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Is Britain’s self-build boom over as costs go through the roof?

They’re the ultimate symbol of individuality — homes designed and built to your specifications, perhaps with you doing some of the heavy lifting, too.

But have soaring inflation, labour and materials shortages, plus the war in Ukraine, combined to push the costs of your dream self-build home through the roof?

It looks that way, with some of the biggest rises being for the most commonly-used materials in any new property.

Soaring inflation, labour and materials shortages, plus the war in Ukraine, have combined to push the costs of your dream self-build home through the roof

Soaring inflation, labour and materials shortages, plus the war in Ukraine, have combined to push the costs of your dream self-build home through the roof

Neil Rogers of Honeywood Joinery, a carpentry business in Newcastle-under-Lyme, says: ‘I was told by my local merchants that if you’re pricing up a job and it’s longer than a month away, add another 15 to 20 per cent for more timber inflation.’

British Steel announced a 25 per cent price rise on some products last month, while UK cement production dropped more than 11 per cent last year.

More than six-in-ten roofing companies increased charges in the final quarter of 2021 alone, according to the industry’s trade body the National Federation of Roofing Contractors. 

And the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said at the start of this year that general building materials had soared in price by 21 per cent in just 12 months.

And that was before the energy price cap was increased this month and Russia invaded Ukraine.

All that translates into eye-watering increases in costs of the most basic work and products, whether for a self-build or even a modest extension.

Roof tiles have risen 24 per cent in a year, according to price comparison service Quotationcheck, while underfloor heating is 15 per cent more costly and a loft extension is a fifth more expensive now than it was a year ago. 

And that’s not all — plywood is 44 per cent dearer and UPVC guttering has soared 42 per cent.

Worst of all is the cost of a RSJ — a rolled steel joist which is typically used as a lintel and can be found in most new homes and larger extensions. This rose in price by a jaw-dropping 82 per cent in 2021, according to Quotation Check.

So what’s going on?

‘The current global raw materials shortage has had a profound impact on the UK trade and construction industry. 

Soaring demand, the impact of Brexit, continued pandemic recovery and shock factors like forest fires in North America are all reasons behind the shortages,’ says Mike Fairman, the chief executive of Checkatrade.

This casts a cloud over the future of self-building, which for years has been promoted by successive governments as a way for people to create their dream properties with more unusual designs than the clone-homes produced by the big developers.

Estate agency Savills, which has analysed the self-build sector, says between 7 per cent and 10 per cent of the homes constructed in the UK each year are self-build — that’s about 13,000 annually.

The Government wants to increase this to between 30,000 to 40,000 annually and has told every council in England that it should keep a register of self-builders who want to buy plots.

In theory, ‘spare’ land — owned by councils or negotiated as part of planning permission given to big private housing estates — should be allotted to those on the register. But the take-up by individuals has been patchy. 

Bristol, for example, has more than 1,200 on its register, but in Liverpool there are fewer than 130.

Even so, thousands are inspired every year by TV’s Kevin McCloud and his Grand Designs team — even if most self-builds are modest three and four-bedroom family homes rather than ‘statement houses’.

But today’s price spiral does not mean those dreams need to be quashed. Instead, switch your thinking to how costs can be kept down on self-build and extension projects. 

One way is to get a quote for materials before work starts, buy ahead of construction and store them until required.

Another is to get an architect to create that dream home by moving few or no load-bearing walls from the original property — this will require fewer steels or structural timbers, two materials which have seen the steepest price rises.

Likewise, the more a self-build property is open-plan inside, the more load-bearing steels will be required. Smaller rooms may be a cosy compromise.

Buying off-the-shelf is also likely to be a money-saver. For self-builders, this might mean choosing a kit house which is then constructed by builders on site. 

This would save you paying for a one-off design where all materials and everything from doors to staircases are individually built.

And there’s even a little good news on some costs. The Government has scrapped VAT on energy-saving measures and their installation in homes. 

With the need to cut heating costs at the top of household agendas, that’s a good reason to push ahead with your self-build ambitions, if your budget allows.

