Case Study of the Month - October
Forty years in the making

Location: Isle of Man


Chrissie and Richard Baker had lived on the Isle of Man for many years, they had refurbished properties in various locations on the island but had yearned to build their own home for almost 40 years.

Baker 2

Richard was a director of a Computer engineering company and Chrissie was the administrator.  They were both in their early forties when they first came across the name Potton, they had seen a number of Potton houses being built on the island and also seen them for sale so were familiar with the brand and had a good idea of the resale value of a Potton home.

Some years later they came across a 30 metre by 30 metre garden plot which was being sold by a local estate agent, it was in the perfect location, and had “in principal“ planning permission. Their aim was to build a home to their very own design and specification without compromise. “We wanted a contemporary but un-fussy design with lots of glass, inside/outside living, open plan living area and a garage underneath.  The house had to be low energy with the plumbing all located in the same quarter of the house to reduce pipe runs”. Their thoughts and ideas were discussed with the local planning control officer prior to purchasing the plot, the discussion went very well and in January 2010 they agreed to purchase the plot.

The initial design which was drawn up by Richard on his Grand Designs CAD software was a contemporary cubist design based on a concept drawing he had seen in a magazine some time before. “We didn’t want something that was trying to be old looking or traditional retro styled, we wanted something that would have clean uncluttered lines, be reasonably minimal design but would incorporate some sustainable energy saving products.”

Working with Potton

The couple then sent their drawings through to Potton to provide a feasibility study and obtain a price for the supply and erection of the package. Following this they met with one of Potton self-build specialists. “He showed a great interest in our ideas and our layout and was very helpful in guiding us through some minor detail changes to our design. We then provided Potton with our drawings for the basement area, these had been designed by a local structural engineer and we obviously needed them to be compatible with the timber frame package from Potton."

“Thank goodness we did” said Richard “the Potton technician Keith identified a mistake with the positioning of the steel beams in the basement. This could have been a serious problem had he not picked it up, he actually saved the day by designing-in an additional laminated timber beam into the main frame”.

Following this, the couple received the quote from Potton. “It wasn’t the cheapest we had received though it was pretty competitive.” The couple felt very confident that Potton had the experience to produce a quality product and looking back they were not disappointed.
“One of the major benefits for us was the very attractive offer by Potton to produce our planning drawings, their price was a fraction of what we would have had to pay an Architect. This got the project off to a really good start”.

The Build Begins

One of the first big tasks once the groundworks had started was to dig out the ground where the basement and house would sit. This would entail digging in some areas to over 3 metres deep and carting away 81 loads of stone and rubble. “It was 1200 tonnes in total, but we did manage to save 150 for backfill and 20 tonnes for later use as stone walling”.

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Small Logo 2015

“Digging the foundations and basement took around 4 months to complete using local subcontractors, there was 9 tons of steel reinforcement to the basement/garage area!” said Richard. With plenty of other work to complete on the site the couple finally took delivery of their timber frame package from Potton in July, and because the access to the site was so tight Potton delivered the kit on 8 rigid lorries so the erection team were kept pretty busy unloading materials.


“The erection team were excellent, very professional and most helpful, communication with them and the Potton Contracts Manager was excellent. The only problem we had was that the roof decking plywood didn’t get shipped for some reason or other. However our Contracts Manager organised this to be sourced from a timber merchant on the island so there was no delay to the frame erection”.

“Our most memorable moment in the whole process was going from a basement to a fully erected frame in just 6 days….magic!!" says Richard.

Once the frame was erected Chrissie and Richard who were willing to turn their hands to just about anything, set about their four year self-build project.

They used local subcontractors to finish to roof, the triple glazed windows were sourced from a European supplier and the staircase was supplied by a local company. All other work was carried out by the couple with the exception of the second fix electrics which were all tested and certified by a local electrician.

Would they do it again and what would they do differently?


“Yes, if we were younger! Also if we did it again we would include a lift” says Richard.  “Potton supplied an all-round terrific service, if we were to do it again we would certainly use them again and would certainly recommend them to others."

The project came out over their estimated budget, this was due to the scaffold hire which ended up as almost double their original figure. 
“We based our costs on mainland prices and hadn’t realised they were much higher  on the island” said Richard  “We also went over budget on lighting, floor coverings and blinds but this was by our own choice, we decided to push to boat out and up the quality of these items”
“The build was never a development project but a forever home, so profit was never a consideration..”

  • The house itself is 185 square metres including the ground and first floor
  • The Basement, garage, workshop, store and plant or is 100 square metres.

WINNER! 'Best Timber Frame' in The Daily Telegraph & Homebuilding awards 2015!

Richard & Chrissie's self build has won the Best Timber Frame category in the prestigious Daily Telegraph & Homebuilding Award 2015. They are self builders in the true sense of the word, having completing the majority of the work themselves. The completed house is a credit to their hard work. 

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Hands on approach


The couple were very keen to incorporate renewable and eco products into the house design and had decided that, in an attempt to meet their budget they would install all the items themselves.

Richard fitted

  • Air Source Heat Pump
  • Underfloor Heating system
  • Mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system with heat pump for exhaust air extraction - A separate exhaust air heat pump for domestic hot water
  • He also built the front wall and fitted entrance gates
  • Landscaped the garden and laid all of the paving and driveway
  • Re-built the stone boundary wall with materials re-claimed from the rubble dug out for the foundations and is currently in the process of constructing a small hydro-electricity turbine utilising the stream that runs through the garden.

They both

  • fitted the 3.6KW solar photo voltaic system to the roof
  • unloaded from a lorry into the basement then fixed 300 sheets if Fermacell wall board throughout the house
  • Decorated the whole house and chose all the bathroom furniture and floor coverings.

Baker Collage