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"We Self Built for £150k!" How these DIYers Built Their Dream Home on a Budget

 a diy self build built for £150,000
(Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)

Self build projects like Alan and Melanie’s don’t come around very often. Built to a staggeringly minute budget of just £150,000, this large, traditional home is stunning inside and out. 

We talk to Alan about how the project came together. 

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The bifolding doors fold back to create seamless transition between inside and out in the summer months while the patio flooring – Dover Caliza from Porcelanosa – continues throughout the interiors. (Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)
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On the plot there was an unloved pre-fabricated house (Image credit: Alan Williams)
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Once the site was cleared work could begin (Image credit: Alan Williams)
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Strip foundations were laid by Alan (Image credit: Alan Williams)

How did you Find the Plot and how did the Planning Process go?

Project notes

Homeowners Melanie and Alan Williams

Location Medstead, Hampshire

Build time Jun 2013 - Apr 2017

Size 248m2

Construction system Masonry with beam and block ground floor, timber engineered joists and timber roof trusses

Plot cost £450,000 (2013)

Build cost £150,000

Current value £1.4million

Where we live in Hampshire there are loads of ‘colonial bungalows’ – Government pre-fab houses – and we’d passed this one many times. The house was made of tin, with no insulation, and 4 x 2 timber on the inside and bitumen paper on the outside. It was well past its sell by date.

Our design had flint, red brick and black cladding, which all fitted in with the local vernacular, so getting planning permission was straightforward. The neighbours were a bigger problem, though, as they saw us as outsiders and they had all sorts of worries — none of which were real! Now passers by say it’s the best house in the road.

(MORE: Check out This Gallery of Beautiful, Traditional Style Homes )

What Was the Inspiration for Your Design?

Although built on a budget the interiors of the house are anything but shabby. The modern shaker-style kitchen (from Handmade Kitchens of Christchurch) has been split into three dynamic sections which help to make the space feel relaxed, as well as practical.  (Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)
Feeling inspired?

Find out what kind of self build homes are possible for your budget

Our first self-build was a cottage and the second was an executive-style house. I asked my wife Melanie what she’d like for our third — the answer came back: ‘a barn-style home’, so I scoured the internet for images of barns I liked, including one in Norfolk, then did loads of sketches and designs. 

My youngest son is an architectural technician and I worked with him on the design. Melanie was very involved in the interior design and she has an amazing eye for colour. We chose a kitchen, which you fit and paint yourself and she chose the colour for that — it was spot on. The whole thing was a real family affair. 

(MORE: Homes Your Won't Believe Are New Builds)

Did You Come Up Against Any Challenges?

The house, while traditional from the outside, has a fresh, contemporary finish inside and is bathed in natural light from the copious amounts of glazing on the south-facing rear.   (Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)

We lived in it for a little while until we got planning, then we got a demolition company in to knock the old bungalow down. It was the worst plot in the world: it had three greenhouses, shed upon shed, trees, bushes, brickwork — it took ages to knock it all down and get a clean sheet. 

We couldn’t use any of the original building foundations and I had to fill in a little pond right where the footings needed to go. I did all the digging out and pouring the concrete myself, using a NHBC handbook and following their guidelines on soil, trees and so on. And rather than laying and raking the concrete round by hand I spent £350 and used a concrete pump and that was it: by dinnertime it was all done. It was the best thing I ever did and now I wouldn’t do it any other way.

How Did You Manage to Build the House for Just £150,000?

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The stunning staircase which highlights the double-height void in the centre of the open-plan space is made from steel, painted in the same RAL shade as the windows and doors, while a more intimate snug – with its own set of patio doors – is carefully placed around the corner. (Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)
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The show-stopping pendant light was made by Alan using separate rose, long cord and shade components. (Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)

It’s like anything: simplicity works. You can spend a fortune on a house if you let it get out of hand, and then all of a sudden all of your money is gone. 

We lived in a mobile home on site during the build and haggled hard for materials as there is a big mark-up. Plus, I am a site manager in the trade so we saved by going straight to the supplier for things [a £10,000 quote for lintels was reduced to £2,000]. 

(MORE: How to Build a House for Less Than £150,000)

I also had a good idea of what I was doing and I did most of the work myself. I designed the stairs and paid just £900 for them to be made, I did most of the first and second fix, and most of the tiling. I even installed the sewerage treatment plant, which was surprisingly easy. 

The only things I didn’t do were the electrics, plumbing, roofing and plastering. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone does their own plastering — it looks so easy but it just isn’t! I was going to do the roofing, but I got a roofer in instead, and I remember coming home in the cold and dark and being so glad that I had.

You Did Both the Brickwork and Flint Yourself. How Did That Go?

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Alan used knapped flint as a decorative finish on the front and back of the house. (Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)
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Alan learning flintwork on the job (Image credit: Alan Williams)
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The flints have a dark face and white crust that is typical of the flint extracted from chalk pits. (Image credit: Alistair Nicholls)
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Alan used a mix of nine parts sharp sand, three parts lime and one part cement. (Image credit: Alan Williams)

I’d designed the barn using brick and block, so I got quotes in from bricklayers. When they came back, I looked at them and thought: I can’t pay that price, I will do it myself instead. I am not a bricklayer but I worked nights and Saturdays to do almost all the brick and block work — I chose a Flemish bond which took a lot of sketches and head scratching. 

I talked to a bricklayer who also explained how to do the flint — it was common sense, really. First, I built up the quoins [masonry blocks at the corner of the walls], then used a string to form a straight line and worked two feet at a time. I used the same mortar mix of lime, cement and sharp sand I’d used on our first house, based on what a conservation architect had told me to use. The flint was expensive, though. I bought three or four bags of knapped flint at £600 a bag. I later found a farmer’s field nearby full of flint — if only I’d known!

(MORE: Low Budget Homes Built For Under £200,000)

How Do You Feel Now It's Finished?

In all, the build took two and a half years, and I was working full-time through that period. But now the aches and pains, sweat and tears have all been forgotten. The house puts a smile on our faces every time we come down the drive. Having said that, I may well do another self-build. It’s a hobby for me, I enjoy doing it and then standing back and saying ‘wow’.