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Jan & Mitch Westwood

Jan and Mitch from Staffordshire, both retired, completed their self build in 2019 and were determined to incorporate as many eco features as possible.

Floor Plans

What is the floor area of your project in sq ft or sq m? Do you have any floorplans you can provide? 





Could you tell us any interesting facts or remarkable features about your project?

We were determined to incorporate as many ‘eco’ features as possible, so, lots of insulation (SAPS calc 96 A) air source heat pump, underfloor heating mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system good quality aluminium framed/double lazed door/windows solar panels. We both retired to carry out this work, and, apart from an electrician, plumber and plasterer/renderer, we did the vast majority of the work ourselves.

Experience at the Centre

How many times have you visited The National Self Build and Renovation Centre before?

Three times

What would you say is the most helpful feature or resource at the NSBRC?

It was very easy to wander around and be inspired, without any sales pressure.

Did you use any exhibitors at the NSBRC?

We contacted several for further information and/or quotes.

What did you enjoy most about your visit to the NSBRC?

Overall, extremely useful for first time self builders.

Would you recommend the NSBRC to a friend, and if so, what aspects of the Centre would you recommend?

It’s a must for anyone contemplating embarking upon a project. The only thing we felt was missing was either a talk or some documentation by actual self-builders, and we mean genuine first timers, not the ‘serial’ self builders!


Jan and Mitch's Self Build Journey

What first inspired you to undertake your self build project – what did you hope to achieve?

I had always wanted to self-build. Jan retired around five years ago (midwife) and I ran my own garden design business, and was wondering how/what to do in retirement. The timings became right, and we started to look for plot.


What was the cost & size of the land?

0.24 acre with permission for two bungalows £94k (2014)


How did you find the land? Do you have any tips for others currently searching for a plot?

Looked nationwide, to start with, but then decided we needed to stay local. In negotiations with another local plot, but that fell through. We became very frustrated at not being able to find anything and even started to look at properties to renovate. Then our sister in law asked if we were aware of this totally overgrown ‘well tucked away’ plot, on the edge of a local authority housing estate? The rest, as they say…We were under the impression that local authorities were obliged to make a certain number of self-build plots available but that doesn’t appear to be the case in Stafford!


Did you have any issues getting your planning permission granted or with building control? If so – why was this?

Local authority was very good (although slow, due to lack of staff) and our architect was aware of what would ‘flick their switch’. Because it is tucked away, and didn’t have to comply with any street scene, we were allowed to propose pretty much what we liked.


Why did you choose your method of construction?

We looked on several options, including brick/block (as I am reasonably competent at brick laying) most of which were well displayed at the centre, however, decided that SIPs panels would be the best option for ourselves. We looked at the ones displayed in the centre, and eventually went for a company called Build a Kit, as they were fairly small.


Did you use a project manager, or did you choose to self project manage?

Self project manage, and we know that would make Kevin McCloud wince, but, it went without a major hitch. Pretty much the same principles apply as those to garden construction: think ahead, plan/time deliveries, and, where you use contractors, make sure that they are good ones and occasionally are prepared to be flexible.


What was your budget and were you able to stick to it?

We probably went over by 15%, but we have a home that we love and can be proud of.


If you didn’t stick to your budget, what was the main reason for the overspend?

Upgrading items we hadn’t originally though through properly, and getting ‘sucked’ into the excitement!


What is the value of the property now?



Did you reclaim the VAT, and if so, how much were you able to reclaim?

We decided to use a professional person, who specialised in VAT reclaims, as we felt we had more than enough to cope with! She was a little re-active, rather than pro-active, but, the only real hold up was getting final sign-off from Building Control.


What aspects of the self build process did you find stressful – and do you have any tips on how to avoid the pitfalls you encountered?

Living in a static caravan, on site, during the build, in Winter had its moments! But overall, we enjoyed every minute of the whole process. I cannot comprehend how self-builders who still have a full time job and have to be evening and weekend self builders cope though, we spent pretty much 24/7 for almost 2 years thinking/doing nothing else!


What did you find most enjoyable about working on your project?



What is one of your favourite features about your project?

As a previous garden designer, it was the first time I had completed my own garden from scratch. But, other ‘first time’ successes included fixing Colorcoat Urban (Tata Steel) roofing and cladding, fitting the kitchen, fixing block and beam floor with just a sack truck and ‘festival’ trolley along with designing/building various shelving units, cupboards and unique items of bespoke furniture.


How did you tailor your home to suit your lifestyle?

We had the opportunity to create something different, so it was totally designed for our requirements. I did ask the local estate agent, who valued the property on completion, if we had made it so unique that it would be unsaleable (not that we intend to do so) but he assured us it was not the case, and in estate agent parlance it would be a “one-off opportunity to invest in the future”.


Is there a possibility you would ever undertake another self build, or perhaps another type of project in the future?

I would tomorrow, but my wife was 68 last month and has declared that she has mixed her last batch of concrete!


What would your top tip be for other NSBRC Visitors about to embark on their first self build journey?

Research all the techniques that you will need to be involved in (including those you would have to contract out). Be sure of your own capabilities and experience. Ensure that the tradesmen and contractors are of the very best quality/reputation.