The Build Process

Programme One: The Planning

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The race is on! Our two couples, Ian and Victoria and Ray and Jo have just one week to build a home for under £50,000!

Their first port of call was the architects where they found out if their dreams could be made into reality. Before Ian and Victoria even met with their architects, Jeremy and Bill, they had tried to get a head start by using some computer software to produce some initial designs. Bill and Jeremy thought these showed promise and could be incorporated into a final design.

Meanwhile Jo and Ray met their architect, Graham, at a Grade 2 listed barn conversion he had just completed. After some concerns that they didn't want their barn-style house to resemble a log cabin or shed, they were won over once Graham showed them around and they saw how well the conversion had been done.

Ian and Victoria were soon sold on the idea of an eco-home was a huge high-ceilinged conservatory and grass roof, while Jo and Ray opted for a rustic Shaker-style barn, suited to country living.

It was then off to Wales to visit Benfield ATT, specialist timber-frame builders. There the architects drawings were converted to engineering plans and the timbers cut to size. The timbers were provided by Ultrajoist, they remove most of the water from the timber and then seal it. This offers a very high quality structural building material.

The couples were able to see their houses partially constructed as a 'dry run' in Benfield's warehouses and were excited to see the first signs of their houses coming together.

It was then back to the Bullring to meet the teams of builders and students would would be helping them in their huge task.

Building began in earnest and after only a few hours, Jo and Ray's house was beginning to take shape with floors and uprights soon in place. Progress was slower on Ian and Victoria's house - they had chosen to have a self-supporting house with no internal beams and this was causing a few problems.

However, by the end of day one, both Janie and Mike were amazed by the fantastic progress. Some external walls and windows were in place in Jo and Ray's house and, over at Ian and Victoria's house, they looked to be catching up fast as they got stuck in fixing the decking down.

 

Programme Two: Taking Shape!

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After a slow start, Ian and Victoria's eco-home was beginning to take shape, their walls and floor were down, they just needed a roof! For Jo and Ray it was time to muck in properly with Jo installing the plumbing and Ray working on the gable end.

Ian found progress wasn't as quick as he would have liked so, although there were plenty of small jobs to do, he wanted the main structure to be be in place as soon as possible. He managed to rope Victoria and Mike into his plan, but after attempting to move some timbers and discussions about altering room sizes, they decided it might be best left for a day when there were more people to help on site.

Jo received her first plumbing lessons and was impressed at how easy it was to install the pipework.

Over at the eco-home, cladding expert John turned up to help nail the wood to the outside walls. Once the wood was the right length (thanks to Mike's precision cutting!) adding the boards was a swift job that soon had the house looking more like a home.

There's just enough time for the couples to nip out to choose their kitchens. Ian and Victoria wanted a kitchen made from sustainable wood for the eco-home and with the help of some computer wizardry had soon designed their perfect kitchen. Jo and Ray also found a kitchen they both liked although they had different ideas on what a kitchen should be. For Ray it was a place to be in and out of as quickly as possible whereas Jo felt it should be a focal point. Not hard to guess who does most of the cooking in their household then!

In the afternoon it was back to work on the site, but Victoria wasn't impressed when Ian disappeared, and was found over at Ray and Jo's giving them a helping hand! Ian has more mischief up his sleeve when he reveals his plan to install a rather large fishtank upstairs. They chat to Dr Benfield about the idea and are reassured that the houses are designed to take huge amounts of weight and the fishtank won't be a problem.

Ray spent most of the day holed up in the roof working on the gables and his masterpiece is finally revealed to a round of applause for Jo and even an impressed Ian.

 

Programme Three: Hands-on!

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After just a few days, the houses were really starting to shape up. Victoria and Ian had door frames and stairs to install and for Jo and Ray it was time to start on the rendering of the outside walls.

Ray received his first lesson in rendering from expert Richard and it soon became obvious that it was not as easy as Richard made it look. After a few false starts in which more cement landed on Ray and the floor than the walls, he picked up the technique and was away!

