Bicester self build exceeds the basic Building Regulations

Retired engineer Terry built his ideal home using high performance materials.

There were no leisurely rounds of golf or crosswords on the sofa for Terry Brown Waite when he reached retirement. Instead, the former electrical engineer has taken on his biggest challenge yet: building a high-tech home from scratch, using nothing but his own skills and labour.

Self building had always been a dream for Terry and his wife Olwen but with busy working lives and family commitments, the time had never been quite right. As the couple approached retirement, they looked around for a suitable home to retire into but nothing on the market seemed to fit the bill.

For Terry the answer was clear; building their own property was the only way to create a high-quality home that would meet their specific requirements for a reasonable price. So, when they came across the opportunity to bag one of the first 10 plots at the dedicated self and custom build development Graven Hill in Bicester, Terry and Olwen jumped at the chance.

Doing their Homework

Terry Brown Waite Self-Build

The couple began the task of thoroughly researching their project by attending numerous trade shows and exhibitions, as well as making frequent visits to the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon. This really impressed on them the importance of investing in the basic structure of the property and opened their eyes to a number of high performance materials they hadn’t considered before.

In particular, it was at one such exhibition where Terry first came across British Gypsum’s super strong Gyproc Habito plasterboard. Terry explains: “Having been frustrated by flimsy walls and standard plasterboard in previous properties, I immediately saw the benefits of Gyproc Habito in its durability and design flexibility. I got quite excited by the prospect and registered my interest for more information.

“Shortly after the exhibition, a member of the British Gypsum sales team got in touch and we had a long conversation about the product, my plans and the fact that I was intending to build the whole property myself, using my own hard graft. That was when they invited me to visit the British Gypsum Technical Training Academy in East Leake, to learn how to install it properly.”

Learning New Skills

Terry continues: “I was determined to construct our home myself but I’m an amateur; I’m not a builder by any description so I had to go and learn all these new skills. British Gypsum have provided an enormous amount of support on this and I’ve been to the Training Academy several times to learn how to install the products correctly. The help from the technical team has been invaluable and they’ve even been out to site to check how I’m getting on.”  

Terry comments:
"The help from the British Gypsum Technical Support Team has been invaluable”

Completing a number of scheduled training courses, as well as bespoke sessions tailored to his individual needs, Terry gained a host of new skills at the purpose-built training facility, including techniques such as dot and dab application and taping and jointing plasterboard.

“It was through meeting people at the training courses and talking to members of the British Gypsum team that I came across other products, which I then went on to include in the project,” Terry continues. “For example, I discovered the CasoLine MF suspended ceiling system, which allowed me to hide all the supporting beams inside our double-height living space and achieve a really sleek, seamless look.”

Designing for Acoustics


As the relationship between Terry and the British Gypsum team continued to develop, it soon became clear that his planned designs posed a problem in terms of acoustic performance. With a large open plan living area, quartz tiling, vast expanses of glass and little in the way of soft furnishings to absorb the sound, the space was likely to become a cavernous echo of unwanted noise.

Mark Poole, Area Technical Sales Manager for British Gypsum, explains: “Terry is a massive music fan and when we looked at his designs, we quickly realised that the layout would be subject to high levels of reverberation, which would seriously hamper the enjoyment of his sound system. Indeed, when we ran a simulation we discovered that it would result in a five-second reverberation – no good at all.

“Working with the technical team, we developed an alternative design for the ceiling construction that incorporated our Gyptone Quattro 41 acoustic ceiling boards and this managed to reduce the reverberation time to just 0.8 seconds, giving him excellent sound clarity throughout his home.”

The Results

As well as the satisfaction that comes from having built everything with his own two hands, Terry is pleased with his decision to take a fabric first approach to the project – investing in the basic structure to ensure a long-lasting and comfortable home for the future.


He explains: “Fabric first was everything to us. This is our forever home and we wanted, as much as possible, for it to be maintenance free. That was the driving factor behind choosing Gyproc Habito plasterboard, as it will be able to stand the inevitable knocks and bumps of everyday life and means I won’t have to redecorate every few years. It also made fitting the kitchen much easier, as I could hang the cabinets directly from the walls, using just standard no. 10 woodscrews.

“The Gyptone Quattro 41 acoustic boards were another great investment, as they’ve dramatically improved the acoustics in the house. You can really hear the difference between the living space and the hallway area, where we used standard boards. I like to make a lot of noise and it’s allowed me to live in the house how I want to.

“Building a home from scratch is no easy task and to do it properly, you’ve got to get expert advice. The help and support I’ve received from British Gypsum throughout the project has been second to none – I really couldn’t have achieved all of this without it.”

British Gypsum - Self Build - TBW