiful!

0:32:260:32:28

It's not looking too bad!

0:32:310:32:33

Never mind that. I hate it when people look over my shoulder!

0:32:330:32:37

Say you were going to decorate a standard bedroom.

0:32:370:32:40

-How long should that take a professional decorator?

-Maybe a week and a half.

0:32:400:32:45

-OK. That would get you a real good quality finish.

-Yeah, I'd say so.

0:32:450:32:49

Well, unless you were doing it!

0:32:490:32:52

-Am I there?

-About ten seconds.

0:32:540:32:57

We're not bothered about the customer's laminate floor.

0:32:590:33:02

-We'd put some sheeting down.

-Never mind that.

0:33:020:33:04

-I sheeted it.

-Let's have an inspection.

0:33:040:33:09

What do you think? Would you be happy paying somebody for that?

0:33:090:33:12

-If you got a decorator in?

-Don't ask me!

0:33:120:33:18

I can still see brush strokes. A few misses. It's not on evenly there.

0:33:180:33:23

The top half of your door isn't too bad.

0:33:230:33:25

Did you get fed up as you got lower down?

0:33:250:33:28

-I ran out of time!

-You were talking too much.

0:33:280:33:31

No, it's pretty good.

0:33:310:33:32

-Having said that, you can see the difference.

-No runs, no misses.

0:33:350:33:39

I think it's the lighting!

0:33:390:33:41

A big problem students tend to get, DIY people,

0:33:410:33:44

is getting the paint on quite thickly.

0:33:440:33:47

They worry if you put it on thick, it'll run, but if you get it on thick and even, it holds up.

0:33:470:33:51

I put it on thickly, and that's why it's held up.

0:33:510:33:54

-That's why it looks a lot...

-Glossier.

-Yes.

0:33:540:33:57

-How many out of ten?

-Out of ten?

0:34:000:34:02

Probably 6.5 or 7.0, maybe?

0:34:020:34:04

Seven? I'll take the seven.

0:34:040:34:06

Cheers, mate. Thanks very much.

0:34:060:34:09

Back in Rushden, the diamond-hard, self-fuelled machine that is John Barraclough

0:34:180:34:23

is slowly chipping away at his dream.

0:34:230:34:26

In the friendly competition between John and his neighbour

0:34:260:34:29

over who can build the most stylish new house, John is now a definite contender.

0:34:290:34:34

The roof is up, and suddenly the race looks a bit more even.

0:34:350:34:39

But it's a marathon, not a sprint,

0:34:420:34:43

and after his Herculean efforts putting everything in place block by block, screw by screw

0:34:430:34:49

to get this far, making the roof watertight is another massive task.

0:34:490:34:53

There are a lot of battens up here!

0:34:550:34:57

It was about 4,000 metres of batons.

0:34:570:35:00

It was kind of repetitive and easy,

0:35:010:35:03

so once you've done one batten, you know how to do the other 50,000!

0:35:030:35:08

Oh, and then there's the tiles.

0:35:080:35:10

Shingles. Shingles for the roof of the garage.

0:35:110:35:15

There's 56 bundles here. Couple of metres per bundle.

0:35:150:35:18

So there's about 100 square metres I've got to put up.

0:35:180:35:21

With every single one of them, there's a couple of pins.

0:35:210:35:26

A lot of work there. I'm not thinking about that!

0:35:260:35:29

But there's one harsh truth John has to face up to.

0:35:310:35:34

The bungalow next door, where I've been staying,

0:35:340:35:38

that rental has come to an end.

0:35:380:35:39

It's a pain, because I'm not finished.

0:35:390:35:41

But I do have a couple of months' notice. I've got eight weeks.

0:35:410:35:48

But it does put pressure on.

0:35:480:35:49

It's a major blow. Living on site has meant John could come and go

0:35:500:35:55

and he was able to act as night watchman to keep the whole area secure.

0:35:550:36:00

I'll have to be organised for the first time!

0:36:000:36:03

If I'm somewhere else, I have to turn up with what I want on the day

0:36:030:36:07

so that'll be a bit tricky.

0:36:070:36:09

John's build is already running three months behind schedule.

0:36:090:36:13

The extra time he'll now need to get to and from site

0:36:130:36:16

is bound to have a knock-on effect.

0:36:160:36:18

There's still plenty of major work on the inside to do.

0:36:180:36:21

The kitchens, bathrooms, underfloor heating, plumbing and electrics to do.

0:36:220:36:26

But it'll be fine. I'm happy so far!

0:36:280:36:32

And for this rooftop philosopher, now's not the time for any regrets.

0:36:330:36:38

You learn a lot. You're making something and leaving something behind.

0:36:380:36:43

That's a nice thing. This is going to be here for a while.

0:36:430:36:46

I've had a couple of houses, both old houses,

0:36:460:36:48

and they've been up for 100 years.

0:36:480:36:50

Hopefully, this will be as good. So, yeah.

0:36:500:36:55

Nice feeling.

0:36:560:36:58

Over the next couple of months, the windows are installed

0:37:010:37:04

and the roof shingles fitted.

0:37:040:37:05

But doing all this work single-handed means the build isn't progressing quickly.

0:37:050:37:10

It's now build month 18 and John's busy running the mile or so of electric cable

0:37:150:37:20

through the house.

0:37:200:37:22

And I'm back in Rushden to find out first hand how he's doing.

0:37:250:37:29

It's...ten months

0:37:310:37:33

since I was here at John's place.

0:37:330:37:35

Well, it's not quite a house,

0:37:380:37:40

but it's coming on!

