The stairs leading to the newly built first floor

submitted an amended planning application, bolstered by the knowledge it had already been through the process once.

There was a small snag in the form of a lack of documentation to prove the foundations could support the weight of a two-storey building, something Nick’s parents’ wisely flagged up as a potential issue. Luckily everything was fine, but as he says, it meant “£1,000 straight away just for some soil checks!”

Although achieving planning was reasonably hassle-free, it didn’t come without its stresses later down the line. On both flanks of the house, a certain size of opening was dictated for the windows, but when their architect said it would be “fine” to install a slightly larger opening, the self-builders did just that. Unfortunately the neighbours on one side objected, so the planners were summoned, who informed Nick and Mark they would have to go back through planning but were likely to be rejected. This meant that just two days after they had been installed the windows had to be taken out and replaced.

As the neighbours on the other side didn’t object, Nick and Mark put the increased window size to the planning department. There was an important safety dimension, as being a bedroom there was a need to have a means of escape, which the smaller opening wouldn’t provide. Were it to have been rejected, they would have had to install fire doors throughout the entire property. This meant a nervous eight week wait, which Nick says “was really stressful because the timber frame was going up, and they couldn’t put the weatherboarding on because if it didn’t get approved the window was going to have to come out.”


GETTING THEIR HANDS DIRTY Being on such a tight budget, Nick and Mark took on almost all of the work themselves, but with help from family and friends. This meant making some huge sacrifices for the duration of the project. “Our life’s been on hold for 18 months,” says Mark.

They began work in May 2016, completely stripping out the bungalow, with the help of Nick’s dad. This included the roof, so all they were left with was the four outer walls. Unfortunately, the unpredictable British weather had its part to play. “We had the most horrendous rain, and because were keeping the existing floor downstairs, we couldn’t let it get wet,” explains Nick. This meant covering the building with huge tarpaulins which needed to be constantly emptied of the large amounts of water pooling on them. “Water started to drip through so we had buckets everywhere, and it was a bit of a ‘what have we done’ moment,” says Nick.

With money being very tight, Nick also took on the role of project manager. He managed to take a little time off being a flight attendant at the beginning of the project while Mark continued working, meaning he was often only in the country for 11 days a month. This meant at the start of the project Nick was taking a large share of the project on his shoulders. “It was all new to me and I was trying to learn everything because I didn’t want to be ripped off by anyone,” he says. “When Mark got back, he was my support while I was tearing my hair out!” When Nick did return to work it meant sometimes neither of them was around to manage the project, leaving it in the hands of the builders who were doing the timber frame

january/february 2018


Nick: “I would say when the stairs went in.”

Mark: “For me, it was finishing all the painting and decorating.”

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