Village House in Bierton
Ben Arnold, a third-generation family builder, grew up just down the road from where he’s now built his own family home along with his wife, Lucy. The couple met at college and Lucy, from Suffolk, relocated to Buckinghamshire some 17 years ago to be with Ben. Not only have they built their own spacious family home but Ben and his father have built two further houses on the plot of land in the village of Brierton, just outside of Aylesbury.
"A local Estate Agent got in touch initially to let us know that a piece of land was coming up for sale. We decided to buy it in the hope that we’d get planning permission to build on it. It was a considerable risk as we couldn’t be sure we’d get it and we couldn’t afford to build just one house on it, so we had some plans drawn up for three separate dwellings. We sent the application to the planning department and waited, and waited…and waited. It took thirty-nine weeks before we finally got a response, which was a ‘no’. Obviously, it was disappointing, given that we’d planned to build our own family. It meant a lot to us and could effectively make or break us. We went away and did a bit of a redesign, and in June 2014, eight weeks after our second application, our plans were passed.
Then came the hard work! We sold some of the garden land as plot two (to the family building firm), which helped pay for the building of the first house (plot 1). We built this during evenings and weekends and lived in it. We then knocked down the existing bungalow and prepped for the basement. We hadn’t really considered a basement initially, but we thought we’d be a bit cheeky with the planning and ask for one. It was passed with the house plans and given that we had the opportunity to do it, we thought we’d go for it. As a builder, I like to try and challenge myself by doing something a bit different with every build, and when it came to building our own family home, we knew a basement would be the chance to have a bit of fun.
We got a couple of quotes for the building of the basement including Glatthaar who we’d discovered via our online research. We really liked the construction system that Glatthaar use and felt trust in them as a company straightaway.
We signed a contract with them in early 2015 when we were told exactly what we needed to do to prepare the site for the build. The plot was very overgrown, so we spent 3-4 weeks cutting down trees and generally clearing the site before we started digging. When Glatthaar arrived, unfortunately, we hadn’t allowed enough space for the basement construction, so things were delayed a bit while we dug out further. It was our error but Glatthaar were very understanding and helpful in ensuring we got it right the second time around. In fact, they approached everything in the same ‘no-fuss’ way. We discovered that the pre-cast panels for the basement were going to be too big to get down the road we’re on, so we rented out a nearby farmyard and Glatthaar hired out two smaller lorries to transport them on. They weren’t deterred by any sort of logistical problems. They just dealt with everything in an impressively professional manner.
The basement arrived in early September 2015, and the crew quickly got to work. The weather was absolutely terrible with non-stop rain for days and days, but the crew carried on regardless, working at all times with efficiency and dedication. The reinforced concrete for the basement was poured on top of the base we’d established and then the precast walls were put into place. The whole thing seemed to go like clockwork and took just three weeks from start to finish. It was really good fun to watch, and we felt complete assurance in Glatthaar as a company. The crew worked so hard and were very precise in everything they did with a few little idiosyncrasies along the way. They used a 50-tonne crane and wooden fold out rulers!
With the basement complete, and acting as the foundation for the house, we backfilled the hole and started work on the main build in December 2015. It took us almost a year to build the house, and we moved in Dec 2016." Ben Arnold.
"We’re really pleased with our new home, which has five bedrooms, and plenty of family living accommodation on the main floors. We also have a cinema room on the top floor and then the basement of course, where we have a further four rooms and a WC. One is currently used as seating area, and another as a storage room but then the two main rooms are a recording studio and a pub. As a musician, Ben has always wanted a decent space for his drum kit and a place for the band to rehearse. Now that is exactly what he has. On a day to day basis, the thing we love most about the basement is the silence and calm atmosphere, but it’s also a place where Ben can play his drums as loudly as he likes without disturbing the rest of the household, which is fantastic. We’ve had a party down there which went on until 4 am, and neither of our boys were woken up once. The sound is completely absorbed by the concrete.
We’ve also been quite creative with the space and have used recycled materials as much as possible. In the central area, along one wall, we’ve used a series of old doors which were lying around in the salvage yard. We’ve covered some walls with old scaffold boards and others with brick slips, and we’ve left some walls as bare concrete, all of which adds texture to the rooms. Ben made the bar itself out of concrete and then glazed it, and I created a screen print, which we then covered with Perspex. We love trying something different and are really pleased with how it’s turned out.
We’ve got light wells in both of the main rooms which means they’re nice and light in the day, but we’ve got lots of different lighting which makes it really atmospheric at night.
The workmanship of Glatthaar is second to none, and the product itself does exactly what they said it would. The basement, which is also the foundation for the house, is incredibly solid and really has exceeded our expectations. We’ve had 100% trust in Glatthaar as a company from the start, and they’ve definitely delivered. We’d have no worries in recommending Glatthaar to someone else." Lucy.