Best Self Build Home or Renovation 2016: The Contenders

Vote now and help us crown Britain's Best Self Build or Renovation Project in this year's Build It Awards
by Build It
20th July 2016

One of the great joys of being part of the Build It team is getting the chance to connect with self builders and renovators on the ground – and to share their experiences, successes and challenges with our readers.

Every year, the editorial team and Build It Awards judges get together to create a shortlist of the best homes we’ve featured in the past 12 months. It’s always fun revisiting these stunning projects and deliberating over what makes them special – and after some intense debates we’ve settled on six schemes that truly are the cream of the crop.

From a modest, budget-friendly self build through to a stunning contemporary fire station conversion, these wonderfully individual projects show just what can be achieved with a little courage, dedication and innovation.

The beauty of these inspiring schemes is that they’ve been completed by people just like you, who set out with a goal of creating a unique home on a realistic budget. Yet each of them has wowed our judges for different reasons. So now it’s over to you, Build It’s readers, to help us crown the UK’s best self build or renovation project of 2016!

You can also join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #BuildItAwards

VOTING HAS CLOSED for the 2016 Build It Awards and the winners have been announced.


contemporary brick clad home

Light Filled Modern Home: Jo & Wayne Dennis

When they finally found the perfect plot, in the heart of a Staffordshire village, serial renovators Jo and Wayne Dennis leapt at the chance to build their own home. Although the land came with planning permission, the couple wanted to create something better tailored to their needs – so they turned to Aaron Chetwynd Architects.

Key features:

  • Their design features heritage-style bricks and reclaimed clay roof tiles to blend the house into its surroundings – while double-height glazing and a sunken courtyard at the rear give it a unique contemporary vibe.
  • Internally, vaulted ceilings, a stunning feature wall, crisp finishes and clever use of glass help to create a high-quality living environment.
  • The masonry construction is reinforced with steel framing and beams, so there are no internal structural walls.
  • The build cost totalled £450,000, representing great value at £957 per m2.

Full Story


affordable timber frame home

Amazing Value-For-Money Self Build: Philip & Emma Walters

The Walters took a pragmatic approach to their first foray into self building. The couple knocked down their deteriorating 1920s property and started afresh, working with their architect to design a modest dormer bungalow, built with a brick clad timber frame.

Key features:

  • While the professional advice for a square footprint simplified construction and helped to bring the project in on a tight budget, Philip decided against conformist box-like rooms internally.
  • Other key decisions included specifying reclaimed bricks and timber for features such as the fireplace and window boards – which not only helped with the budget, but also give this contemporary home a sense of being comfortably time-worn.
  • Philip project managed the scheme himself, pouring hundreds of hours into the research and specification phase. He routinely asked trades to quote on a labour-only basis and then set about shopping for the materials.
  • A build cost of £169,711 demonstrates the couple’s intelligent project management and eye for a bargain.

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contemporary fire station conversion

Clever Conversion: Mark & Rhonda Brunjes

When Mark Brunjes spotted the for sale sign on a village fire station built in 1964, he immediately put in an offer. He eventually secured the property a few months later, once a higher bidder pulled out, and with the purchase finalised soon set to work on his ambitious conversion plans.

Key features:

  • The footprint of the original building hasn’t changed, but the roof has been raised to allow enough headroom for two storeys, with a raft of glazing on the first floor living zone – which leads onto a terrace.
  • The three-year project involved significant amounts of concrete and steel, along with large windows that required special lifting equipment.
  • What was once the fire engine entrance now features a large glazed panel, inviting natural light to flood in and framing the statement spiral staircase.
  • The 300m2 self build was completed for £240,000.

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contemporary oak frame self build

Characterful Woodland Self Build: Darren Findlow & Anthony Higham

A 1.3 acre woodland site ticked all the boxes for Darren Findlow and Anthony Higham, who switched onto the idea of self build after failing to find a property to buy. The couple found inspiration in Carpenter Oak’s work, choosing to combine a post and beam frame with a structural insulated panel wraparound to achieve a highly efficient, eco-friendly home.

Key features:

  • The plot came with planning permission in place, but this was for a mock Tudor design with small windows. The couple submitted new plans to change the scheme completely, incorporating more glass.
  • They joined forces to take on the role of project managers, sourcing materials and liaising with trades themselves.
  • The overall setup includes a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery unit, an air source heat pump and underfloor heating, combined with excellent airtightness in the building’s fabric and good-quality glazing.
  • The finished house came in just 3% over budget at £360,000 – something that’s largely down to the couple’s clever product sourcing.

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contemporary mews home

Creative Home on a Tight Plot: June Russell & Andrew Laing

Building a new dwelling on a tight city-centre plot is rarely a straightforward affair – but intrepid couple June Russell and Andrew Laing were ready to take on the challenge. They brought in Pink Architects to create an eco-friendly, modern vernacular-style house that would resemble a Victorian mews.

Key features:

  • Access to a compact urban plot can be a challenge – but Andrew, who project managed the work, found a number of clever solutions. The first was to rent the adjacent builder’s yard, which had recently been vacated, throughout the works.
  • He also decided to go with a site-built timber frame, cut and constructed completely on site.
  • Given its compact size, clever storage was a must – and the couple have sought out every nook and cranny to turn into cupboards and concealed cabinets.
  • Despite the awkward site, the completed build came in at just £200,415.

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'60s home renovation and extension

‘60s Box Transformed: Chris & Lesley Wilkins

Chris and Lesley Wilkins have completed the kind of project that many people dream about: transforming a damp, draughty and unpromising 1960s box into a cosy, characterful and super-insulated brick and oak home. The scheme was a real team effort, bringing together main contractor Kre-8 and architectural technologist Ben Todd Jones.

Key features:

  • The crux of the design was to remove the existing flat-roofed garages and replace them with a more visually appealing side extension, as well as add a contemporary oak-and-glass structure at the rear by Oakwrights.
  • The rest of the original house was retrofitted with external wall insulation and finished with a self-coloured textured render, set above a 1m-tall plinth wall featuring tumbled bricks.
  • The finished project has added 118m2 of living space to the original property as well as transforming its aesthetics – and all in a matter of just 20 weeks on site.
  • The complete renovation and extension cost £300,000.

Full Story


Build It Awards 2016 - Best Self Build or Renovation ProjectVoting closes on 6th September 2016. The winner of the Best Self Build or Renovation Project 2016, sponsored by IDSystems, will be announced at the Build It Awards ceremony on 22nd September 2016.

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