Guest Post: Building your own Home

Building your own home is not an easy task. At first it sounds amazing, like a dream, until the windows arrive in the wrong size, you’re up all night doing finance calculations, and you have to borrow more money from the bank.

Me and Jay want to build our next home. It’s a huge task, which is why I’ve brought this guest post to you from Elle at Ridge and Furrow. I first noticed Elle on Instagram, and her amazing barn conversion which her and her husband built up from scratch. I was intrigued about how they’d achieved the home they have now, so invited her to share her story with me:


Firstly, where’s your home and when did you buy it?

Location: we’re in Gloucestershire along the Cotswolds’ ridge. ¬†We bought the barn in 2012 when I was 7 months pregnant with our first child. We were living in a nearby town and wanted to move to the country but stay in the area.


What made you consider building your own home?

I’d always dreamed of building my own home. I wanted to be an architect when I was a kid but didn’t care for the technical side of it. When I met my husband we got talking about building on our first date. He shared my zeal and promised he’d build me a house one day.


How did you choose the land/building/location?

We searched for years for a home in the countryside that we could afford and wasn’t too much of a compromise. We also searched for land in NZ (where my husband is from) thinking that if we were going to build it would have to be over there as land for building in this country is really difficult to come by, usually exceedingly expensive and or compromised by location/size. Then there’s planning restrictions to contend with.

We weren’t looking for a barn but we stumbled upon it advertised in the window of the estate agent just across the road from us in town. We’d put in a sealed bid which is a nerve wracking process but we got lucky. We weren’t the highest bidder but our proposal pleased the owner.

The barn already had planning permission to become a 2-bed house. We didn’t like the plans though as they covered over all the internal structure of the barn and didn’t make use of the height of the space. So we drew up our own plans. We did this by ourselves without an architect, though we did consult a structural engineer to make sure everything load bearing would hold up.


Was there any work you did yourself? Or did you mostly hire tradesmen?

My husband did all the work himself including the trades – plumbing and electrics but got in professionals to check and sign off these. The only things that were here when we bought the place were the brick and stone walls and the roof. My husband made everything else including the fireplace and chimney, all the wooden frames that make the upper floors, stairs, and wooden division walls. We did get a professional carpenter to make the doors and windows.


How long did it take you to finish it?

We’ve been living here for 2 years. We moved in with a temporary kitchen which is only now being finished. It’ll never really be finished but it feels less like a building site now.


Top Tip:

Hold your nerve and remember what you wanted to achieve in the first place.


Did building your own home take longer than you thought? If yes, what setbacks did you have?

No real set backs but we weren’t realistic to start with. We wanted to be in before our first child began walking, but he was 3 before we moved in and he had a baby brother who was just starting to walk.


Where did you live during the renovation?

We stayed on in our house in town with the kids as long as we could afford, then rented a house on the other side of the village for a year. I visited with the kids most days and we played/worked in the garden whilst husband worked on the house. Husband is self-employed and just took on fewer jobs for a couple of years.


Is there anything you would have done differently?

Only initial paint choices which we’re now altering. We listened to the advice of others rather than going with our own instincts but it’s easily altered.

We’ve not lost the zeal for building and we’re still contemplating what the next project will be ūü§Ē


You can find Elle on Instagram to see more of her incredible build.


barn door on pigsty barn before renovation


Inside of barn


Building your own home - putting scaffolding up.


Barn from the outside with flowers


Inside finished bathroom, bare brick wall with mirror and sink


Barn with small library, ladder and armchair


Living room with bare brick wall, beams and modern grey sofa


We bought a second-hand kitchen….on eBay!

We bought a second-hand kitchen on eBay for an absolute bargain, and it was probably the riskiest purchase I’ve ever made!

When Jay turned round to me and said he’d found a second-hand kitchen on eBay, I said absolutely not. No way.

I don’t often use eBay. Partly because I don’t trust that a) the sellers will even send the product, and b) that the goods might be faulty, damaged or broken.

