Richard Baldwin was just 24 when he built his own home. He had a few years’ experience working in the building trade, but as his main focus was drylining, his role had not specifically prepared him for a self build.

Even so, Richard has built a stylish insulated concrete formwork (ICF) home which is so well insulated, that it is impressively cheap to run.

What’s more, he managed to complete the project on a remarkable budget of just £68,000 using his DIY skills — although the standard of finish in no way indicates how little it has cost.

The Project

  • Name: Richard Baldwin
  • Build cost: £68,000 (£447/m²)
  • Build time: 1 year 7 months
  • Region: Derbyshire

The Site

Richard found his plot near Chesterfield on Rightmove. It was formed from the garden of the house next door and had been split in two.

Each plot came with outline planning permission for a traditional style brick-clad dormer bungalow. The plot cost £60,000 — a good price, but it used up much of the £92,000 mortgage Richard had secured from Birmingham Midshires, through Buildstore.


Although the plot had outline planning, Richard faced a series of complications when it came to designing the home and obtaining full planning permission.

Firstly, he discovered that the plot had a covenant on it to ensure the ridge height of the house was no higher than the neighbouring house belonging to the man who sold the site (even though the outline plans had a much higher ridge height). This had not been spotted by Richard’s solicitor, but fortunately by talking to the vendor they managed to get it removed.

Then the local authority told him that as the area was subject to historical shallow mining, and he’d probably have to install piled foundations at a cost that he hadn’t budgeted for. After spending £1,000 on trial holes to assess the problem, he realised that piling wasn’t necessary, but he did have to go two metres down on one elevation.



Richard opted for a traditional brick exterior with a modern and spacious interior. The open plan layout of the ground floor accommodates a large living room, kitchen and a dining room which opens onto a garden terrace. There is also a ground floor WC and a garage.

The first floor is accessed by a bespoke staircase which Richard removed the stud wall from after the building inspection to create a greater sense of space. The wall will be replaced if he sells on. Two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a master bedroom with en-suite, make up the upper floor.

Although everything that can be seen has been built or installed by Richard on a DIY basis, the interiors are modern and appear high-end.


Insulated Concrete Formwork Structure

The blocks may be lightweight to carry, but ICF results in a super-sturdy, super-insulated wall structure with cast in-situ concrete walls sandwiched between two layers of expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation.

They are ideally suited to DIY construction as they are simple to handle and – thanks to their interlocking design – easy to build. Some professional help is usually required once the concrete is poured, to ensure problems such as blowouts are avoided.

The ICF structure achieved an airtightness rating of 5, and a mechanical ventilation heat recovery system (MVHR) maximises comfort. There is also a three-zone underfloor heating system which runs at temperatures below 30°C and, run off a simple gas-powered combi, Richard’s bills are minimal.

The Build

After initial planning issues, the site threw one more surprise at Richard who had not factored in the 27 lorries it would take to clear excavated soil and rubble from the sloping site. This was a blow to his budget, but early drama aside, the rest of the build progressed smoothly.

Richard – assisted by a few friends in their spare time – took on all of the work, from the pouring of the concrete strip foundations to the building of the ICF walls external brickwork, fitting windows, internal carpentry (including some fabulous stairs), plumbing (including the underfloor heating), all joinery and the decoration.

In a little over 18 months, Richard’s budget home was complete.

Articles like this Comments
  • Dee Bennet

    Is there any pictures of the floorplan?

  • Lindsey Davis

    Hi Dee,

    I have added the floor plan to the gallery at the top. It is the last image.


  • David Jones

    So you’re championing someone who builds a house dangerous for children to be in because of a noon-Building Regs compliant staircase? Please explain how BRegs sign off was achieved without a balustrade on the one side.

  • David Jones

    Hopeless floor plan. Can’t even get from the living room to the kitchen! Without going outside. In fact there’s an opening shown in the photos between the two. Surely you could see that before posting it! The access to the dining room looks suspect too.

