Self-build projects are never straightforward, but the rewards outweigh the risks
Given the choice between renovating an existing property and building a brand new one from scratch, most of us would go for the former. In theory, it’s likely to be the cheaper, faster and less complicated option simply because you’re dealing with a structure that already exists – which has the bonus of meaning you can live in it, however uncomfortably, while the work is being done. But ask someone who is past the theoretical stage and who has already experienced the reality of renovation, and it’s odds on you’ll get a different answer.
“When you’re renovating a property, you are always working within the limitations of the existing building, its inherent design flaws and, often, someone else’s attempts at improvement,” explains Andrew Laing who, with his partner June Russell, has spent several years doing up properties around Edinburgh. “Having learned the necessary skills, we were ready to design and build something for ourselves.”
Here, though, they ran into another problem that favours the renovation route over the self-building one: while there is no shortage of homes crying out for repair work, there is a dearth of decent single plots of land in our cities – and central Edinburgh was where Andrew and Jane most wanted to live.
It was only by chance that they came across a possible site. It had been used as a motorbike repair shop, then as a car park; but, in a conservation area where planning permission was difficult to obtain, it had lain undeveloped for years. In a bid to sell, the owner had commissioned an architect to design a high-spec contemporary three-bedroom house for which planning permission was then granted. Despite this, however, the plot continued to attract very little attention: “Probably because the spec was just too high,” says Andrew. “It would have cost much more to build than it was worth.”
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 140-150, issue 106.