Imagine building your own home for under £200. Most of us wouldn’t know where to start but Michael Buck did just that after spending two years planning and building his to challenge the idea that we should be paying for a home for a lifetime. As he says, a house “does not have to cost the Earth – you only need earth to build it” – plus sand, clay, water and straw of course.
He taught himself to craft his home from scratch using cow dung to make plaster alongside cob mixture. Most impressive of all is the fact that he shaped the walls without motorised tools. Instead, volunteers helped him get hands on and they were rewarded with their names immortalised forever on the walls.
While he intended to build the home for free, he underestimated the amount of straw needed and was unable to source nails to attach the thatch to his roof. That said, the building process was simplified when he discovered his new build was classed as a summer house – meaning he didn’t require planning permission and could finish the work for £150.
To bring the roof to life, a wooden frame was thatched with straw from his fields, while the glass for his windows came from an old lorry’s windscreen. As for the floorboards, they’re a direct result of Michael’s ingenuity – having been rescued from a neighbour’s skip.
There’s a lack of central heating but the cob walls and thatched roof insulate the property, with the bonus of extra insulation in the form of sheep’s wool installed in the ceiling from a nearby farm. There’s also a wood burning stove positioned underneath the bed to provide extra heat once the temperature drops at night, as well as being a handy way of preparing meals. The stove may be below the bed but there is a level separating them to reduce the fire risk.
Water is free and sourced from a spring which has been diverted to emerge out of a pipe directly outside the cottage.
As you might expect, living in such a cottage wouldn’t be possible without making a few sacrifices. Although there’s no water bill, there’s also no gas or electricity. You would save on the bills but would you be prepared to live without the essentials that we’re all used to?
To keep your food and drink cool, you would need to make use of a nearby well. Plus, to go to the toilet, you would need to exit the cottage and enter the outbuilding next door. Possibly, the biggest sacrifice of all though is the bathroom which is simply a tin hanging on the outside wall of the home. I don’t quite like the idea of it hanging outside in the elements before it’s used, regardless of how well shaded it might be.
While I’m not quite ready to live without electricity and gas just yet, we could all learn a few things from Michael’s spot of DIY, don’t you think?
Credit for all images belongs to Michael Buck.