In the first of a series of articles, we follow the fortunes of Tony and Andrea Bright, who inherited a one-bedroom bungalow in Surrey in 2006. Not only was the property not big enough to suit their future plans it was also virtually uninhabitable due to a series of botched DIY jobs by the previous owner. The place was, however, in a beautiful location and Tony sensed an opportunity to start again with the house from scratch and create a dream home – which meant stripping the interior entirely, extending the downstairs and creating a second floor. Tony also wanted the chance to change direction personally and take on the renovation work himself. No mean feat. But first things first – prepare the site and draw up some plans…
“Just to set the scene, I had no building experience at all prior to this project. I decided to do it myself for economic reasons but I’ve also been influenced by programmes like Property Ladder and Grand Designs and had an idea to build my own home germinating in me for a long time.
“The house really was in a bit of a state. You can say that a cobbler’s children never have any shoes, likewise a builder’s house is never what you expect it to be. Jobs were half done, nothing was finished and he’d done a lot of botch work, which needed to be redone correctly.
“The first thing I needed to do was clear the site, inside and around the house to see exactly what I had to work with. It took ages – there were sheds at the front and back, fridges, building materials… junk everywhere. It took about a month and a half to clear because of the house also has an access issue – you can only reach it via a narrow footpath – and also I was doing runs to the dump in an old Escort. I did 50 or 60 trips!
“There was one good thing about doing it that way: by law you can take a car to the dump and there’s no questions asked. But as soon as you take a van a it’s a commercial vehicle and you have to go through the weigh station and weigh all the stuff you have in the back. I did that once and it cost me about £100 because I had a ton of rubble in the back. My top tip would be: Don’t buy a van, have an estate car if you need to dump a lot of material.
“The next thing was to employ an architect. I got ours after finding a card in the effects belonging to the man who had left us the house. I thought he must have used him before, but he hadn’t it was just a local architect who had left a card in Homebase and John had picked it up. I was the first call he’d got in five years! I’d recommend not doing it that way, don’t get someone out of the Yellow Pages. Someone you know or a friend of a friend must have had an extension done or something, so try and get someone on recommendation. I’d say 50% of the issues I have had since have been down to the incompetence of my architect. The planning stage is the foundation of everything you do.”
Next time: Getting planning permission