How to Build your own House Cheap?
Of course, it helps that Piers is an architect by training, a former design fellow of Cambridge university and currently co-presenter of the BBC series, The House that £100k built, but many of the jobs were as new to him as to any budding self-builder. “My steep learning curve is reflected in this building, ” he says, “and the flaws in it are the things which make it work. I am bound up in every screw. I live here, got married here and we raise our children here.”
The building is based on the principles of an Australian pole house, a timber construction in which vertical poles carry the weight of the suspended floors and roof, which he has joined to the original stone house. Piers describes it as “an ad hoc castellated series of outbuildings – involving a simple rural shed structure, one that a farmer could build”.
It was designed to get as much out of the space as possible, using technology that would require common sense, rather than specialist skill, he says. It also needed to accommodate the growing family – four children, now aged 3, 9, 11 and 23.
Piers used the cheapest materials possible, and still managed to make it look good: a kitchen composed of MDF offcuts, painted a vibrant blue from a mix of two old paint pots, which he put together for £1, 000; the cheapest plywood walls and floors; even the cladding and corrugated iron roof is made from the same material the farmers use down the valley. He rails against the “tyranny of glitz and needing too much. Simplicity is best”. For good-value taps and bathroom fittings he suggests trying plumbing supply companies, and for wood he recommends unrefined shuttering “showing its characterful knots and grains”. Lightweight timber constructions are the easiest to self-build, wet trades involving stone and plaster are much harder.
Getting the lighting right is also crucial. “Here the expansive glass makes the eyes lead out so you don’t notice the bits of Lego on the floor.” But before embarking on a project he advises, “drawing up a big picture of how you will live in the house, and how you will use the space: where will you have your drink after work, how can you make the most of a perfect sunset. It’s not about where you site the dining room table.”