On the market… Grand designs 

Cornwall: This new detached home in Rock has six bedrooms. The home has been designed so it can be one property or partitioned off into a self-contained three-bedroom annex. Johnbrayestates.co.uk, 01208 862601. £1.395million

Cornwall: This new detached home in Rock has six bedrooms. The home has been designed so it can be one property or partitioned off into a self-contained three-bedroom annex. Johnbrayestates.co.uk, 01208 862601. £1.395million

Oxfordshire: There are five bedrooms in this house which has dramatic features including vaulted ceilings as well as a galleried first-floor landing. The property is in Goring Heath. Hamptons.co.uk, 01491 260159. £1.85million

Oxfordshire: There are five bedrooms in this house which has dramatic features including vaulted ceilings as well as a galleried first-floor landing. The property is in Goring Heath. Hamptons.co.uk, 01491 260159. £1.85million

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Is DIY on your list this Bank Holiday weekend? Big Brother winner Craig Phillips gives his five tips for getting the job done

Here, Craig give his top tips for DIY jobs this Bank Holiday weekend…

1. Garden furniture

This time of the year when the weather is starting to change, a lot of people are looking to see what they can revamp in their gardens to bring them back to life.

Throughout the winter the garden furniture has been exposed to all sorts, but it’s easy enough to give them a little makeover with some paint.

Craig give his top tips for DIY jobs this Bank Holiday weekend

Craig give his top tips for DIY jobs this Bank Holiday weekend

If anyone has metal or wooden garden furniture, it might have got a bit rusty or flaky, but you can remove this by jet washing it down and then bringing it indoors to let it dry out.

After it’s completely dry, think about adding any wood treatment on the bare wood to make things last that little bit longer.

Then I would consider using a natural mineral paint, that’s good for the environment and quite inexpensive. They have some great colours.

I really like a daffodil yellow to brighten up the garden. If you have metal furniture, it’s pretty much the same process, but you don’t need to add the wood treatment.

2. Loft space 

Converting your loft space doesn’t always have to be to gain an additional habitat room in your house, you may just need that vital extra storage space.

We find that most of us tend to hold on to too much stuff that we don’t often use or may never really use again.

My wife Laura is still holding onto her wedding dress seven years later which takes up so much space when hanging in our cupboards, she’s probably never going to wear it again however she’s got no plans to get rid of it.

Then you’ve got things like the Christmas tree and decorations, holiday suitcases, old family photo albums that you certainly don’t want to part with that need to be stored somewhere safe and dry – and the loft is the perfect place.

Installing raised loft boards means that you can upgrade the insulation in your loft

Installing raised loft boards means that you can upgrade the insulation in your loft

3. Energy improvements

Additional benefits of installing raised loft boards goes beyond just storage space, it allows you to upgrade your loft insulation to the correct regulations which is going to save on your energy consumption, which is better for the environment as well as savings on your utility bills, a win/win situation for us all.

It can also help when selling your home as an EPC certificate will be required, and having the correct level of loft insulation installed improves your EPC rating.

Having your loft space well insulated will benefit the bedrooms below from unwanted draughts and sound coming from the loft area.

We often have water tanks up there that can be noisy, or sounds coming in from outside.

People don’t often know that many loud sounds from outside can work their way into your home from the loft space. Often our house walls are two courses of brick or blocks thick and will stop air bound noise travelling through.

However, our roof structure may only be felt, batten and have tiles on the surface and have a single layer of plaster boards between the loft and the bedrooms.

This is where the additional loft insulation and raised floor boards will help to absorb and dampen sound traveling though into the bedrooms and hallways.

4. Draught proofing

Adding additional draught proofing around doors and windows frames also make your home more energy efficient and comfortable to be in.

These DIY tasks are very quick and easy to complete yourself and don’t cost much money.

The draught excluders can be fitted with minimal tools and are achieved in just hours.  

I always ask people to go home and place their hands around the inside of your door and window frames, letter boxes, cat or dog flaps to see if they can feel any cold draft entering into their house.

If you can feel the cold air coming in, then you’re also allowing hot air that’s generated from your heating system to escape.

