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Keith & Eira Emerson

Keith & Eira Emerson's finished home improvement project

Keith and Eira Emerson have undertaken a complete re-modelling of their existing home in Wiltshire which they have self-designed and largely project managed themselves.

Floor Plans

What is the floor area of your project in sq ft or sq m?

Approximately 140 sqm.

Ground Floor: Click here for before & after

First Floor: Click here for before & after

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

Originally, we were hoping to embark on a self build project from scratch but we were unable to find a suitable plot. Finally, we decided to do a major re-model on our existing house. I produced the plans and took it from there. The NSBRC provided invaluable help and information regarding the process, regulations, resources, etc. We performed the selection and sourcing of all sub-contractors and suppliers and fittings. We took the internals of the house apart whilst still living in it and then finally moved into rented accommodation for 6 months whilst the main building work took place. We removed all our belongings ourselves and stored them in our holiday home in Cornwall, the rented house and the garage. I completed the kitchen installation after moving back into the house. The new house is open plan, minimalist and has a full home automation system (inspired by Aperio in the Potton show house at the NSBRC).

Experience at the Centre

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

At least five times.

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

The expertise provided by your staff and contributors; Neil Davey on the helpdesk was particularly helpful. We also found a number of the seminars at your events very useful. Being able to see and compare your exhibitors’ products was again extremely useful in making decisions regarding sourcing of fixtures and fittings.

Did you use any exhibitors at the NSBRC? If so, who?

Certainly Velfac. We also used Plot search when initially considering a self-build.

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

The anticipation of embarking on a journey. Initially a self-build but then the re-model project.

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

Absolutely, anyone considering a self-build, re-model or other type of project should definitely visit. The National Self Build and Renovation Show provides inspiration, ideas and information. Talking to the experts on a one-one basis is invaluable and puts the challenges and pitfalls into clear perspective.

Keith & Eira's Home Improvement Journey

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

We are avid watchers of Grand Designs and this provided the initial inspiration. We later purchased a Canadian lodge (log construction) in Cornwall. This was a new build, so we had input into the internal layout and fittings and followed the build throughout. Thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

With the house-remodel we hoped to achieve an outcome in which we had played a significant part and resulted in a home which was tailored to our requirements and was enjoyable to live in.


Did you have any issues getting your planning permission granted or with building control?

Nothing major, although an archaeological survey was required even though we were not planning any significant ground works.


Why did you choose your method of construction?

The construction was largely determined by the nature of the project. Keeping the building shell and roofs intact, minimisation of any ground works for services etc. Some major internal steel work was required to support the roof and new open plan rooms.


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

We managed all the initial planning and design of the new house (No architect) including input from structural engineers. We then selected a builder for managing the main building work and the sub-contractors. We continued to manage the overall project and co-ordinated the inputs from suppliers that we had selected e.g. windows/doors, staircase, flooring, bathroom fittings, kitchen (fitted ourselves), etc.   


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

Around £220,000.


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

We were within a few thousand of our budget, with some swings and roundabouts. After viewing some mobile homes (to put on the front lawn) we decided that moving into rented accommodation was a better option. This proved to be a good decision!! We had a good internet connection which allowed us to research items for the project and also saved money on storage costs. 


What is the value of the property now?

We haven’t had the house valued. I doubt if any increase in value would fully cover the costs of the re-model but the pleasure that the new house gives is well worth any difference.


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

We did make some VAT savings by paying some of the building sub-contractors directly (all above board!).


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

It was hard work, but not particularly stressful. We prepared the house for the builders by stripping all the internals including, bathrooms, kitchen, doors, skirtings etc and moved our belongings ourselves either to the rental, the house in Cornwall or the garage.

It is good to have your alternative accommodation in place prior to when the main building work takes place.


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

The initial planning and sourcing of items for the project. We made good use of the NSBRC's resources by attending a number of self-build exhibitions and travelled around the country visiting some of the suppliers in person for the staircase, windows, flooring, etc. Visiting the build on a regular basis to view progress was also very enjoyable and our main builder and sub-contractors were lovely people. Overall, a great sense of pride and achievement.


What is one of your favourite features about your project?

There is so much more light and sense of space in the house. The automated heating and lighting system is fantastic and we are now comfortable at all times of the year at little or no increase in fuel bills. The improved glazing also helps with this in terms of insulation and drafts. The automated system just ticks away in the background and the under-floor zoning allows much greater control of temperatures in the individual rooms. It is fantastic to step on a beautifully warm bathroom floor in the middle of winter.


How did you tailor your home to suit your lifestyle?

Mainly the open plan nature of the project. Reducing the number of bedrooms from four to three enabled us to increase the size of the bathrooms and increase the sense of space in the entrance hall. Replacing the old radiator based / wood-burner heating system with under-floor heating makes for a much ‘cleaner’ layout.  


Is there a possibility you would ever undertake another project in the future?

Given our age, I doubt it. If 20 years younger, then probably.


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

Look very carefully at the options available to you when deciding on the type of project (Self-build, renovation etc). For each option carefully consider and compare the relative logistics and costs taking into account your current situation (age, health, finances) and assess what that situation may be in the future. Perform a detailed analysis of cost estimates, make sure that everything is included and don’t underestimate. It is easy to self-delude and then get a big shock later!

If considering using a main contractor be very careful with your choice. Approach at least three and do research on their backgrounds. We made a point of visiting a previous project completed by our main contractor and received valuable (positive!)  feedback from his previous clients. We were also able to view the quality of his work at first hand. It is not always best to go with the lowest quotation!