DIY novice used YouTube to build his home – and it took ten years

The YouTube des res! DIY novice, 51, used video-sharing website for tips to help build his family’s dream home – and it only took him ten years…

  • Graham Harley, 51, built a five-bed house using YouTube tutorials and £140,000
  • He says it’s been a ‘labour of love’ as he waded through videos and DIY books 
  • The father-of-one started the project in Ringwood, Hampshire, in 2008
  • He lived in a caravan with partner Mandie Wales, 48, and she had a baby in 2012
  • Mr Harley is happy with the results but ‘couldn’t put his family through it’ again

Turning to online tutorials to fix a leaky tap or lay some tiles can be a godsend for DIY enthusiasts.

Novice Graham Harley took the lessons a few steps further, however – and built a dream five-bedroom house.

With no construction experience, the IT worker completed the home with two outbuildings on his own for just £140,000. 

Pride: Graham Harley and Mandie Wales’s new home in Ringwood, Hampshire. It was built entirely from watching YouTube videos and wading through DIY books – and took ten years

Before: The home was a dowdy bungalow surrounded by wild, unkempt vegetation in the early 2000s

All it took was wading through lots of YouTube videos and DIY books on everything from plastering to roofing – plus an awful lot of time.

The father-of-one, 51, said: ‘Once I knew everything was level [with the property] I got on with it. It was long, hard work.

‘I looked some stuff up online and in books. I knew what I wanted to do – and just did it.       


Starting the epic project in 2008, the father-of-one came up with the idea after a builder joked that anyone could build their own home. He worked on the site ‘as long as the light allowed’

Mr Harley (pictured with Mandie) admitted that while he’s happy with the result, he ‘couldn’t put his family through it’ again. He added: ‘We’d have to sell this place to do it and it does take a toll on your career’

‘I had a good contact who helped me out with the products. It’s not the most outrageous build. The place runs very cheap, too.

‘There’s an underground heat pump and runs on electric only – no gas. It’s been a labour of love.

‘The family have been very supportive. I would work as long as the light allowed. Everything took longer because I was learning.’ Mr Harley came up with the idea after a builder joked that anyone could build their own home. So he began his epic project on the site of an ageing bungalow in Ringwood, Hampshire, in 2008.          

Swanky: The couple’s property features a modern, monochrome kitchen with a floating island. He finally finished in 2018 and the home has two bathrooms, an open-plan lounge, dining room and kitchen

It includes an open-plan living area and French doors opening on to a manicured lawn. During the project, the father-of-one lived in a caravan on the plot with his partner Mandie Wales, 48, and her two sons

A minimalist pared back wet room at the Ringwood property

He first demolished the old property and got to work on the new build with the help of the trusty video tutorials. And now the Hampshire home includes two outbuildings which have a gym and TV room (pictured)

He first demolished the old property and got to work on the new build with the help of the trusty video tutorials.

Mr Harley and partner Mandie Wales, 48, lived in a caravan on the plot during work – and even had baby Eve halfway through the build in 2012.

Also living there were her two sons from a previous relationship which, they admit, made for a tight squeeze. Mr Harley quit his IT job at one point so he could progress quicker. He finally finished in 2018 and the home has two bathrooms, an open-plan lounge, dining room and kitchen. The two outbuildings have a gym and TV room.       

Mr Harley spent £140k on the project and its estimated value now could go for nearly £450,000 – based on similar homes. He quit his IT job so he could progress quicker (pictured completing brick work on the roof)

Their daughter stands by the property’s entrance which is getting laid with bricks

Speaking about the revamp, Miss Wales suggested they wouldn’t have been able to afford to pay someone to build the property and is ‘so proud’ of his efforts

Miss Wales said: ‘Initially I didn’t think much would come of it. Graham just said he was going to do it – he reckoned it’d take 18 months! We couldn’t have afforded to pay someone to build what Graham did. I’m so proud of him.’

Mr Harley added: ‘A building inspector turned up one day to look at the garage floor. He said, “You’re not a builder, are you?”. I thought, “Oh no, what have I done wrong?”. He went on, “I can tell because everything’s perfect”.’

The property is worth a lot more than it cost to build, with similar homes going for £450,000. Mr Harley has since been nominated for a building award.

Although happy with the result, he is not sure he would repeat the feat. ‘I couldn’t put my family through it,’ he added. ‘We’d have to sell this place to do it and it does take a toll on your career. But if I got the opportunity to build somewhere else and my family could stay? I’d do it.’ 

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