Again, this is costly to both your bank balance and the environment.

5. Energy savings

Bleeding your radiators, changing, and upgrading the thermostat on each radiator and applying an insulated reflective foil to the rear of your radiators can all make great savings to your energy consumption.

Again, these kind of DIY tasks are achievable on a budget and can be done by with little experience.

If you’re attempting to change your own radiator thermostats yourself, it’s certainly worth watching online video demonstrations to follow the step-by-step stages to ensure you are doing correctly and safely.

With the ongoing energy crisis and cost of living increase in the UK, now more than ever, people are looking to save energy in every way possible.

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We need to replace our uPVC double-glazing – should we opt for grey?

Our double-glazing needs replacing in our three-bedroom semi-detached home due to its age. 

We’ve had two quotes for uPVC windows, and have been offered the option of grey anthracite.

On both quotes, grey comes out at around 15 per cent more expensive.

However, I’ve noticed in our local area that many people seem to have gone grey in recent years, rather than the typical white.

Going grey: A This is Money reader wants to know about the pros and cons of grey windows

Going grey: A This is Money reader wants to know about the pros and cons of grey windows 

I do wonder if there is any benefit to going grey, other than them not showing up dirt as much?

Would it add extra value to our home when we come to sell? Or is it simply just an aesthetic choice? 

Jane Denton replies: The ‘greyification’ of home interiors, cars and now windows has been hard to miss in the last few years. 

New-build homes with grey windows can be found springing up all over Britain. 

Plus, buyers purchasing homes which need a fair amount of work doing to them are, in ever growing numbers, opting for grey windows. Some people view grey as chic and contemporary. 

Send us your property question 

We’d love to hear from you if you have a property question and want to find out what the experts have to say on the matter. 

Whether you have neighbour woes, are looking to update or move home, or perhaps you can’t decide how to sort out an extension or make a room look bigger, we want to hear from you.

If you are a prospective first-time buyer or already on the housing ladder and have a property quandary, get in touch.

Email editor@thisismoney.co.uk

Please put PROPERTY in the subject line. 

As you suggest, your decision will boil down to personal choice and key factors like price, durability and aesthetics. 

While grey can hide dirt better than white, grey can sometimes look somewhat dull. 

Perhaps it’s also worth considering is grey is just a passing fad and will look dated in a decade or so – though that won’t bother you if you have moved house by that point.

Grey windows still aren’t the norm, meaning they are generally more expensive than white ones. 

The same goes, for example, for black or sage green windows. 

The exact costs involved will vary depending on the supplier used, the material you go for, the size of window required and whether the windows are double or triple glazed. 

Depending what you plump for, you could expect to pay around 10 to 20 per cent more for grey windows than conventional white uPVC ones. 

Timber and aluminum options can be pricier. 

In most circumstances, you wouldn’t need planning permission to change the windows in the manner you suggest. 

Permitted development rights are likely to apply. However, for a listed building, planning permission would be required.

In terms of what it means for property price and whether they are worth the investment in general, I turned to a property expert.  

Alex Harvey, managing director of Alex Harvey Estate Agents, said: I have seen various trends in windows come and go, however the ones that have always stood out from the crowd are the coloured and textured varieties. 

They seem to add an additional dimension to the look and feel of a property. uPVC windows of any colour can be a good low-maintenance choice. 

Grey windows can also be very practical. They do not show the dirt as much and make more of a statement than conventional white windows. 

It is not just the windows themselves you need to consider. 

Estate agency boss Alex Harvey believes grey windows can add value to a property

Estate agency boss Alex Harvey believes grey windows can add value to a property

It’s essential to have the right furniture and handles on them to compliment the age and style of the property. 

An example of this is where people have chosen black wrought iron monkey tail handles, in place of the usual chrome or even white plastic in an older style property.

In newer style homes, anthracite works really well to frame the windows and tie them into the structure of the home, while using chrome handles to help the rest of the framing stand out.

Windows are not just a way to bring natural light into a home these days, they are an opportunity to frame the view from inside the property by having a textured and coloured surround. 

