Bungalow shell built for 180k on an old Orchard with its own cinema room!

Mark Millar stood in front of shell of newly built bungalow
Mark Millar stood in front of shell of newly built bungalow (Image credit: Build Your Dream Home in the Country)

Jules and Steve thought their dream had come true when they were granted planning permission to build their house on an old orchard in Rugby, Warwickshire.

The couple were granted planning permission for a dormer bungalow — a bungalow with an upstairs floor with windows that protrude vertically from the roof. The plans also included an entrance hall with reception rooms, a 7m by 7m kitchen with bifold doors, and the rather fantastic addition of a cinema room too.

The budget for the build was a tight £180,000, but unfortunately, the couple fell foul of a number of problems, which meant their self build was over 6 months late and not finished once the money had been spent.

Their self build journey was shown on celebrity builder Mark Millar's new television show Build Your Dream Home in the Country on Channel 5. 

 Choosing brick and block with timber frame

Mark Millar stood with couple in front of newly built bungalow.

Mark Millar stands with Steve and Jules in front of their newly built bungalow (Image credit: Build Your Dream Home in the Country.)

With an already limited budget, the couple planned to build as cheaply as possible. They chose a half-brick, half-rendered exterior walls with a timber frame and black tiled roof which they hoped would be relatively quick and simple.

However, the couple had a disastrous start and highlighted the importance of taking your time when trying to find a builder. The foundations were not level which could have led to the home being crooked. There was also no drainage for the bathrooms and kitchen under the house.

The couple paid the contractor £40,000 upfront to lay this foundation and needed to find another one to rectify the shoddy work. Millar offered his tips to avoid these mistakes when building your own home as he stated:

“It is very difficult to do a self build. You need to put a lot of research in and a lot of time because it's your money and your dream. People always ask me, how can you know if a builder’s any good? The answer’s simple. Research.

"Firstly, recommendations are vital, but make sure they are there for the kind of building work that you need. Secondly, check them out, don’t just look at photos of their work. Visit their builds and talk to their clients. And third, this is vital, go back and talk to the clients again after the work is finished. And lastly, check their trade credentials and their insurance policies and guarantees.”

 Taking a DIY approach to get back on budget

Steve who is wearing a hi-vis vest uses a drill to drill a hole in a wooden truss in the home's frame

Steve taking it upon himself to fix the structural problems with the roof (Image credit: Build Your Dream Home in the Country.)

The couple hired a new contractor to oversee the plans, whilst taking legal action against their previous builder. In the meantime, however, the couple was operating on an incredibly tight budget.

Therefore, in order to rectify the project and save money, Steve took it upon himself to fix the foundations by taking time out of his job as an engineer to rectify the errors in the foundations, as well as drilling holes for the pipework underneath the house and laying the building blocks.

The couple were also behind on time as they had lost 3 months due to the previous contractor, which meant they chose block and beam, which is a quick and cost-effective way to lay a suspended floor base.

 Further problems discovered in the structure

Mark Millar outlining the structural problems in the house as the roof appears to be bowing.

Mark Millar outlining the structural problems in the house as the roof appears to be bowing (Image credit: Build Your Dream Home in the Country)

The couple felt that they were on the right track as the structure of the house was seemingly in place. Although, disaster struck as the roof's structural integrity was breached, which meant the beams across the roof would all need to be reinforced to hold the weight.

The issue arose because the trusses were designed by one company, manufactured and supplied by another, and an independent carpenter finished the installation.

Millar said, “It’s always complicated when different trades or companies are working on the same part of a build. Any mistakes could be down to any or all of them, and it’s complicated and nearly impossible to work it all out.”

Mark Millar holds a spirit level against the timber framework

Mark Millar discovers further issues with the timber framework (Image credit: Build Your Dream Home in the Country.)

Again Jules and Steve paid upfront and in full for the timber work which made it difficult to get workers back to fix these issues.

Millar said, “My advice is to pay builders no more than two-thirds of the agreed contract amount before their work is inspected. You need to agree this with them in a written contract upfront. And if your contractor doesn’t agree, walk away and find a contractor who will.”

As the build was over 6 months behind Steve was forced to take more time off work to finish the house as they were running out of time and money. Eventually, these issues were resolved by Steve and the building passed the regulations.

 Shell built for £180k ready for interior fit out

Couple, Jules and Steve stood in front of the completed shell of their bungalow.

Couple, Jules and Steve stood in front of the completed shell of their bungalow (Image credit: Build Your Dream Home in the Country)

Despite the difficulties the couple faced in their journey, they have taken massive strides towards finishing their new home, building the shell in its entirety, including their unique addition of a cinema room.

The structure of their house was complete, and by January 2023 Jules and Steve had completed the entrance hall, the kitchen, and the shower room, with the reception rooms also being decorated.

When choosing their types of flooring the couple found herringbone LVT flooring to be best for them as they wanted underfloor heating and LVT transfers heat extremely well. Plus they found LVT would save time and money to install when compared with tiles.

However, despite their time and money-saving endeavours, the couple could not finish the project entirely as the bedrooms were still not completed.

In order to finish the build Jules was forced to take money out of her pension as the couple had run out of money and were already 16 months into their journey. Nevertheless, they are determined to finish what they started and finally build their dream home as well as finally fitting out their cinema room with a proper projector and chairs.

In order to watch this episode on My5 click here. 

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.