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I-Build Wakefield

21 September 2015

Colin Clarkson, 70, renovated a 1960s bungalow in Stanley, Wakefield, and transformed a rundown, neglected two-bedroom shell into a sought-after four-bedroom property with a spacious extension. The original property had been on the market for two years before Colin bought it, yet he received five offers for it during his renovation project. I-build asked Colin to describe how he managed this transformation.

Q: What inspired you to take on a renovation project?
A: Initially we just wanted to downsize. We were living in a high maintenance four-bed property with 2.5 acres of garden in Scalby in East Riding of Yorkshire between Newport and Gilberdyke, and we wanted to live in a bungalow near Leeds,

Q: Had you always wanted to pursue your own project?
A: No, not really. When we started looking everything that was on the market looked very expensive for what it was. We didn’t want to pay more than the stamp duty threshold – £250,000. So that’s when we started to look at the cheaper properties that could be re-modelled.

Q: How and why did you choose this property to renovate?
A: This fitted the bill. I could just see its potential. It hadn’t been touched for at least 25 years – no decoration or maintenance – and it was on the market for £240,000. I put an offer in that was well below that and they bit my hand off. It had been empty and on the market for two years in probate. The money was needed to pay off the nursing home fees of the lady who’d lived there and the interest on the debt. And I was a cash buyer.

Q: What was the vision and inspiration behind your new home?
A: I could see that it was a two bed bungalow that could become a four-bed quite easily and that I could demolish the existing extensions and then construct a large modern extension at the back. I went into the roof space and it was like city hall. Enormous. You could have had a barn dance up there. So I could see that I could make the building into a dormer bungalow but the cottage type with pitched roofs – planning wouldn’t have accepted a big dormer with a flat roof at the front.

Q: How did you approach finalising your design brief?
A: I’ve been on drawing boards and I know how to use scale rules – I designed heating systems when I worked for British Gas and then I worked for Hull City Council as a housing gas surveyor. So I worked up the drawings and then brought in an architect to push them through the planning procedures.

Q: Were there any challenging aspects to the project and build?
A: Yes: I had a heart attack two weeks before Christmas when we were just getting going. That put the programme back about three weeks.

Q: Did you project manage the build yourself?
A: Yes. My son-in-law was going to do it because he’s a builder but he was too busy. It really opened my eyes to the British building industry.

Q: Did you work with any professionals at any point in the process?
A: Just the architect really, right at the beginning.

Q: Are there any particular materials that you would recommend to others looking to renovate or self build?
A: I used a lot of materials from Eurocell. I went into their local branch because I’d been told I could get Tapco slate tiles and I got talking to Andy (Dawson, the Wakefield Area Manager for Eurocell). He gave me a price and said if anyone meets that price come back to me and we’ll see what we can do – what else do you need? I came up with a list of building products and he came back with reasonable prices. I’ve checked them and he’s done the right thing by me. He’s been back a couple of times to see the project, once with some to see the Skypods and another time to look at the Tapco slate tiles.

Q: How long did the project take and was it the timeframe that you originally predicted?
A: It pretty much fitted the time frame apart from the heart attack. I reckoned on it taking around six months and being in the house by mid-June and we moved in on 11 July.

Q: Did you remain within the budget and if not what were the unexpected costs?
A: The original budget was £75,000 but it’s cost £110,000 because we put in some extra features. There’s a six foot high fence all the way around the house, for instance, but the underfloor heating was a bigger expense. That cost around £12,000 because we had rip out the timber floor and then fill in the 18 inch void with hardcore, stone and screed. But her indoors hates to see radiators on walls and it’s easier to do it at this stage of the game. The Skypods were an extra expense I hadn’t expected but when I saw them I knew I wanted them: I’d had a conservatory before and knew this would sort the problem of freezing in winter and boiling in summer.

Q: Please provide an overview of both the interior and exterior finished space.
A: The living area is spacious and yet comfortable. We spend most of our time in the kitchen-cum-diner-lounge during the day – that’s where the Skypods come in - and go into the living room in the evening before retiring upstairs at night. I haven’t really envisaged the garden yet so it’s all just laid to lawn. I could see the potential of the house but nothing’s knocking on my head yet about the garden.

Q: Is the finished space everything that you hoped it would be?
A: Yes. We feel very comfortable here. I can see me spending the rest of my days here. There’s very little maintenance needed so I can just potter about.

Q: What do you love most about your new home?
A: We put so much work into it and now it’s just how we want it, lovely and quiet.

Q: What’s your favourite room and why?
A: The extension at the back where we have the kitchen-dining area and lounge. It’s a great communal area.

Q: Is there anything that you would have done differently?
A: Not in the way I designed and built it, no.

Q: Would you do the whole thing again?
A: No. I’m 70. I would project manage it a different way – it’s the biggest project I’ve ever attempted.

Q: What advice would you offer to anyone looking to renovate or self build?
A: Double your budget.

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