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A Dream Home Turned into Reality

Having grown up in New Zealand, Pip Gunn was familiar with the idea of self building and has always dreamed of building her own home, together with husband Steve. When their two daughters flew the nest, they decided now was the right time to begin their self build journey!

Self-building in New Zealand is very common due to the extortionate, yet poor quality housing. Countries such as Germany and the Netherlands have much tighter housing regulations and better standards – but in New Zealand, cases of poor quality building are very common – similar to the UK!

More than half of buyers of new-build homes in the UK have had major problems with construction, unfinished fittings and faults with utilities, according to housing charity Shelter. Experts say the rush to build homes amid Britain’s chronic housing shortage, and the dominance of a few big building firms that use a multitude of subcontractors, are also to blame for poor building standards. Last year 13,000 people in the UK decided to build their own home to ensure a quality finish and space to suit their personal needs and lifestyle.

Pip and Steve initially began searching for plots in Surrey, but it soon became clear that their budget just wouldn’t cover the costs, so they began looking elsewhere in the country. Due to Steve’s work as a rowing coach, it didn’t matter too much on the location of the plot – as long as it was near a motorway.

Pip and Steve eventually found a location that suited their budget and lifestyle requirements of being able to enjoy the outdoors with woodland, lakes and green spaces, in a self-build street in Peterborough. “We knew that buying a plot wasn’t going to be easy, we had already read stories in the self-build magazines of people looking for years and years to get the correct piece of land. It took us about 6 months to find this plot of land.” Part of The Hamptons development, the large estate is full of developer-built houses, with an area reserved for self builds thanks to local council policy. Pip and Steve’s home is one of 12 self-build houses in a street that celebrates diversity in house design.

“The original inspiration came from many years of looking through house magazines where we got lots of ideas. We picked up a house magazine whilst we were in New Zealand which had a wonderful house which looked like a Welsh cottage sitting on a Welsh hillside. When you walked into the house and through the back it opened out into a beautiful, bright open space so that was our original inspiration”.

Many self builders take their research prior to starting their build very seriously, and rightly so! From reading magazines to chatting on forums and in particular – visiting self-build shows. There are a number of self build shows around the UK, from Build It Live, to the Self Build and Design Shows and the year-round National Self Build and Renovation Centre, more commonly known as the NSBRC. The NSBRC is a great place to chat to self-build experts to get advice and guidance with your project and you can look at the products and services in your own time, easily scanning a barcode if you would like to know more information or chat with a particular company. There are also a number of shows at the NSBRC throughout the year – including the Self Build and Renovation Show on 11-13th May.

“Part of our research involved going to quite a lot of self build shows. We were living in the South of England at the time and but were not adverse to going down to the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon and various other shows – and that’s where we first came across Solar Plants.

We wanted to have every single piece of green energy that was available – we knew that by having solar panels along with the insulation as part of our pack from Potton, that we would be well above the requirements of the local Council and SAP regulations,” says Pip. “Originally the builder thought that we might want to put the solar panels on the back of the roof so they were hidden, but after speaking with Solar Plants they confirmed there are different types of solar panels, including those that can look smart on the roof, as well as doing the job that they are designed for. So we were able to put them on the Southern side of the roof, which was better from a solar point of view.

Solar Plants put a wonderful set of black panels on the roof which look so nice and fit in beautifully with the rest of the street because everyone has fairly firm ideas of how they want the street to look”.

Steve and Pip moved in just six months after work started and both seem overjoyed with their new home.“We love it here. It’s everything we hoped it would be. And now we have all this knowledge, we may well do it again. We would certainly get Solar Plants involved at the earlier stages of the build so they were on board right from the beginning”.

Pip and Steve’s top tip for other self builders:
Get your budgeting right and know entirely what you are putting in from the start so if you do want solar panels you know what your commitments are financially.

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