The Dreambuild saw us embark on their biggest project to date. We set out to design and build a beautiful eight-bedroom family house on the outskirts of our home in Liverpool, including the brand-new Mr & Mrs DIY workshop.
Our new home is split into two sides. One has a large open-plan living room, dining room and kitchen spanning more than 16 metres long (with a utility room attached), a small hallway with a cloak-room toilet, and storeroom leading to the gym. There’s also one long open plan hallway joining both sides of the house together. The other side has a large office, guest bathroom and two downstairs guest bedrooms, as well as a drive-in carport.
The two upper floors of the house are at opposite sides, which you can get to via two separate sets of stairs. The master bedroom is at one side, with two other bedrooms attached, acting as walk-in wardrobes and nursery for our daughter Nelly. Our master bed has an open-plan bathroom. We know it sounds random, but it works! Our bed is in the centre of the room with a huge headboard acting as a partition, and there’s also a flush walk-in double shower behind the bed that looks out on our bedroom balcony though a large sliding by-fold glassed window wall. A separate toilet cubic of course, although there is a large free-standing bath in the middle of our bedroom looking out of two large floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s unusual but we love it!
Then the other side of the upper floor has a bar and games room (Craig’s favourite part of the house because it’s got a full-size pool table in!) It also has two further guest bedrooms and a guest bathroom. The games room leads onto the 90m2 balcony through another set of by-fold glazed doors.
One of the wettest October’s in almost 40 years saw the start of the major project. There was a very old five-bedroom detached house in the centre of the site which was flattened to the ground within a couple of hours, with all of the old bricks crushed on-site and later recycled as hardcore to be spread under the new driveway.
Despite the harsh weather, we marched on excavating the foundations, operating an old 7.5 tonne twin track digger that we hired locally, poured the concrete strip foundations, bricked up to the DPC levels (damp proof of course), then with the help of a huge lifting crane laid the Forterra’s reinforced, insulated, concrete block and beam ground floor systems. The team covered around 240m2 in just one day! It was hard to believe but we managed to catch it all on film for our new documentary (watch this space!)
Work suddenly came to a halt in mid-December when Craig’s Mum sadly lost her battle with Alzheimer’s. She’d been slowly suffering from this horrific illness for over 12 years, and as a result our build took a much-needed early Christmas break.
At this time, we also had our wedding to plan, due to be held at the beautiful Peckforton Castle in Cheshire on 9th February 2018, so we had always planned to postpone all construction work on site until the spring our winter honeymoon in Colorado (snowboarding in -28 Degrees, so much for relaxing honeymoon!). It was an amazing, well-deserved holiday.
The site was reopened, and the weather was looking more promising. To help get the build back on schedule, Craig drafted in his friend Ian Hodgkinson. Ian runs a very successful bricklaying firm and kindly lent us a small handful of tradesmen to come and work with the local team. Before we knew it, the main structure of the brick and block work was up to the height of the first floor.
Scaffolding was quickly erected around the outer skin of Forterra’s deep red-faced brickwork (Clockhouse mixture). Floor joists and floorboards were fitted onto the internal thermalite block work within days, giving a good solid first floor platform to work from. With the extra help on hand, the facing bricks and internal thermal blocks were soon laid right up to the roof height and we were preparing to install the main house flat roofs.
The house is quite an unusual size and shape, with a total of 18 corners! When Craig first purchased the land, it came with planning content to build two separate detached five-bedroom houses with detached garages. We submitted a new design to the local authorities to build just one large house but using up the same footprint as before, along with a separate 100m2 workshop/TV studio. Flat roofs don’t often sound that appealing on a new build house but when you design the system the way we have, it really can work well.
After a couple of days on site training with the Cormar roof team, we successfully completed a full GRP glass fibre flat-roofed system on both the house and a mono-pitch roof for the workshop – soon to be completely covered in grass.
The house now needed to be fully watertight and required 29 windows, three side doors, one main front door and eight triple opening, glazed aluminium by-fold sliding doors. So, we used Eurocell profiles for their materials and got a local company called Warwick Windows to fabricate and fit them. Our main front door was such a size that we had to find a specialist company called RK Door systems all the way down in Cornwall that made commercial-sized domestic security pivot doors with smart-opening technology.
Now we were fully water, wind and weather-tight, which was a stroke of luck because the winter weather of 2018 had soon crept in. But still, there were times that we still had to open and close the site as we focused on our other business and battled poor weather conditions.
It’s now freezing again and the big push to try and get the house somewhat finished for before Laura’s due date which was 5th March 2019. Oh, we forgot to mention that Laura was also seven months pregnant at this point!
As you can imagine, the pressure really was on. We now had around 15 to 20 tradesmen working in most parts of the house, with electricians and plumbers working both inside and out. There were also carpenters fitting 21 internal doors, frames, and skirting boards, kitchen fitters installing our island-style kitchen and utility room, and plasterers everywhere in-between.
Plus, tile fitters laying both wall and floor tiles in four separate bathrooms and slash backs in the kitchen and utility areas. And we still managed to capture some great how-to videos for Tile Mountain in the house while the build continued.
The painters and decorators arrived (Craig’s old-school pals, the Wadey brothers) and we helped paint the walls and ceilings using Wagner’s pro-range sprayer to help save time – and boy it saved weeks, if not months, of manpower.
Once we had the base coat on Laura started to get really creative with Frenchic’s chalk and mineral wall paints. Now with some great colours on the walls and the floor tiles grouted, it was at this point the house really started to come alive – and our forever home finally began to take shape.
Carpet fitters were installing carpets in our bedroom and Nelly’s new nursery. Outside the landscapers were shaping up the front, side and rear driveway (going all the way up to the new workshop) with a further 300 tonnes of crushed recycled bricks delivered and spread before being levelled to run into the new drains. Talking of drains, the small side garden that looked out from our gym had a below-the-ground 10,000 litre water-harvest system installed. It collects the rainwater from our flat roofs so we can reuse it in our toilets, gardens and workshop.
Over the past two years there has been many breaks and weather delays to our dreambuild work schedule. We also got married, became first-time parents, went on holidays and even starting two new companies working alongside Craig’s existing media commitments and landlord duties. This meant we ended up working 49 full hard-working weeks with the team and we can honestly say we’re extremely proud of what we’ve created, and for us, it is truly a dream(build) come true. We hope you enjoyed our adventure as much as we did.