Couple convert an old horse lorry into a unique home for £13.5k

The interiors of the caravan shows wooden flooring and beams on the roof
The old horse lorry was bought for £4,000 before being converted into a holiday home (Image credit: FBM Holidays)

A couple has converted an old horse lorry they bought for £4,000 into a holiday home for themselves.

Emily and Carwyn Rees, a DIY couple from Angle, West Wales, decided to take on the new project after completing a number of DIY projects during lockdown. The converted horse lorry, now called 'Red Rum's Retreat', is available for others to book and stay in.

In total the couple spent £13,500 on the project and they have revealed to Homebuilding & Renovating how they did it and what tips they can offer others when taking on a unusual conversion like theirs. 

Why did they decide to convert an old horse lorry?

The couple explained to Homebuilding & Renovating that they became inspired to take up the project after Carwyn renovated their garage and workshop during lockdown and then became eager to try a more difficult project.

The couple wanted to create something that would eventually give them space to enjoy as a family as a "home away from home". When the lorry became available, the couple said "before we knew it, we were making plans!"

The couple explained that they did not require planning permission as the "vehicle and structures are not permanent fixtures" and "the site can be cleared within an hour".

The couple were also granted a waste exemption and benefit from water and electric services from an adjoining property. 

What problems did they find during the conversion?

The couple explained a number of challenges they found during the project, such as the tight timescale of the project and the logistics of the horse lorry.

"We had to stay focused and not get overwhelmed with all of the jobs left to do.

"We were fortunate we had the use of a farmyard from Emily's parents, but I had to first build a workshop so we cleared out an old wood store that had not been used for over 20 years."

The couple also explained that the horse lorry brought its own problems.

"The horse lorry wasn't actually level, and it was parked and renovated on a slant – so some of it was a guessing game", they explained.

"The horses brushing their back ends against the sides of the lorry (over time) meant the sides were also 'wonky' so it increased the complexity of adding batons, insulation and tongue and groove boarding."

Couple offers 6 tips for small conversion projects

The couple managed to finish the project after five months, including evenings and some weekends, at a cost of £4,000 for the lorry and £9,500 on labour and material costs.

They explained they were working full time whilst also raising their one year old and taking on other projects such as running their glamping business (Riverside Pods) and converting barns for a wedding Venue (Green Grove Barns).

The couple offer six tips for anyone interested in undertaking a similar project, including:

  • "Find unique things on Facebook marketplace, such as cottage doors, timber frames, double doors and end of line flooring will keep costs to a minimum. 
  • Consider your time. We had a tight timeline due to the project being filmed for TV which was not in our original plan – but having a tight timescale did move things on.
  • Consider paid skilled labour to help move workload on and don't be afraid to ask for help from friends and family.
  • Plan ahead as much as possible, wiring plans, plumbing and layout, each aspect has an influence on other things as the construction develops, so you have to be inventive and resourceful
  • Recycle and reuse materials to keep costs down where possible. Be inventive in what's on offer, before saying 'no', see how you could utilise it, or strip it for parts for example.
  • When sugar levels are low and it's 10.30pm and still on the job – always have enough treats to keep you going!"

They are now undertaking other works to the horse lorry conversion over the coming weeks including "a pair of cast-iron baths (heated via gas), installation of handmade and locally sourced gates and planting more hedging". 

They expect this will cost a further £1,000, but they believe this will finish off the setting and add further privacy to the home.

If you fancy taking a tour of this unusual home in person, you can book to stay at 'Red Rum's Retreat' on holidaycottages.co.uk

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.