However, there are mistakes that can occur, the main one can being that there can be too much beading in the window itself, which can take away from the view.

We tell clients considering coming to market about the importance of having their windows free of blown panes or any broken elements. 

Buyers notice these things when looking out of windows to understand the views and the surroundings of the property. 

In terms of whether grey windows add value to a property, it all depends on the quality of the windows and doors and the warranty that’s offered. 

We have had clients who have invested more for windows and doors that have had longer warranties for both their peace of mind and as a selling feature for future owners. 

Without doubt, newly installed windows and doors will improve an Energy Performance Certificate rating and will therefore appeal to a wider range of buyers.

It is not easy to assign an uplift value, over what the windows would cost to install. 

However, I can certainly say that for properties that urgently require new windows and doors to be replaced, buyers often have an understanding of the investment required and can be put off from buying a property that requires this level of improvement.

My gut feel would be a circa 10 per cent uplift if the windows and doors have a good balance of the above, based on the initial investment of the installation.

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Five climb the property ladder! Famous Five-style 17th century manor house with secret room, spyhole and fascinating history goes up for sale for £3.2m

A Famous Five-style manor house with a secret 17th Century ‘panic room’ and tiny spy-hole built into the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million.

The historic seven-bedroom house started life as a coaching inn just after the English Civil War, but has also been visited by royalty and appeared in a children’s novel.

Among its quirkier features is a secret hiding space dating from more than 300 years ago, which can be accessed via a hidden panel under the stairs, leading to a tiny room beneath. 

Owners could monitor who came to their front door through a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase.

The property at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A Famous Five-style manor house at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a secret 17th Century 'panic room' and spyhole in the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million

A Famous Five-style manor house at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a secret 17th Century ‘panic room’ and spyhole in the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million

One of two dining rooms in the property, which was visited in the early 1900s by the future King Edward VII and his wife, Queen Alexandra

One of two dining rooms in the property, which was visited in the early 1900s by the future King Edward VII and his wife, Queen Alexandra

During the early 1900s it was visited by the future King Edward VII with his wife, Queen Alexandra, when they were the Prince and Princess of Wales

The then owner was a lady-in-waiting to the royal family.

It also featured in The White Witch, a 1958 novel by acclaimed children’s writer Elizabeth Goudge. 

In it she describes her character looking out of the house’s south and east windows saying ‘she could see far over the fields to the sunrise’.

The new owners will still have stunning views, which take in local countryside, as well as the village cricket pitch.

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows.

The property has an entrance hall, kitchen, two dining rooms, family room, lounge, utility and laundry room and boot room on the ground floor with a cellar below.

Upstairs is an open-plan study area, seven bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Outside, the property has around 3.2 acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and a triple garage with courtyard parking area and a gravel drive.

The owner said: ‘The house itself is steeped in history as it originally dates back to 1688, just a few decades after the Civil War, and interestingly it has a 17th century panic room hidden behind a section of the original wood panelling.

‘There are stories of visits from royalty – it was owned by a lady-in-waiting in the early years of the 20th century – and it featured heavily in a historical novel called The White Witch, written by Elizabeth Goudge who, many years ago, lived on the other side of the common.

A secret 'panic' room dating back more than 300 years has a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase of the historic property

A secret ‘panic’ room dating back more than 300 years has a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase of the historic property

The property has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The property has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

‘However, for us it was simply a lovely family home, very spacious and bright, and hugely characterful. 

‘My parents made a number of improvements to it over the years, but there’s definitely lots of scope for the new owners to come in and put their own stamp on it.’

Robert Cable, from Fine & Country, who is handling the sale, said the property belonged to a family of five who had bought it 50 years ago.

He said: ‘They have loved living here and raising their family in this house, it is filled with happy memories, but it’s time for them to move on and pass it to new custodians who will appreciate it as much as they have.

‘It would be perfect for a family that wanted their children to grow up in idyllic rural surroundings.

‘Outside there is so much beautiful space to enjoy, or even keep a pony; inside there is so much space and so many nooks and crannies for children to hide, along with the secret room – it’s like something from the Famous Five novels.’

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows

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