... and my wife cleaned the roof tiles - all 4,000 of them

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Ian Fraser, 41, is a freelance cameraman. He lives with his wife and two daughters in a bunglalow in Chandler's Ford, near Southampton. He has been building an extension to his home since 1992. He expects to finish in 1997.

"The extension has taken over our life. It's like building a new house. I've added on a gable roof, an 18ft lounge, a breakfast room and a staircase; and upstairs, a master bedroom with ensuite bathroom, two smaller bedrooms, a corridor, a family bathroom and a loo. Oh yes, and a new porch. And a new garage. And a patio in the back garden, plus a front drive. Oh, and a climbing frame for the kids.

I've done it all myself. I've got two Reader's Digest DIY books in case I need specific advice. I sometimes go to the library and read up on techniques, but mostly I find out how things are done by watching other people. When I put the dormer windows in,I simply drove around, found a house that was also having some put in, parked and observed how they did it. I just watch something being done and adapt the technique to my own designs. I think DIY's quite artistic like that.

It all started when I was about eight. My parents moved to Winchester and we lived on this estate that was only half-built. I spent all my spare time helping the builders who were still on the estate. I'd pick up how things were done and help them with bricks and plumbing.

Then I did woodwork at school, and progressed to building scenery for a drama company. I helped my brother fit an extension on to his house, and put my mother's kitchen in. And I've reslated my sister's house. My wife calls me a DIY nut. I just love it.

I get my stuff from builders' merchants, Homebase, Wickes, Texas, B&Q. Since I began, I've bought 4,000 roofing tiles, a lorry-load of concrete blocks, a lorry-and-a-half of timber, 16 rolled steel joists, and two-and-a-half lorries full of lightweight thermal blocks. Then there was the double-glazing for the whole lot (which I fitted myself), plus 45 tons of sand and ballast for the cement.

I suppose the whole thing will have cost about £27,000. It would have been double that if I'd had builders in. I expect the house's value will increase from £110,000 to about £180,000, but that's irrelevant. We're not moving.

It's just a very big hobby. In my opinion this is real DIY. Lots of people build homes from self-build kits, but a lot subcontract the work out. I've done the whole thing myself: walls, roofing, stairs, the lot. And I haven't taken a year off work. Has it changed my life? Yes, but gradually. When I had to knock down the walls of our present house, and take the roof off, you certainly knew it had invaded. I'll miss it when it's gone. It's given me a huge sense of achievement, and it's been a challenge.

When I've finished a particular project, I like to stand in the room on my own and look at my work, and think Yes! I did this. Obviously it's had an impact on the family, but Julie's been great. She holds the end of the tape measure for me and she keeps me supplied with tea and biccies. Oh yes, she also cleaned all the roof tiles. Yes, all 4,000.

I've had several disasters. One night all the felt came off the roof and water poured through the house, blowing all the lights. Julie and the kids went to her mum's for the night and I had to rewire the entire house at 2am. There are also moments when you feel very disheartened - when you've spent all day up on the roof, and afterwards you look up at it and it doesn't look like you've done anything at all. But it's very fulfilling, most of the time.

Doing the whole thing, rather than bits and bobs, is what attracted me. When it's done, I'll sit back and look at it and say, `I did that all on my own.' Then I'll teach my daughters how to do DIY. They're only six and three, with another one on the way,but I think they'll take to it. Perhaps we'll start on the garden."

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