Having built one oak framed home using Border Oak for the design and construction of the frame, Wendy and Steve decided it was time to move on to the next. “We had recovered from our last self build and got the ‘itch’ again,” explains Wendy. “I was pregnant with our second child and we had outgrown the house.
“We began to put out the feelers for land and the stars just seemed to align. We came across this site and I remember looking at it and saying ‘this is too good to be true’ — it was like a ready-made plot.”
Before it was purchased by Border Oak, the plot was part of the land behind the original landowner’s cottage, and was overgrown and full of trees. “Buying it from Border Oak saved on the stress of planning as a design for a barn-style house on the plot had already been approved when we bought it,” explains Wendy. “The design ticked all the boxes — we did move the position of a few doors and walls internally, but externally everything has stayed the same.”
Wendy and Steve knew that they would benefit from an open-plan layout, so several of the amendments that they made to the original plans involved moving walls and repositioning rooms in order to create an easy flow for their family life.
- Homeowners: Wendy and Steve Hunter
- Project: Oak framed self-build
- Location: Herefordshire
- Build Time: March 2017 – March 2018
- Size: 185m²
- Plot Cost: £135,000
- Build Cost: £265,000
- Value: £600,000
A Customised Approach
The design for the new house featured softwood timber weatherboarding and traditional clay roof tiles externally. Due to the slightly sloping nature of the site, there is a small step up to the front door.
“We noticed when groundworks began that all of us would congregate at the front of the house as this is where the sun really hits,” explains Wendy. “We decided to create a front veranda because of this — plus any time you can fit in somewhere to de-mud boots in England is a bonus!”
Internally, spaces are largely open plan on the ground floor. The single-storey garage section at the front of the house is a later addition, designed by Steve and Wendy and built by Steve and his father. This space consists of a fourth bedroom, accessed via the utility room in the main house, a workshop space with external doors, and a fifth bedroom annexe, accessed via loft steps.
The Hunters moved out of their old house and into rented accommodation during the build.
“We liked that Border Oak let you take on as much or as little of the work as you want,” says Wendy. “They constructed the watertight shell, including oak frame, SIPs, weatherboarding, roofing, most of the carpentry, doors, windows, and driveway. We did some of the groundworks, all the baseworks, brickwork, drainage, part of the first fix carpentry, and the landscaping. Thankfully Steve is no stranger to a building site and his Dad worked in the trade for over 40 years.”
“We also took on the internal fit out, except the electrics, plumbing and drylining which were carried out by Border Oak approved contractors. Steve would finish work and go to the house to carry on into the night. At weekends we went as a family — taking fish and chips to Steve in the evenings.”
Designing to Suit Style and Budget
At the centre of the ground floor layout lies the entrance hall and staircase, with a flexible study/playroom located behind the stair wall. To one side of the hallway lies a large kitchen diner that opens out to the garden through French doors, while to the other is the living room. All of these spaces flow into one another, thanks to an absence of doors and the inclusion of partial walls.
The oak frame has been left exposed throughout the ground floor, lending character and charm to the spaces, while on the first floor only the rafters are on show in order to make furniture placement simpler.
“We always have a conservative budget when it comes to interiors,” says Wendy. “I never forgo quality pieces that get a lot of use, but I make small compromises elsewhere to even out the finances.
“It’s so satisfying knowing that not only does your hard work and considered choices allow you to live in a bespoke home that you love, but also one that has allowed you to build equity in from the start.”
Among the many things the Hunters love about their new home is how energy efficient it is. While they have underfloor heating throughout the ground floor, there are no radiators at all upstairs. “The house is so thermally efficient,” says Wendy. “We never touch the thermostat — the house is always at an even, comfortable temperature.”
The entire build, including land and landscaping, came in at £400k — a hugely impressive achievement and one that shows what can be accomplished through a combination of thorough research and canny decision making, as well as a considerable amount of elbow grease.
“We are a family who is not afraid to get stuck in,” says Wendy, who found herself in the dead of winter with no heating, helping paint the entire interior walls of the house day after day.
“Self-building is one of the hardest things you can do, but the sense of achievement at the finish line is so rewarding. We got to spend time as a family coming together, literally getting our hands dirty, for one common goal. We will always look back on these times with the fondest of memories,” says Wendy.
“After each build, you are so exhausted that you need to come up for air for a while, but after about a year we feel our strength coming back to us, and we start to crave yet another project. We shall see what lies ahead and if the stars align for us again!”