Meanwhile, Mike gave Victoria and Ian a hand constructing the door frame, but despite their careful measuring it was just a fraction too big for the space so had to be taken down and resized. Their next task of installing the stairs went without a hitch and they were both relieved to have access to their upstairs at last. Although their planned bedroom upstairs was fairly small it had great views overlooking the downstairs area.

Jo had made light work of the outside decking and Janie was impressed with her speed. But when she returned later, Ray was working on the decking instead. After questioning, it turned out that Ray was quite used to Jo convincing him to finish jobs she had started!

One striking feature on Ian and Victoria's house was to be an outside wall covered in striking blue tiles. These had arrived on site made from volcanic lava and weighed an impressive one and a half tonnes! These had to be carefully fixed to the walls using brackets to spread the load but the hard work was well worth the stunning results.

Jo and Ray had opted for a eye-catching roof made from aluminium. This not only looked good but was a doodle to fix to the roof.

At the half-way point of the build, both houses were looking great on the outside - soon it would be time to start the exciting task of kitting out the insides.

 

Programme Four: Watertight!

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The sun made a rare appearance and everyone was in high spirits as they ploughed on with the challenge.

There was still masses to do on both houses. Jo and Ray's house still needed some rooms plasterboarded and there was plenty of painting and decorating to get started on. Ian and Victoria were looking forward to their first day in a dry house and were hoping to keep it that way by making their roof watertight.

With only a few days to go everyone was being recruited to help out. Jo and Ray's students made a mistake of straying too near the other house and were soon snatched up by Victoria. One of the judges, Catherine could also be found plasterboarding, although she promised to spend equal time on both houses to avoid accusations of favouritism!

Ian and Victoria's architects, Bill and Jeremy were over for a site visit and to see what kind of compromises had been made. The proposed roof on the upper decking had had to be scrapped and there was also an unsightly upright beam in the downstairs area. However the architects had a plan up their sleeve...

Janie couldn't track down Jo and wondered if she was skiving but actually Jo had been making some frantic phonecalls as it emerged that their staircase hadn't even been built yet, but she was given reassurance that it would be on site tomorrow.

There was just time for the couples to hit the department stores to choose their furnishings. Ian was quite content for Victoria to take the lead here and they paid close attention to textures and how they would all work together. Jo and Ray were a bit more cautious to begin with but soon got into the swing of things.

The next task for Ian was to ensure their roof was watertight before they could add the planned seedum roof made out of plants. This was done by using a hot air gun which fused the overlapping sheets of membrane together. Jo and Ray's roof was also nearing completion, with the panels of aluminium fixed down in extra quick time by experts Steve and Steve.

Jeremy's plan to remove the offending beam by fixing a strengthening bracket to some of the other beams meant that he found himself volunteering to jump up and down on the mezzanine level to test it. Everyone held their breath...but luckily it didn't budge at all.

 

Programme Five: Near completion!

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Only a few days to go and still a lot more had to be done, including plenty of dreaded plasterboarding on both houses! Plasterboarding two houses was a massive task but there were hardly any hands to be spared to get the work done. Things might have turned ugly when Janie discovered Mike had not only stolen their students to help out but also the props they had made to hold the plasterboard up. Luckily for Mike she forgave him.

Up on the roof Ian was preparing the area for the seedum plants. First on went a layer of fleece-like material to hold the water, then a layer of growing medium that according to Mike smelt 'like old socks'. Finally the plants went on, a mixture of seedum turf and individual plugs of plants. The roof would not only look great but be fantastic insulation too.

Victoria also got stuck in with mixing the paint. However in keeping with their eco-home, she used a special environmentally-friendly paint, which not only contained just natural ingredients but smelt nice too. Expert Chris supplied the base white paint and Victoria had fun mixing in the dyes to create a sunny lemony colour.

