Self-build diary: the ground clearance

Written by Charlie and Helen – Plot 1 (Church Cottage) homeowners


We bought our plot with the derelict house and an extremely overgrown garden. The original cottage hadn’t been properly lived in for several years and the garden had obviously lacked attention for even longer, so it was evident we needed to begin with a clean slate. We received a £15,000 quote to demolish the cottage and clear the ground. After getting back on our chairs, we went ahead with plan b, deciding to give it a go ourselves…


The jungle
In order to start work on the house, the space around it needed to be cleared. We spent several weekends pulling out everything in our path and having countless bonfires, until the ground which the plot sat on was finally revealed. The plot as a whole was a huge area and so we were very relieved that the second cottage was going to share the space.

The house
Before making our attack on the cottage, it was clear that we had some squatters in the house in the form of honeybees. As aspiring beekeepers, Craig and LB set about re-homing the enormous bees nest that was nestled in the bathroom ceiling. Having found the Queen, they were able to entice her colony into a temporary hive and after a couple of attempts, it was mission complete.

After all this excitement, we began clearing the internal furniture, timber, internal studwork, ceilings and whatever else from the house that we could get our hands on. Anything burnable went straight on the fire and everything else went to the tip. We then focused on the structure itself which we deconstructed from the roof down. Part of the house had concrete tiles but most of it was a felt onto fibre boards, so we hacked the felt off with spades and then peeled it back, which was much harder than we imagined. Once completed, the roof timbers were left and acted as a canopy to the first floor. When all the rafters were down we worked from the inside-out; smashing the brick and external to the ground, one swing of a sledge at a time, which was a very therapeutic process.

After successfully bringing down the entire top floor, we borrowed a digger from Helen’s cousin to finish the job off. We then pulled out any timber from the remains and piled up the rubble so it was ready to move to a neighbouring farmer. Helen and I decided to take the plaster board and roofing felt to the tip, with the use of Craig’s van and Helen’s car. Ten long, hard hours and five tip runs later, we had done it. The plaster and felt proved very awkward and did not make very fun to load or unload but thankfully some Mars bars and charm worked wonders at the tip as the lads were more than helpful and made the process a lot easier!

Final grading of the ground with the digger followed and the ground clearance was complete, ready for the official groundworks to begin.


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