Modern House in Hertfordshire
Mark & Fiona Raistrick, Tring, Hertfordshire
Front Ground Floor and First Floor Level.
Mark and Fiona Raistrick along with their 2 young children have built this wonderful family home complete with Glatthaar basement.
Mark Raistrick, an IT project manager, had always liked the idea of building his own house. Then, in 2008 he took things seriously and spent about 3 months searching for a plot of land. Having found nothing in the areas he liked, or at the right price, he had all but given up so opted instead to buy a house, with an old barn in the grounds, and in 2009 moved to Wendover in Hertfordshire. Mark temporarily satisfied his self-build itch by converting the barn and joining it to the existing house. By 2015 he had returned to the search for a development site, and having decided to refinance his current house he had the funds available should he find the right plot.
“I came across this house in the Tring area but it was in a bad state of repair and although the owners had many offers on it, when it came to surveys, nobody could get a mortgage on it as it was not structurally sound. Fiona and I decided to get some pre-planning application advice and were told that even though the plot is in a green belt and an area of outstanding natural beauty, in principle at least, it would be possible to get permission for a replacement dwelling. We knew there was a risk there but it was a reasonably well calculated one so we decided to go for it. The owner accepted our offer and the sale were processed in no time. By the end of 2015 we had sold our own house so moved into rented accommodation in Wendover.
I wasn’t really enjoying my job and wanted to take some time off so with the aim of keeping costs to a minimum, I switched my skills in IT project management to project managing my own build.
I got an architect on board, and the design for the house came about through his knowledge coupled with the pre-planning advice, which helped inform decisions. Given that we were restricted in terms of the footprint for a new build, we looked at the option of a basement to give us more living space. Our architect drew the plans to include a basement with a games room, and a cinema room.
We tried to decipher what was realistic in planning terms. The flat, green roof for example, wasn’t something I wanted necessarily but our architect felt that the reduced impact on the environment would be seen favorably by the planning office. In the end, we got the planning permission first time. From completing on the sale of the plot, through the design phase, getting the planning permission and satisfying the planning permission, it was 18 months before work could finally begin”, says Mark.
Mark had used this time to research the build and came across Glatthaar at a self-build show. He met with a representative from the company and went to see some completed projects. “I looked at one Glatthaar basement, which happened to be only a few doors away from the site and was really impressed with the workmanship, which gave me a lot of confidence. I discussed with Glatthaar the prospect of building not just the basement but the main structure for the whole house. I wanted to ensure that the house, and especially the basement was as warm as possible, whilst not overheating, so I spent a lot of time thinking about thermal bridging. I really liked the fact that with Glatthaar basements, the thermal mass regulates the temperature. I had considered Insulating Concrete Formwork as a build solution, and did speak to some other pre-manufacturers but Glatthaar gave the most reasonable quote so in the end it was an easy decision to go with them. I signed the contract and having already lined up the groundworks, things moved on quickly from there”, says Mark.
Mark started the demolition of the existing house in February 2017 and all went smoothly with the groundworks and drainage, which I had subcontracted out. “We’re on a sloping plot so at the design stage, I was always mindful, as was our architect obviously of how we would make a build work on a gradient. The final drawings were spot on and Glatthaar made nothing of the challenge. We’re on chalk soil, which is particularly solid and even though it rained a fair amount, at no point did we have an issue with water filling up in the groundworks.
The build started in April and Glatthaar were on site until July. Glatthaar did the foundations and structural shell displaying an impressive level of expertise and professionalism. I then managed everything that came after, ie. all the external detailing and interior fit out including external insulation and cladding, green roof, non-structural walls, false ceilings, etc. It’s been a challenge to say the least. Even though the coordination of things, ie, lining up tradespeople, etc, is the same principle as any type of project management, without having good contacts in the trade who would do the work for a fair price, it proved challenging. I realise now that I had been a bit naïve but once the build had started, I was locked in and simply had to make it work. I had to learn how to be a quantity surveyor, as well as a plumbers and electricians’ apprentice and had to be the general labourer throughout. I hadn’t appreciated how hard it can be to build a modern house. Everything we were doing was a deviation from a traditional build. For example, I had to become an expert on flat roofing materials, which was especially challenging. It has been really quite stressful at times and everything took a lot longer than I’d anticipated.
Finally though, we’re almost finished and the house is looking fantastic. It’s been a true labour of love and when my wife and children come onsite, it’s great to see how excited they are to move in. The kitchen is in, as are all of the bathrooms, and we’re at the painting stage in many rooms now. We still have some flooring to go down, and then it’s being the big clean. We’re hopeful that we can move out of our rented house and into our new home in about 8 weeks from now, which will be almost exactly 2 years since the build started”, says Mark.
“My experience of Glatthaar has been a totally positive one. The basement and structure of the house is incredibly solid and sound, and the basement, although it has no natural light, is really bright. It’ll be the perfect space for our cinema room and a large games room complete with full size snooker table.
There are a number of things that I might have done differently with the build though. Even though the floor to ceiling windows looks good and gives a fantastic outlook over the garden especially, they have caused a headache and have created extra expense as they require such precision and leave no margin for error. Also, I’ve had to sink the curtains/blinds into the ceiling, which has been a further unanticipated expense.
Also, if I’d thought of it, I might have left some walls with exposed concrete rather than plastering and painting everything. I’m really pleased with the ash cladding on the exterior. It’s a nice caramel color at the moment but I’m reliably advised that it’ll weather evenly to a nice silver tone in time.
It’s been a great deal of work, and I’ve learnt a lot, but on the whole I’m so happy with the house. I would potentially do a self-build again but unless I was using a pre-manufacturer for all of it, I’d go traditional rather than contemporary”, says Mark.