And yet somehow we ended up¬†with a kitchen…

Jay and my dad had to go and take the kitchen out of the seller’s house and transfer it back to Chester in a van. But for ¬£650, we got a bargain.

Can I add that we bought the kitchen BEFORE the sale of the house had even gone through! Yes, we’re mad, but it all paid off!

I love the kitchen, and it cost ¬£20,000 new which is money that we just didn’t have. We had to pay the house deposit and then all the renovation costs as well. We did manage to buy a brand new bathroom suite though obviously (ain’t no way I’m buying one of¬†those second hand. I have my limits).

kitchen being marked up

Sizing up the kitchen

Figuring out how we could make someone else’s kitchen work in our house was difficult. The kitchen was originally custom made for the seller’s house, so we had to shake it up a bit.¬†When we bought the house, the sink used to be facing next door’s wall,¬†but we’ve moved it so it’s now facing the back garden.

Big decisions

The other big decision we had to make was if we wanted a hallway. You can see by the picture above that there used to be a door behind the cooker, which we boarded up. We considered building a hallway in to separate the lounge. But we would have lost so much space in doing that.

We decided to keep it modern and left the whole thing open plan. Now we have an arch that passes between the dining room and the lounge.

Now, after plastering and emulsioning, the second-hand kitchen looks, well, brand new!

second-hand kitchen

The couple we bought it off said we could take the Range cooker for an extra ¬£200, so the whole thing cost us ¬£850 and came with a built-in fridge unit, and a built-in freezer, a Belfast sink, and solid granite worktops which I’m in love with. Funnily enough, I never saw myself as a granite girl, more of a solid wood, so who knew.


This is the completed result.

As I said, we had to rearrange the whole kitchen to fit our room, and were left with some strange gaps in the corners. See the wine rack in the left-hand corner? Jay built that from leftover units to fill the remaining space where we couldn’t possibly fit another unit.

Overall I’m really happy with our kitchen, and would buy a second-hand kitchen over a new one again.


Want more? See how to avoid house renovation disasters.

The Day Our House Offer Was Accepted

Spoiler: Our house offer was accepted.

Buying a house wasn’t something either me or Jay had done before, so we were thrilled when our house offer was accepted. We’re only 22 and 23-years old, and the house we bought needs a lot of work.

Despite there being no chain on either side, the process of buying the house was a bit of a struggle, but we got by with the help of our mortgage advisor.

Our first house offer was rejected, obviously. We knew that would happen, and absolutely expected it. But our second house offer came through when Jay was having a nap! I remember it being a Friday, around 4pm, so neither of us was expecting to hear until after the weekend.

The phone rang, and it was the mortgage advisor who said he was phoning with good news. I immediately jumped up, and was practically screaming Thank You’s into the phone.¬†Jay sleeps through the whole thing.

House offer accepted

Now I face a dilemma. Do I let him sleep or do I wake him up? Well, how often do you buy a house? Of course I jumped on him, told him that we had a house and that we were officially adulting our way through life.

What do I get back?

“Hmm, that’s good”. He sits up slowly and looks at me as if “You woke me up for this?”. He must have been having a very deep nap, but he quickly realised what was going on and was excited as I was.

Phew! No second thoughts on either side then.

Delays followed by more delays

Even though we had no chain, the buying process took 3 months. There was a delay with the mortgage offer. The bank we took our mortgage out with (I’m not naming names) apparently don’t live in the 21st Century, and things were only done by post….or fax?!?!

The mortgage offer needed to be sent to the estate agents, yet it took six weeks to reach them. In total, the mortgage offer was ‘sent’ three times, by post and fax each time. Yet, the first two times it never reached its destination. If it was sent via email, the offer could have been sent in under a minute, so we weren’t exactly thrilled about the holdup.

And then Christmas was looming, so everything was pushed back even further. On the 6th January, 2017, we exchanged and received the keys.

So, our first job? Demolishing the kitchen!