A Fabric First Family Home

A Fabric First Family Home

In the final instalment of our series of articles on taking a ‘fabric first’ approach to your self build project, Sarah White, Residential Sector Manager at British Gypsum, looks at a real example of this in practice.

One of the challenging aspects of building your own home is striking the balance between splurging on the ‘wow’ factor showpieces and investing in the basics. With most self builders working to a finite budget, it can be tempting to focus on the more visible fixtures and features, but this can be a huge mistake. 

Choosing to invest in high quality materials for the actual structure of your home is the best way to futureproof your property, ensuring it meets your needs now and for many years to come. After all, kitchens and bathrooms can always be upgraded further down the line, but the basic structural elements need to be right from the beginning.

Taking this fabric first approach means building long-term durability into the property at the design stage and thinking carefully about how to use each of the spaces within the property. This will help inform which materials to use in each area – for example, in a busy family hallway you might consider upgrading the specification of the plasterboard to prevent the inevitable knocks and bangs from the kids’ scooters and bikes causing damage to the walls. 

Similarly, a bit of planning can pay huge dividends when it comes to the acoustic performance of the property, as it will allow you to identify areas where you could reduce noise disturbances home. 

Spend time thinking about these crucial issues right at the beginning of a project, just as the Hanysz family did when they started planning their dream home. Nick and Fiona, from York, knew that they wanted to create a flexible, open living space that worked for the whole family.

Nick explained that they decided to self-build after years of living in period properties. He said: “We’ve lived in old Victorian houses before that we basically destroyed with our bad DIY. With this in mind, it was really important to us that we chose the right products to use in our home.”

The couple opted for a timber frame house and instructed Crescent Architecture Limited to design the property and oversee the works on site. The timber frame was constructed by Oakworth Homes. As well as offering design flexibility, timber frame homes have lightweight components, which can be assembled in a matter of days after the foundations have been laid. 

The couple then began to think about the interior walls of their property. It was only after attending a home building trade show that they decided to incorporate Gyproc Habito plasterboard from British Gypsum into the specification process. 

Gyproc Habito has a reinforced core, making it five times stronger than regular plasterboard. The product is installed in the same way as standard plasterboard but can support up to 15kg with a single number 10 woodscrew. The super-strength solution meant the couple were able to secure heavier items such as TVs, book shelves, large paintings and mirrors to the wall without specialist fixings.  

“We wanted to focus on strength and versatility, so we could be sure every room would continue to work for us over a long period of time,” added Nick. “Taking a fabric first approach has allowed us to do that.”

Fiona added: “We have lots of pictures and putting them up has been so simple because we haven’t had to bother with tricky fixings. I’ve saved a lot of time and effort.”

Not only have the couple attached pictures to the wall, the interior of their home now features large clocks, televisions, lighting and even a giant surveyor’s stick which stretches from the ground floor up into the mezzanine level of the property.

Nick also said that upgrading the fabric of the interior walls has made the house feel solid: “The newer properties we looked at felt really flimsy. Being a timber frame house, this was one of our main concerns, yet the house feels solid and you can tell it has been well built with quality materials,” he said.

There are lots of practical reasons why taking a fabric first approach makes perfect sense, but there are some compelling aesthetic reasons to prioritise the basic structural elements too. For example, Nick and Fiona also opted to use ThistlePro Magnetic Plaster, an innovative magnetised plaster which turns any wall into an interactive display. Applied to new or existing walls, once dry it can be painted or covered with wallpaper. 

Nick and Fiona used the plaster in the kitchen to create a visually appealing magnetic wall, where they can display artwork, family notices, shopping lists and postcards – all of which can be changed and rearranged without fuss.

Fiona said: “It’s really flexible, we can change the design when it suits us, so it makes a great feature wall. I was really in favour of using magnetic plaster as I love putting our daughter Florence’s drawings up in the kitchen. The plaster goes right down to the floor so the whole wall is effectively a ‘living’ notice board and there’s also blackboard paint on the wall, so it really is multi-purpose.”

With the property now complete, the Hanyszfamily couldn’t be happier with the end result. “By using these innovative products we’ve been able to create a truly flexible home that gives us the freedom to play around with the design without any fuss,” added Nick. 

For more information about taking a fabric first approach to your self build, please visit