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Carol Sullivan learnt construction skills after being left £160,000 out of pocket
A Kempshott woman went on a bricklaying course in order to build her new home - after builders botched the job and left her £160,000 out of pocket.
Carol Sullivan, 50, had no choice but to learn the construction skills for herself after losing the money she had saved to transform her bungalow into a luxury home.
The rogue tradesmen knocked down her small home but bungled the building of the foundations and exterior walls for the new house.
The shell had to be demolished for safety reasons. Despite attempts to get her money back through the courts the builders disappeared with nothing in their bank account.
Devastated but undeterred, Mrs Sullivan, a lawyer, enrolled on a week-long course in bricklaying and then set about building the house from scratch.
She went on to learn the basics of plumbing and carpentry on similar short courses.
A year to the day after she began work she moved into the large detached, four bed house that is now worth one million pounds.
Mrs Sullivan finished the project despite having to juggle it with her day job as a divorce lawyer.
The stunning home in Pack Lane cost her £180,000 to build on top of the £160,000 she had already lost.
Mrs Sullivan said: "I had this small bungalow that I had always planned to turn into a large house.
“I went out to lots of builders to get quotes for the work and found one builder who was happy just to do the labour and for me to supply the materials.
“It was a way to save money because the builders weren't marking up on materials.
“Because the new house was going to be wider than the original bungalow the builders built new exterior walls and knocked down the old ones.
“They were starting to put the timber structure on top of the walls when we hit some very cold weather.
“To my horror the mortar started to fall out of the walls.
“The builders said there was nothing wrong but then I noticed the bags of cement I had supplied them with were still at the side of the house.
“I called in the Institute of Builders and they tested the mortar mix. It turned out to be a 19:1 mix, so for every 19 shovels of sand they used just one shovel of mortar.
“A normal ratio would be four or five to one.
“I was totally gutted and flabbergasted and ordered the builders to leave the site immediately.
“I got the foundations checked and they too weren't sufficient.
“Because the house was unsafe I had no choice but to completely knock it down. In total I spent and lost £160,000.
“I took the builders to court but they didn't turn up. I tried to get their assets frozen but there was no money in the account.
“At that point I had to accept I had lost my money for good.”
Mrs Sullivan looked into the prospect of selling the property as a vacant plot of land with planning permission to build a detached house on.
Despite lots of interest from developers, she would still have had £60,000 left on her mortgage even if she had accepted the best offer.
Mrs Sullivan said: “I didn't do anything with the site for a while and then one day I said to my partner Viv 'can it really be that hard to lay bricks?'
“I went online and found a week-long bricklaying course that started the following Monday for 250 pounds.
“Viv was very supportive and he came with me. Normally, these courses teach you to build a garden wall, an arch and a chimney breast.
“Luckily I was the only one there so said to the tutors that I'd like to learn how to build a house.
“I knew building my own house would be a huge challenge but I didn't have any other choice."
Mrs Sullivan, whose only child Laura, 19, died in a car accident in 2004, put her day job on hold while she regularly got up at 6am and spent the day laying bricks.
She worked on the project Monday to Friday and Mr Sullivan, 58, helped her at weekends.
She said: “A year to the day since I started we moved in. At that point the house was just a shell.
“I did everything from the plumbing to the electrics to the carpentry.
“The only things I couldn't do was the roofing, the screeding and the plaster work.
“I'm over the moon now. There is still work to do but it has cost around 180,000 pounds to get the house to this stage and it's worth around one million pounds.
“I could have easily chucked it all in but I stuck at it and now have the house of our dreams.”