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Sophie & Andrew Minter

Sophie and Andrew completed a rebuild of their home in Devon, undertaking a ‘salvage dismantle’, reusing materials both structurally and decoratively, resulting in a unique and beautiful new home.

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

We celebrated our wedding in the garden here 28 years ago as my parents had lived here since 1989. When Andrew and I bought the original house from the family we had hoped to renovate it but its condition proved beyond repair. So, we did a salvage dismantle - a ‘soft strip’ first, retaining everything from cast iron baths to coat hooks then we used a salvage company to dismantle the house separating out bricks, timbers, tiles, metalwork etc. We rebuilt on the same footprint using an ICF material. Andrew and I cleaned 9,500 of the old bricks and scorched 1400 linear meters of our own larch with which we clad the new house. With the skill, diligence and creativity of our architectural technologist and builders we built a beautiful new home incorporating the best of new and old.

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Sophie & Andrew's finished rebuild project.

Sophie & Andrew's Experience at the National Self Build & Renovation Centre

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

We visited the NSBRC 4 times, including doing a Project Management Course there.

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

It was useful to see the wide range of exhibits and have certain processes explained and demonstrated in layman’s terms.

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

Durisol, NuHeat and Herschel Infrared.

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

Enjoyed seeing such variety and becoming better informed. Staff and exhibitors were friendly and happy to answer even the most novice of questions.

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

We’ve recommended NSBRC to lots of people! Particularly for the range of products; face to face with experts and demos; useful training courses.

‘The success of this project has been largely due to the aspect of collaboration and we would like to give credit to Vaughn Allington at 16a Architecture Ltd and Gareth Walker of CW Build Ltd, both of whom we would highly recommend.’

Information compiled in March 2022.

Sophie & Andrew's Self Build Journey

The house as it was BEFORE we dismantled it. Age ranged 1780-1990.

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

The old house ranged from 1780 - 1990 and was very charming but was letting lots of water in and lots of heat out! Once we’d accepted that we couldn’t renovate, we embraced building a new home more ‘fit for purpose’, less wasteful and making the most of the beautiful plot and views around us.


We did a ‘soft strip’ of the old house, retaining a huge range of fixtures, fittings, details and materials for re-use in the new house.. just a fraction of them here.

What was the cost & size of your building plot or conversion project?

Our total plot size is about 1.5 acres including some grazing, garden, etc. It is bisected by a busy lane which is not ideal but just accepting that no plot of land is perfect may be useful for people looking.


The demolition team did a great job carefully dismantling the old house and separating out the tiles, bricks, timbers etc for re-use.

How did you find your land or conversion project? Do you have any tips for others currently searching for something similar?

We built a similar size house on the existing footprint and used materials sympathetic to the rural setting. We were also very open with our neighbours so we sailed through planning permission.


Andrew and I cleaned 9,500 old bricks for re-use.

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

Building control got a bit over-excited about our 14m deep well and insisted on extra, hand-built foundations round it but our architectural technologist (AT) was excellent at dealing with these details.


New foundations in a very similar footprint to the old house.

What factors influenced the selection of your method of construction?

We fully researched build methods with our AT and we liked the solidity of ICF for our exposed Devon hilltop. We liked its speed of construction and thermal mass and specifically the fact that the Durisol blocks are made in South Wales from recycled pallet chippings. We visited various sites with the Durisol rep. and, although neither our AT or builder had used it before, everyone was impressed and keen to go ahead with it. We used a local Devon company to design and construct the green oak frame. In the fullness of time, we did have some reservations about their management staff but the carpenters were excellent and we love the result.


Durisol ICF build material.

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

We didn’t engage a Project Manager. Andrew and I did a useful course at NSBRC and then we shared the role with both the AT and the principle contractor. We discussed this decision fully between the three parties so it was clear who was doing what. We had regular formal meetings and Andrew and I were on site every day. Communications remained good throughout and I loved the sense of teamwork.


Progressing to first floor level.

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

Our budget shifted! Andrew kept meticulous financial records but the nature of our ‘salvage and re-use’ approach meant some costs were hard to predict and/or we chose to upgrade certain variations along the way. Material cost increases (due to Covid/Brexit) were already starting and ancillary costs e.g asbestos removal, bat licensing and contract admin fees for example, came in higher than predicted. We would recommend a 20% contingency fund, not less.


The beauty of the oak frame as the dynamic skeleton of the house. As the house takes shape and starts to ‘sit down’ into its rural plot.

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

I LOVED the vast majority of the process to rebuild our beautiful home! I very seldom found it stressful but it was tiring. We took 18 months away from work to commit to it fully and had already spent about two years with design, planning and preparation stages. Sorting and clearing the old house had been emotional and exhausting too. But the build itself took less than 12 months! We were physically very involved: cleaning bricks, scorching larch, stripping floorboards, keeping the site clean etc but also researching and making decisions on a daily basis.

One will hugely benefit from planning, researching and visualising as much as you possibly can in advance but be flexible enough to realise that some decisions just can’t be made until certain build stages have been reached. If money was no option, I’d have scheduled in 1 x ‘Recover/ Think/Plan’ week for every 4 x ‘Build’ weeks. Our contractor and site manager (SM) worked at a phenomenal pace so we worked hard to keep up. Our SM often said how much time we saved them by being available on site.


The felling and retrieval of our larch for cladding.

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

I love the fact that we were involved every step of the way and that we know the history and provenance of the materials. We even selected the larch trees from our own woodland. I loved working as part of the team to get the house built and learning new things every day.


Materials coming together: salvaged bricks, scorched and natural larch, oak, Corten steel, local stone, slate and glass.

What is one of your favourite features about your project?

Some of my favourite features include the mix of old and new - in the kitchen we have a wall of exposed bricks that have been on this plot for 250 years adjacent to our contemporary, soapstone, rotating wood-burner.


Oak and steel complement in the principle bedroom.

How did you tailor your home to suit your lifestyle?

The house is designed to work for us - we have some enclosed, cosy spaces as well as openplan, double-height social areas. We often have guests to stay for several days so we’ve added a mezzanine sitting room over the guest suite so people can spread out. We put a shower in the boot room because we enjoy trail running and work outside a lot. Our house is not a show-home - it’s relaxed and comfortable using materials and furniture with history and integrity.


Green oak and steel soaring up to the roof.

Is there a possibility you would ever undertake another project in the future? If so, is there anything you would do differently?

I would definitely love to be involved with similar projects but next time helping others to achieve their dreams. I feel we learnt so much in the process and that, combined with skills from other work I’ve done, I have much to offer for others to benefit from.


An 'after' shot.

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

Ideas to consider:

Don’t underestimate the time and energy needed if you want to enjoy the process and love the outcome.

Be honest with yourself… reflect on how you function at your best and with what type of personalities around you then really investigate who you’re going to work with and engage so that you get on well throughout the project and it remains enjoyable.