  • David Jones

    I’m surprised someone’s using ICF but then brick cladding the exterior.

  • Lindsey Davis

    Hi David,

    Thanks for your comments.

    As it says in the piece "The first floor is accessed by a bespoke staircase which Richard removed the stud wall from after the building inspection to create a greater sense of space".

    As Richard has no children, be it at his own risk to not have a balustrade! It could easily be installed (and I imagine he would do) were he to sell on.

    Apologies for the error on the floor plan. I didn’t notice it before uploading, but as you have spotted, yes the opening is at the foot of the stairs. Even so, it gives a rough idea of the layout which is enough to help people visualise the space (we don’t want to be giving away somebody’s design work for free!).

    Richard’s choice to go for brick exterior may have been dictated by a need/want to fit in with neighbouring properties. What would you have gone for instead? I think timber cladding would have looked nice too.


  • David Knott

    We are also about to embark on building using ICF and so would have been interested in which manufacturer he chose, why that one and how he got on with it. As it happens this build is also close to Chesterfield

  • Lindsey Davis

    Hi David K,

    Richard used Beco Wall Form

    They are based in North Lincolnshire, so just over an hour away from Richard’s home. In the full article it also says that this system came with pre-fitted insulation (at a competitive price) so that may have been appealing too. Sorry we don’t have any more information.


  • David Jones

    I admit I didn’t see it in the text. The removal of that "stud wall" presents a dangerous building should ANYONE visit that house, never mind if they have children or not. I still do not see why you don’t see it as a problem. The owner would be liable should anyone fall off that stair.

    Please don’t confuse the requirement for a balustrade – which is mandatory over 600mm, with the 100mm sphere requirement for houses occupied by children – as I did originally!

  • David Jones

    With respect it sounds like you don’t understand the wall construction. The insulation is an integral part of the components used – so can’t be described as "pre-fitted" – the blocks ARE the insulation. I don’t see what advantage using that had over just building a conventional wall. I’d have thought it would be more expensive than lightweight aerated concrete blocks for the loadbearing inner leaf and conventional cavity insulation.

  • Clive Hallam

    24 Yrs old, brilliant ! well done, give the bloke some encouragement, I can’t think of many 24 yr olds that would even attempt this, and while I’m sure there are things that could be improved, its a great start. Some people just like to moan !!

  • Lindsey Davis

    Hello David,

    Homebuilding & Renovating do not suggest removing your banister, or equivalent barrier to stairway as you are right, it could present a danger. However, Richard has done this at his own discretion, just as people remove fire doors in loft conversions after inspection. We do not say whether we think this is right or wrong.

    As we state in the text, this was removed after the inspection. But, I will add a note to make it more explicit that the modification thus meant it was no longer in line with building regulations.

    Thanks for pointing it out David.

  • David Knott

    Message to David Jones the concrete centre is the load bearing leaf and there are many reasons for chosing this construction method. Time to construct is a huge factor, ease of air tightness and stable superb insulation more and I could go on. Check it out and you will probably rescind your remark about Lindsey not understanding the construction as you have pointed out you don’t either. End of!

  • Lindsey Davis

    Thanks Clive! And he did it for such a low cost too.

    David, of course I understand that Insulated Concrete Formwork is in itself insulating. However, the system Richard opted for had some additional qualities which may have influenced his decision to opt for this over another supplier (as David Knott asked). I will copy and paste the explanation from the full magazine editorial below (which is available to registered users who follow the "Read the full story here link".

    Polystyrene Blocks

    The blocks may be lightweight to carry, but insulated concrete formwork results in a super-sturdy, super-insulated wall structure with cast in-situ concrete walls sandwiched between two layers of expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation.

    They are ideally suited to DIY construction as they are simple to handle and

  • […] The home has been featured in Homebuilding & Renovating magazine which you can read here. […]

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