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Richard & Diane Boutcher

Richard & Diane Boutcher's finished self build project

Richard and Diane self built their home in Norfolk, achieving an A-rated house with a traditional front façade and a more modern rear elevation.

Richard & Diane Boutcher - Case Study

What is the floor area of your project?

The main house is approximately 240 sqm, plus 61 sqm for the garage and workshop and 43 sqm for the separate, self-contained, annex.

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

We have aimed to be as eco-friendly as possible within our budget. We have achieved an A-rated house with ASHP-driven UFH heating, MVHR, solar thermal and PV, rainwater harvesting, etc. The appearance of the front of the house is driven by the need to match in with the vernacular of the conservation village which starts on our northern boundary, but we have opted for a much more modern looking rear elevation.

Richard & Diane's Experience at the Centre

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

At least three times, starting in April 2007 (my wife’s 50th birthday treat and at her request!). It shows how long it has been a dream to do a self-build.

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

We got lots of ideas from our visits including construction method, heating system type, the use of solar and rainwater harvesting. We took the opportunity to speak to multiple architects and designers, and I also completed the project management course.

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

We used Kingspan for the SIPS panels and internal wall and floor insulation, a mixture of Rationel and Solarlux for triple glazed doors and windows

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

The inspiration to follow our dream!

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

Yes, I would recommend multiple visits to refine your ideas and find new ones. The training course I attended was very informative. It is difficult to pinpoint specific aspects of the project management course as the overall ‘picture’ of a building project was very useful. If I had to be pinned down then I think it’s the sequencing, especially the things that need to happen before breaking ground and after effective completion, that was the most useful section of the course, although I found parts of the whole course helpful.

Richard & Diane's Self Build Journey

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

We have dreamed of designing and building our own home for many years. We wanted to be as eco-friendly as possible to leave something good for the future.


What was the cost & size of the land?

The land is 0.571 acre and cost £261,500.


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

My wife found it on-line at after many years of searching multiple sites for something suitable.


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

The plot had detailed planning permission granted already when we purchased it, but that didn’t suit our needs and wants so we used an architect to help re-design it based on the original design. The planners would not allow us to join the house to the garage, forced us to reduce the size of the workshop behind the garage, and made us change the size and layout of the utility room ‘extension’.


Why did you choose your method of construction?

It was a method that we were seriously considering and when we changed tack from a self-managed self-build to using a main contractor due to my wife’s illness, it was the builder’s recommended method, so we went with it.


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

In theory, the main contractor was supposed to act as the project manager. In reality, they were very poor at managing the project and I ended up doing much of the work myself.


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

The original build budget was around £520k with a £60k contingency. Ultimately, the build has cost over £760k.


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

It would seem that the main contractor had grossly underestimated what it would cost to build and loaded us with many ‘variations’ for things that we would have expected to be included. It seemed that work done on a day-rate basis took forever, but any fixed-price or remedial work always took less time than planned. Our interpretation of what was included in the contract we signed seemed somewhat different to that of the builder. Unfortunately, due to my wife’s illness, time was of the essence and it was easier and quicker to just cave in and pay to keep the job moving. We did also spend more on things like the kitchen and stairs, driveway, etc. than we had budgeted for.


What is the value of the property now?

The property has been independently valued by a local estate agent at £1.25m.


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

Most of the build was zero rated for VAT as a new build through a main contractor. Some of the suppliers also agreed to zero rate as a new build. I have yet to claim back other VAT that we have spent but anticipate claiming around £5k.


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

The most stressful aspect of the build was the impossible relationship we had with our main contractor once they furloughed and then ‘let go’ the person we were dealing with during the negotiations who was very helpful and supportive. He was replaced by a director and site manager who we found obstructive and uncooperative. Had it not been for the prognosis of my wife’s illness we would have parted company with them around six months into the project but it always seemed quicker to stick with them despite the stress and excessive costs than to try to switch builder part way through the project.


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

Seeing the rapid progress in the early days; seeing the back of the main contractor at the end of the project!


What is one of your favourite features about your project?

The front elevation.


How did you tailor your home to suit your lifestyle?

Lots of light, a very open, spacious, hallway and landing even at the cost of an extra bedroom.


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

I might, but not using a main contractor as that was the worst part of the project. I would take on the project management myself, buy in materials and employ sub-contractors.


If so, is there anything you would do differently?

I would also ensure that the architect was employed throughout the project – the significant extra cost involved is likely to be worth it if they can resolve issues as they arise rather than when it becomes too late to reasonably solve them.


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

You will always know more at the end of the project than at the beginning! You cannot possibly think of everything and you will make mistakes along the way. It is expensive, but using an architect that you trust throughout the project will really help (we didn’t and suffered as a result). If you choose wisely, the architect will have done it all before and should be able to guide you through all the pitfalls.