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Last Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008, 10:47 GMT
How to build a house for 4,000
By Giancarlo Rinaldi
BBC Scotland news website, South of Scotland reporter

Finished 4,000 home - Picture courtesy
The turf roof gives the 4,000 property a distinctive look
A 24m funding package was put together earlier this year to help first-time buyers in Scotland get a foot on the property ladder.

But just how much would they have to spend to build their own home?

The answer could be as little as 4,000.

That is the estimated price tag attached to a property which has been built in southern Scotland over the past four years.

The walls are made of straw, the roof out of turf and much of the rest of the building from items other people threw away.

The end product is a warm and watertight cottage which gets its water supplies by gathering rainfall and its electricity from a car battery.

It is something that anybody could easily learn to do most of, with help
Steve James

Plans are also in place for a water wheel to provide power for the property later this year.

According to 52-year-old software engineer Steve James, who built the Galloway home, there was a dual motivation behind his "grand design".

Firstly, he has always enjoyed manual labour and the idea of building a home with his own hands appealed to him.

"I have never built a house before but I have done a bit of joinery and have done a lot of practical work," he said.

"Most of my life I have been a hands-on worker.

House roof joists - Picture courtesy
600 supplies for volunteers
500 sarking
400 floorboards
400 pond liner
300 straw
200 plumbing
150 reclaimed joists
150 plywood
150 equipment hire
150 glass
100 quicklime
100 wiring
100 tarpaulin
100 paint/varnish
100 batteries
100 fixings
100 miscellaneous
100 fuel for power tools
70 water pump
50 water heater
50 stove chimney
30 cooker

"So, first of all there is the personal satisfaction of putting my skills to making a house."

However, the project may also help to highlight wider issues of housing space and land availability.

He believes a three-bedroom family home could easily be built for 10,000.

"It is something that anybody could easily learn to do most of, with help," he said.

"The real cost of a house is fairly small. It is always the land that makes about 85% of the cost.

"Adding the compound interest to the final cost of a mortgage reduces the actual house price component of the total to as little as 2%."

The Galloway project has taken about 10 months of actual building time to complete.

The operation started four years ago when the foundations were put down and a first set of walls put up.

However, these had to be demolished after the rain soaked them through when tarpaulins failed. A second set were put up in 2005, when the roof was also added.

A year later it was time to render, floor, plumb and wire the building.

Cubicle doors

In 2007 a stove, decoration and internal fittings were put in place.

Local forestry like larch, spruce and elm were used to construct much of the property.

Sand, gravel, rock and turf from nearby fields and burns were also a part of the build.

And straight out of other people's rubbish came a roof velux, shower tray, front window, front door and an oval bedroom window.

House interior with stove - Picture courtesy
The stove chimney for the home cost just 50

Mr James's favourite pieces of reclamation work include the Tudor-style panelled timber ceiling.

It was made out of solid pine changing cubicle doors salvaged from old Victorian public baths in Govan.

A traditional Belfast sink was constructed out of items from a decommissioned primary school.

And worktops and windowsills came from a Cedar of Lebanon in Pollok Park in Glasgow which was felled by a storm.

They have all been brought together to create a home which aims to be both ecologically and economically friendly.

At last estimate the average house price in Scotland stood at about 158,000.

Mr James believes 40 home owners could build their own properties for that money.

And you would also be guaranteed a home which looked nothing like your neighbour's.

In pictures: Building a 4,000 house
10 Mar 08 |  In Pictures
House building hits all time high
20 Feb 08 |  Highlands and Islands
Property boom 'over in Scotland'
15 Feb 08 |  Scotland
Surveyors' gloom at house prices
13 Feb 08 |  Business
Scots property market bucks trend
07 Feb 08 |  Scotland
First time buyers offered support
21 Jan 08 |  Scotland


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