To beat budget restraints, these have-a-go heroes rolled up their sleeves and tackled the construction of their homes themselves.

Build-a-home heroes

Projects where the self-builders rolled up their sleeves and tackled most of the construction

By Hugh Metcalf | 25 January 2021

Some of the most exciting projects featured on Grand Designs have been project-managed and built by their owners. It’s an approach that can achieve great results, especially on a small budget, but it comes with numerous challenges. Wanting to build a home, these intrepid self builders ignored the risks, rolled up their sleeves and tackled the construction by themselves. Not all of these homes are from Grand Designs, but they have hands-on owners.

Eco new build

By project-managing the build and doing much of the work themselves, Gareth Boyd of 2020 Architects and his wife Lindsey made savings on their home in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. ‘We even charred, brushed and sealed the cedar shingles covering the super insulated timber frame,’ says Gareth. The design kept circulation spaces to a minimum. So, they were able to incorporate four bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open-plan kitchen and living area, utility room and snug. All within 160sqm. In so doing, their spend was within their target of £160,000, or £1,000 per sqm. The plot is just under an acre and cost £40,000. ‘We’d wanted to build our own home for a while,’ says Gareth.

Self build home with wooden shingle cladding - grand designs

The wooden shingle cladding gives the new build a rustic look. Photo: 2020 Architects

Economical Passivhaus

Value engineering came to the fore to achieve the £500,000 build budget and energy-efficient design of this seven-bedroom Passivhaus home in Cambridgeshire. James Burton, director at Swann Edwards Architecture, used simple forms and detailing to reflect the surrounding fen landscape. This allowed the owners, Christine Young and her late husband Frank, to manage and undertake a lot of work themselves. They were able to limit their expenditure to £1,150 per sqm. Built under Paragraph 55 (now Paragraph 79) planning rules, on a rural plot which cost £130,000, Far View Barn is a flexible, future-proofed home. It has superinsulation, high levels of airtightness, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) and twin-stud timber frame construction. The house costs virtually nothing to run and generates an income from rental and feed-in tariffs.

Side exterior view of the barn-style build with solar panels on the roof

The gable-end wall is inset to shelter the balcony from the elments. Photo: Kiff Photography