5th & 6th October 2024 Royal Cornwall Events
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Self Build Tips and Advice

Looking at the pictures, it’s hard to believe that this is the same house. After searching high and low, Chris and Jackie Coombes found a dilapidated 1930’s bungalow that didn’t fit any of their requirements. Deciding that it would make a great foundation for their next project, they followed their heads rather than their hearts and bought the property.

Initially, the Coombes thought they’d be able to extend the bungalow to a ¾ height house, allowing them the additional space they needed for the four bedrooms they wanted. Their architect, however, had other plans, and came back with some much grander ideas. Rather than settling for the ¾ height house, Jackie fell in love with the drawings from the architect and luckily, the planning permission went through without a hitch. This highlights how important it is that you find the right people for the task at hand. Jackie feels trust is integral to the success of any job. If you’re thinking of undertaking any kind of project and are unable to complete the work yourself, you need to trust the person you’ve got doing it for you completely.

Jackie and Chris have worked on other properties, giving them a little practice, and although he hadn’t started his career when they completed their first renovation, Chris is a builder by profession. This has helped hugely as it means he’s been able to do the majority of the labour himself. He also has working relationships with other tradespeople, the Coombes knew that the work they were having done would be completed to a high standard. Jackie says that the best way to find a reputable tradesman is through recommendations, suggesting that any good tradesmen will be happy to put you in touch with previous customers so you can see examples of their work.

Of all the things that pose a problem, planning permission was the biggest concern for Jackie. “If you don’t get it, then that’s it,” she told me. Once that had been approved and the build was underway, they were both well aware of common issues that could arise, both from Chris’ day job as a builder and their work on the previous 4 projects they have completed. They came across a few hitches, and some of the finer details needed to be ironed out as they went along but knowing what could go wrong and having the knowledge from previous projects definitely helped them complete the build smoothly.

The work itself took less than 12 months; from planning permission approval in August 2015, the first block being laid on September 9th, to moving in at the end of June 2016. Jackie describes herself and Chris as everyday working people. They decided a long time (and a few properties) ago that they would rather buy something less expensive that needs some work done than pay over the odds for a house that has been decorated in other people’s tastes. She feels that they are part of a larger trend, and that as more people have realised how much money they can save in doing this, the more popular it has become.

Her advice to others looking to do anything similar is, “stay focussed on the end result, it’s not every day you get the chance to have a blank canvass, it is going to be hard work, it will consume your life, and on a daily basis you will need to make lots of decisions.” Towards the end of this build, Chris was working day and night but it meant that the job was finished quicker. She added that, “being realistic is also important, and you do need to be tough, so always keep the rewards in mind!  We started out on this project with it being everything we didn’t want but it’s turned into our dream home. Bradfords were great, from the quality and choice of their products, to their speedy delivery. We even bought our wood burner from them, you need a proper builder’s merchant where they know what they’re doing, it’s so much better than a DIY store.”

This blog was provided by Bradfords Building Supplies