0:37:400:37:42

The roof looks fantastic! Bear in mind

0:37:420:37:45

he's done it all himself!

0:37:450:37:47

-It's amazing! It's a big space.

-Yes, it's nice.

0:38:010:38:04

Starting to look like a house now! Not finished, though!

0:38:040:38:07

Is it not?! My expert eye tells me that.

0:38:070:38:10

Even though it's not finished, it's possible to see how this will shape up into a fabulous home,

0:38:160:38:21

from the downstairs snug to the bedrooms to the main open-plan living area.

0:38:210:38:26

-Talk me through this space.

-This is the open-plan sitting room.

0:38:270:38:31

The idea was that you got a nice open fire, log fire,

0:38:310:38:35

sitting room, bean bags, maybe a TV.

0:38:350:38:38

This is massive.

0:38:380:38:40

It's a dining room, too, so...

0:38:410:38:44

-It's a big kitchen/diner.

-It's nice.

0:38:440:38:46

Also because of the living room.

0:38:460:38:49

Yes. I want to cook here and look at the fireplace.

0:38:490:38:53

-Great for a party, hopefully.

-Absolutely.

0:38:540:38:56

-Eventually there'll be a house-warming party!

-Give me the invite!

0:38:560:39:00

If I'm not too old, I'll come!

0:39:000:39:02

'It's on the mezzanine level you can really appreciate what John's achieved.'

0:39:040:39:10

This is a really great space.

0:39:110:39:14

From here, you get to celebrate all the architectural features.

0:39:140:39:18

-They're working, I think.

-Really working.

0:39:180:39:22

This is nice. When the sun does come through here,

0:39:220:39:26

all this space gets lit up and there's a master bedroom behind that.

0:39:260:39:30

So those doors can be opened.

0:39:300:39:32

That light goes straight in there.

0:39:320:39:34

What amazes me most is the scale of the project that John's taken on.

0:39:400:39:44

This four-bed house is massive,

0:39:440:39:48

yet he's been prepared to tackle almost every aspect of the build himself.

0:39:480:39:52

Talk about determination!

0:39:520:39:53

Was there ever a point when you thought, "I don't want to do this any more."

0:39:530:39:58

Quite a few times!

0:39:580:40:00

But if you're going to do a self-build, you can't say to somebody, "Come and do it for me."

0:40:000:40:05

-So you just keep going.

-So it's a certain mind-set that you need?

0:40:050:40:09

-You're working in...

-I couldn't be an electrician constantly or a block-builder constantly.

0:40:090:40:15

You've got to mix it about.

0:40:150:40:19

That's the luxury of doing a self-build that you do a bit of everything.

0:40:190:40:23

-That keeps you going.

-I know you didn't have a definitive schedule,

0:40:230:40:27

but time has slipped a bit. What do you put that down to?

0:40:270:40:30

As you do the build, you realise it takes longer.

0:40:300:40:33

You can't sit down at the beginning and do a project spreadsheet as to what you're doing this week.

0:40:330:40:39

Unless it's a rabbit hutch. I don't think you can do it that way for this.

0:40:390:40:43

It evolved as well, in terms of how we've done it. How we've learned how to do things.

0:40:430:40:48

Sticking to the original £250,000 build budget has had a knock-on effect with regards to time.

0:40:500:40:56

I've done more of my day job at the same time than I planned to do.

0:40:580:41:04

That's partly out of necessity

0:41:040:41:06

because of costs.

0:41:060:41:10

Not because they've necessarily overrun. We're still pretty much on budget.

0:41:100:41:15

-In that sense.

-OK.

0:41:150:41:17

On target to meet the overall £400,000 budget,

0:41:190:41:24

a recent valuation has justified all John's hard work.

0:41:240:41:27

A while ago somebody came and it was about half a million,

0:41:270:41:31

something like that, depending on how fast you want to sell it,

0:41:310:41:35

and present climate. But somewhere round there.

0:41:350:41:38

I think you're being modest about all this.

0:41:380:41:40

This is an incredible achievement.

0:41:400:41:43

-To have done 90-odd per cent of this on your own, is amazing!

-It will be.

0:41:430:41:49

You only do a few things, probably in your lifetime, that are significant

0:41:490:41:54

and leave something behind.

0:41:540:41:56

But this will be a quite nice lump!

0:41:560:41:59

With all those breeze blocks, it's more than a lump!

0:41:590:42:03

To mark this gardener's transformation into self builder

0:42:040:42:07

I've got him a suitable gift.

0:42:070:42:09

-I just thought that...

-For goodness' sake!

0:42:090:42:14

Oh, that's great. Thank you very much!

0:42:170:42:19

-It's certainly a memento.

-A building gnome.

0:42:190:42:22

It's one of the heaviest ones!

0:42:220:42:24

You're a block expert now!

0:42:240:42:25

I thought you meant the gnome, but you mean the density of the block!

0:42:250:42:29

That's good! I like that.

0:42:290:42:32

Thank you very much.

0:42:320:42:33

I can't tell you how impressed I am that you've got on with this place.

0:42:330:42:39

It's looking magnificent.

0:42:390:42:41

-I'd like to see it when it's all plastered.

-Definitely.

0:42:410:42:44

-That party.

-You're very welcome to.

0:42:440:42:46

No, it won't be that long.

0:42:460:42:49

Yeah, Christmas time, a good party.

0:42:490:42:52

You didn't say which Christmas!

0:42:520:42:55

-No!

-Very wise!

0:42:550:42:57

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:190:43:22

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.