Over at their neighbours house, Ray, aka the Plasterboard King, was slowly but surely nearing the end, after a couple of days of hard graft. Janie was outraged at the difference between the number of people helping them and helping Ian and Victoria. After accosting site manager Geoff she press-ganged him into agreeing to send some people over as soon as possible.

Ian was finishing off the roof and added in a few extra bit such as bark and twigs to encourage birds and insects to take up residence and create a really diverse habitat.

To the relief of Janie and Jo, the stairs finally turned up and after a few adjustments and scrapes they were fixed into place thanks to Geoff who had possibly been a little guilt-tripped by Janie into turning up to help!

Another good day on site, the mammoth task of plasterboarding was finally complete - now they just needed to paint them all!

 

Programme Six: A few hours left!

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The couples were down to their last few days and there were still loads of jobs to tackle, like painting, tiling and oh, fitting an entire bathroom and kitchen in both houses!

So there was no time to waste, in fact the previous night in bed, Jo and Ray and spent the time writing an extensive 'to do' list. To try and reduce this a bit, Ray got cracking on the kitchen and Jo headed into the bathroom to begin tiling.

Ian and Victoria's upstairs veranda was missing a roof but there was no time to add one, so it was down to Ian's mum to pop to the market and buy some fabric to drape across the beams instead.

Mike was hard at work and produced a set of steps to lead up to the decking. He was chuffed at getting them done but a bit deflated when Ian deemed them not enough of a feature.

Back at Jo and Ray's, the carpet was being fitted as well as the laminate flooring. Janie was amazed at the progress that had been made, especially when she saw that Ray had almost finished the kitchen units and Jo was now grouting the bathroom tiles.

The kitchen was almost done at Victoria and Ian's as well and Victoria promised there would be cooked breakfasts for everyone by tomorrow! Ian's pride and joy - his fishtank turned up and he spent a couple of happy hours slotting it into place.

Kitchen fitter Huntley turned up to help Ray with the final bits of the installation. Janie and Huntley went on the warpath when they couldn't find the sink and suspected it had disappeared into the other house. Luckily it turned up and war was avoided.

Mike's new and improved stairs were now made and it was relief all round as Ian gave them the thumbs up.

The clock was ticking and before long, it was the last hour. There was just enough time for Jo to screw in a cheeky door number - number one naturally - and it was time for Janie and Mike to make everyone 'down tools'. Despite everyone desperately trying to snatch a couple more minutes, and Huntley threatening a tantrum, it was the end of the build!

Just a few more hours to dress the houses and then it would be judgement day!

 

Programme Seven: The Winner is...

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Judgement day finally arrived, but there was no time to sit and worry as the couples only had a few hours to dress their homes before the judges turned up.

Jo was feeling emotional with the end in sight after two weeks of solid hard work. The church bells ringing outside didn't help either, reminding her of her happy wedding day and so the tears were soon flowing.

Mike was worried when he spotted dripping water but luckily it was just where Ian had spilt water filling up the tank. He then released the fish into their new glamorous home, but Victoria wasn't too impressed with the little tiddlers he had selected!

Later on, the tension began to show when Ian turned up with a huge widescreen TV, just after Victoria had finished dressing the lounge. She was adamant that there was no space for it, but Ian was equally firm that all lounges needed a TV. But soon, Ian did admit it was a bit on the large side!

There were just a few minutes for Mike to talk to them about their house. They were relaxed before the build, but did feel stressed at times over the two weeks, especially when they had to make compromises. Overall they were delighted at how things had turned out and with the team spirit throughout.

Janie also grabbed Jo and Ray for a quick chat. They loved their home, and had even grown to love the changes that had had to be made. Despite the pressure, they both felt it had brought them even closer together.

It wasn't long before the three judges, Souki, Tim and Catherine turned up to view the homes. It was a tense time as they inspected every nook and cranny to assess the visual impact, liveability and what the couples had achieved under pressure. After several nervous hours, the envelope was produced and it was down to Janie to announce the winners, who were...

 

...announced on Discovery Home & Leisure - keep tuned!

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