self-builds and renovations

Building your own home is a dream for many people.  Finding a plot and then designing everything you have ever wanted in a house takes time, patience, perseverance and endless amounts of energy.  The emotional and financial implications of your undertaking should not be underestimated.  Trying to imagine every detail and how the space will work can become all consuming.  How many times can you watch Grand Designs, Grand Designs revisited, Grand Designs on catch-up?  How many self-build or renovation TV programmes can you watch?  How many self-build magazines can you read?  Not enough is probably the answer to all of these questions. The majority of self-builders have very little contact with the construction industry until the time comes to choose an architect and builder and get on site.  Until then it is all dreams, mood boards and sketches.  The demands that are then placed on you to make important decisions very quickly are immense. – Preparation and planning are key to reducing stress and making good decisions in the future.

The same can be said when renovating your existing home, planning will be key to its success.  You also have the advantage of knowing your building, its location and more importantly how it works, and doesn’t work for you in its current state.  Our aim is to offer guidance and advice on the practicalities.  At  Rowebb, we work closely with clients, contractors, builders and architects to do our best to help deliver a “house of dreams” rather than an assembly of compromises.  The one thing you have on your side in the early days is time.  You have time to research products and suppliers.  Time to choose colours and textures. Time to think about the details.  Time to plan how each space will be used and how it will flow.

For example, selecting the right stone for your patio, may mean you can use the same material in the kitchen as well.  Choosing the wrong thickness of flooring may mean the underfloor heating won’t work efficiently, levels need to be adjusted, and there is an awkward change in level at a door threshold.  Every decision has a knock-on effect somewhere down the line, so take the time you have before you start rather than rushing a decision when someone is demanding an answer to keep the project moving.

Are the rooms too small?  Are they too big?  What colour should the windows be?  What heat source to choose?  Kitchens!  Bathrooms!  Light switches!  Bathroom floor!  Kitchen taps!  Sockets!  Heat recovery systems…. Where to put the TV….. Double or triple glazing… Suddenly it takes over your life and becomes all consuming.  After concentrating on all of these details (and 100’s more) how is the house going to look from the outside?  How to create and define your entrance and front door – it shouldn’t look like another window after all.  Can you use the same material for the steps, the paving around the front door and then for the tiles inside the front door to create some continuity?  We can work with you to include areas of natural stone or porcelain both indoors and out. Using tiles, paving or cladding, it is easy to introduce feature panels, creating a dramatic entrance or fireplace.  Defining areas and entrances is important when designing your new home, and our Decarock Stone Cladding can do this without blowing the already stretched budget.

The outside finish of your home is often a part of the build that many our customers overlook.  All renders are the same aren’t they?  It says on the plans “white render”.  What more is there to it than that?  To aid your render selection, we would suggest that you look at samples of the different products you are considering.  Timber cladding, window frames, downpipes – all of the colours and textures you are thinking about and try and view them alongside the render and see how they work together.  The colour of your windows and render are decisions that will be thrust upon you one day and it has a major impact on your budget, timescale and the final finish of your home so make it well in advance and be prepared.  You might find yourself ordering your windows before the walls are even finished, so plan ahead!

The planners can have a major input into the colour and texture of your external render, but we have found that with good design, preparation and innovative thinking, we can normally help you achieve a render finish that will bring your dreams alive.  With planners demanding a “white roughcast render” a well prepared sample that is exactly what the client wants, but also appeases the planner.  A white roughcast render can be interpreted in so many ways.  With good sample preparation and presentation, we often find that an initial request made verbally to planners and is rejected can in fact be approved.  We recognise that certain areas demand a specific render type, colour and texture, but with modern factory batched renders, this doesn’t mean that you need to compromise on quality.  Also by extending your render to garden walls and and planters you can create a sense of continuity throughout.

As soon as there is an area of blockwork on site, it ,may be worth buying some bags of render and get it on the wall.  Have a look at the colour and the texture at different times of the day, in different weather conditions and in different lights if possible and see how it looks.  It also gives you the opportunity to see the quality you can expect of the final work.  Maybe choose a few colours and see what they really look like.  It might not be exactly what is on the plans or requested by the planners, but it is a major decision so look at the colours you think you like and then narrow it down from there.  Ask us what works.  We supply over 1million square metres of render every year. It’s what we do, so we do have an idea as to what colours work and what colours don’t, so just ask – questions don’t cost anything!

This successful build incorporates many stunning elements including, natural stone cladding on the exterior walls and natural limestone paving laid both indoors and out to offer a seamless transition from home to garden.

Before the build is finished, you will need to address the outside of the house so that it doesn’t end up being a stunning new home that has just been dropped in the middle of a wasteland. It might be the most beautiful plot in the world with stunning views from every window, but if it is a mud bath outside, with piles of sand, stacks of old timber and abandoned building materials then it isn’t finished and you will never be able to fully enjoy the fruits of your labour. Remember and leave something in the budget for a final clear up and a bit of landscaping. You don’t need to do it all at the same time, but some gravel for the driveway, a small area for a BBQ, some planting and turf will set your new home off and allow you time to breath and recover – and plan your next project…!!!

Consider laying a resin bound surface to paths, driveways or courtyards.  Not only will it create a smart appearance all year round with instant kerb appeal, but it is also extremely hard wearing, weed and frost resistant and is highly permeable and easy to maintain.

During the process of building or renovation your home, it is important to remember why you are doing this.  What you want to achieve and how to turn your house into a home.  Having unique or bespoke furniture pieces is a great opportunity to be creative and show your personality.  Upcycle any leftover materials from your build if you can.  Use lengths of timer, old pallets or scaffolding boards to create stylish wall coverings, shelves, table tops…even a chopping board!