Having left a successful career in IT a few years ago, David set up his own classic car business. With long-held dreams to build their own house, the couple decided that now was the time and went about drawing up a list of preferences they’d most want in a house.
“We looked around for plots to buy in the village of Tetsworth where we had been living but there was nothing,” said David. “Then we found this plot almost by accident. I’d signed up to a couple of local plot search websites, and one day an alert just popped up with this piece of land on it. The vendors, now our neighbours, were selling it off, as part of their original garden, and although it already had planning permission, it didn’t include a basement or a swimming pool which were both top priorities for us.
“We bought the plot in summer 2016 and worked with our architect to define exactly what we wanted. Given that the site includes river access and the house build was proposed on a site with a high water table, we were aware that building a basement wouldn’t be without its complications.
“I found Glatthaar via an online search and was especially encouraged by the fact that they specialise in basements that are completely watertight. I spoke to two or three other companies, but it was clear that Glatthaar were the ones that could offer an effective solution and assurance of building a basement on a site with a lot of groundwater. The premanufactured element also meant that the construction of the basement would be really quick, which was another big attraction. Glatthaar worked in conjunction with our architect, and although there were a few questions from worried neighbours, we submitted the new planning application and it was approved in December 2016.
“In January 2017, the plot became a building site. Given the complexity of the site, we couldn’t find anyone, within reasonable cost, to do the groundworks. Glatthaar were extremely helpful in advising what was necessary for the excavation and made good recommendations, so we decided to do it ourselves. The Environment Agency had stipulated a six-month window of time to complete the work, and in this time frame, we filled 170 lorries with a total of 5100 tonnes of soil to be dumped. The high water table meant that we had to have a permanent drainage system in place which equated to 120 vacuum pumps around the perimeter of the excavation. A total of 57 reinforced concrete piles were put into place 4m under the basement to secure against ‘uplifting’, and to anchor the house. It was a huge job.
“Glatthaar then started work in August 2017. The team worked incredibly efficiently and professionally to build all the walls in one week and then another week to do the ground floor slab. The operation was flawless and watching it go in; I had every confidence that the Glatthaar build system was the effective solution to ensure against the high water table. The team knew exactly what they were doing and quickly found solutions to any challenges. The swimming pool, although accessed via the ground floor, is sunken into the basement.
“With Glatthaar completing the basement, we used a traditional builder for the house, and the solid concrete slab built by Glatthaar provided the perfect foundation for the blockwork of the house to begin. The house was 12 months in construction, and once furnished, we moved in, in October 2018.”
The basement provides extra living space for the family to enjoy sociable time together and with extended family and friends. There’s a large party room with a stocked bar, pool table and seating. This room has a long light well flooding it with natural sunlight. There’s also a wine cellar with its own seating/relaxation area, a cinema room complete with additional refreshment area/room for the popcorn machine, his and hers WCs and a large plant room.
The interior walls of the basement have a variety of facades including brick slips in the wine cellar to add a touch of authenticity.
The basement is accessed via the central staircase of the house, giving a free-flow feeling between the floors and meaning that the basement is incorporated within the main house. The stairwell also allows for borrowed light into the basement.
The basement has a high level of insulation, ensuring the same degree of warmth as the rest of the house. There’s 300mm of insulation under the slab and all around the outside of the basement. Although it costs more to have insulation on the outside, living space is not lost to insulation in the walls. There is also underfloor heating and a heat recovery system throughout the house, including the basement.
“Having had no previous building experience, I’ve learnt several things along the way,” continues David. “Probably the most significant lesson is that this plot isn’t ideal for a basement. Glatthaar overcame the challenges with a quality product, but the amount of soil that we had to remove and the high water table meant that the groundworks were far from straightforward. If I had been building this property to sell, we wouldn’t have had the basement, but as a family home, it gives us a fantastic social space and also means that the swimming pool doesn’t infringe on living space either.
“The basement has definitely met my expectations, and Glatthaar is a good company with a quality product. Not only did they complete the build in a fixed time frame but also at a fixed cost. I would absolutely recommend Glatthaar.”