On a remarkably low budget, Terry Morgan has shown what can be achieved if you have good local contacts, shop around for the best prices and use a simple but effective design. For he has built a 174m², four bedroom house in a Conservation Area in one of the most expensive parts of the country an Oxfordshire village for just 134,000.

What is more, he has added a number of traditional characterful features normally reserved for builds with bigger budgets to the brick and rendered cottage-style home, which has a roof of handmade clay tiles and an open-sided oak framed porch that adds greatly to the rustic appearance. The house gains an additional traditional feel to the exterior by a 600mmhigh canted brick plinth, while at first floor level there is a prominent band which runs right round the house that is designed to add interest.

The house stands on a plot measuring 32m x 17m considerably more than might be expected from a similar-sized developer-built property on a large estate and backs onto open fields at the south-facing rear; it replaces an unappealing 1950s bungalow which sat formerly on the site. Four-time self-builder Terry and his partner, Sarah Lay, plan to reside in their new home for the foreseeable future.

Back when he first started the project, Terry set out to see just how reasonably he could build a high-spec traditionally styled house with a steeply pitched roof using conventional dual-skinned blockwork for and so the house is insulated to the highest standard with Rockwoolfilled walls with a 100mm cavity, and has a SAP rating of 87. “If you know what you are doing, I have found that old-fashioned insulated blockwork takes a lot of beating when it comes to speed and solidity, he says. If you have a 100mm insulated cavity like this house, it produces nice deep reveals that add to the cottagey look, and also a building that is very thermally efficient.”

Keen to design a house that, as well as gaining the approval of the planners and local residents, would fit in with the feel of the attractive village in which it is situated, Terry opted for a rendered exterior rather than all brick, because he wanted to experiment as well as keep costs down. For the brick plinth he chose the handmade bricks very carefully, and spent a long time finding roof tiles that match the colour almost perfectly.

“I was keen the house should, as far as possible, not look brand new, and be more suited to the site than the bungalow it replaced”, says Terry, who trained as an architect and now runs his own home property restoration and design and build company.

“I firmly believe that however much you want to keep the costs down, you should not skimp on the roof”, he says. “After all, in a cottage-style self-build like this you see almost as much roof as wall from the outside. My advice to people building in this style is: dont go cheap on tiles if you do youll regret it. Similarly you should not cut corners on the windows. I have used oak throughout.”

As with his three previous self-builds, Terry designed the house himself. “If you want to keep costs down it is very important to come up with a simple design”, he says. “This house is L-shaped: it is a very convenient shape for a cottage-style house and also fits the site well.”

“With a cottage it is also important to make the house as architecturally interesting as you can afford to while avoiding overdone twee details. As far as possible you should take your cue from what materials are in widespread use in older houses locally.” The best example of this is the oak framed porch at the front, which was made by carpenter Tony Dance. “I think Tony has done a lovely job”, Terry says. “With its exposed gable ends it is solid and chunky, and adds greatly to the facade indeed the whole house. It cost me 2,500, but I believe it was well worth it.”

The first floor protruding band was achieved quite simply: Terry instructed his brickies to use 125mmrather than 100mm-wide blocks. These were then damaged slightly at the edges, and the render applied in the same way as it was to the rest of the wall.

“The basic structure went up very fast: that is one of the great things about blockwork. We were in the dry in eight weeks”, Terry says. “After that we added the canted brick cill and rendered the rest of the exterior. I was very careful to specify a two-coat lime render using a blend of Castle hydraulic lime with local sand.We experimented with the sands to achieve what I find a rather pleasant pale ochre colour. I think it most important with a house like this to stick to lime mortar.”

“I was keen to use a self-coloured render because this is the traditional way and you do not have to paint or colour it any more”, continues Terry. “I think the colour has blended in well with the bricks in the plinth, in which we have used a Flemish bond. It is a bond that is widely used in old brickwork round here and is much more easy on the eye than the boring stretcher bond that is so widely used on mass housing developments.”

Terry designed the entire house himself, including the kitchen, which he had hand-painted by local artist Lynda Woodrow. The living room fireplace is also a feature of note, which burns logs on an open fire. To ensure its success, Terry employed a firm of chimney specialists, who supplied a detailed calculation of how it would work, as well as all the lining materials and a damper that closes the throat when the appliance is not in use. “As a rule of thumb, the flue size has to be one seventh of the aperture of the fireplace”, he says. “It works well.”

“As it was such a large flue, we needed to cover the outside chimney opening with a raised flat top to keep the rain out”, Terry continues. “We supported this with engineering bricks that matched the colour of the bricks in the stack.”

Upstairs, Terry has continued the traditional look in all the white door linings, which have square stops on the bottoms of the architrave. The doors throughout are made from oak and furnished with hand-forged Suffolk latches.

Although Terry did very little of the labouring himself, he undertook all of the project and site management. “Doing my own design proved a large saving and in part compensated for going over budget on the downstairs stone floors and also on the cost of installing services”, he says. “Overall I am very pleased because I think we have done it on a very good price for this quality of build.”

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