The backstory of our self build in Portugal

Before we start the build (as we are STILL waiting for the correct paperwork!) I thought I would share the backstory of how we came to choose Portugal for our new country of residence. Having always planned to live and renovate a house in Italy, we switched our focus to the south of Portugal, and made the decision to build our own home.

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We are finally at the end of the journey for the pre-build phase, and will be shooting lots of footage as the house takes shape.

Thanks for watching.


First site visit to obtain a proposal for water and excavation

Who was there?

Yesterday I had my first onsite visit to obtain proposals from the excavation/landscaping company and for drilling the bore hole. My engineer/project manager and new architect met with me onsite to explain to both companies what was required for the initial phase of construction.

Why a new architect?

This was unintentional, the first architect we worked with was part of the family firm. I really enjoyed working with him as he is; creative, flamboyant and has a great imagination. Even if sometimes I needed to reign him in a little. I told him I couldn’t afford his imagination. Think huge wing shaped roofs! I simply don’t have the budget for that. Sadly, the family firm split into two, my architect going it alone, and the civil engineer/project manager continuing with my project. I then started work with the other architect (already at the firm), who shared my love of modern minimalist architecture, and the design evolved even more. A good result for me, but I’m a little sad that the original architect is no longer involved.

How do they prepare a proposal for a bore hole?

The bore hole is very straight forward. It’s expected that we will drill down to find a reservoir of water at approximately 230 metres. However, the drilling could go as low as 300 metres. As we will be paying by the metre, we are hoping to hit water, sooner rather than later. Then the geology of the rock plays another part in the cost. If the rock is stable and free from caves, we can use PVC pipe. If it not so stable, we need to use metal piping which increases the cost substantially – almost double!

Why do we need a bore hole?

We would have free access to water for the house, garden and swimming pool. Any money we spend on access to water is an investment for the future, as a bore hole adds value to the plot and ultimately the house. Our dream is to own a home with no ongoing running costs or utility bills. We would still need to buy drinking water, but the bathrooms and the laundry room could run solely on water drawn from the borehole. So, we see it as a wise investment.

I’m now waiting for the proposal from the drilling company. Once I have this, I need to provide a copy of; the deeds for the land, my passport and my construction permit. The drilling company can then apply for a licence to start drilling. It’s anticipated the wait for this document is no more than 6 weeks. I plan to film and document the whole process so check back soon for updates.

Excavation proposal time!

The excavator will clear the land of rocks, but keep them onsite for future use. I have lots of dry-stone walls which need rebuilding around the whole perimeter of our plot. This is something I would like to complete myself, throughout the winter months. I’m hoping I will be an expert by the time I finish! Maybe its wishful thinking – we shall see.

The machinery will also cut through the existing hedge, create an access road and build a driveway to our house. It will level off the plot and also prepare a retaining wall behind the house, to prevent land slippage. Huge stone blocks will used to create a gigantic dry wall, which runs the full length of the house, dividing the plot in two. The higher level will be left fairly wild, but I intend to plant citrus trees and edible plants everywhere I can – hence why I need a bore hole to keep the plants hydrated.

Large, very old carob trees will be cut down, logged and left onsite ready for our log burner to heat our house. Smaller young carob trees will be removed, to provide a parking/turning area for trucks.

The land will then be ready for the steel and concrete construction team, which is pencilled in for September.

When can I see more photos?

I don’t have any interesting images at the moment, but this should change soon as work gets underway. There will be a weekly YouTube blog, plus lots of photos here.

If you know of any other self builders nearby in Loulé, please help me connect with them so we can share experiences and top tips (and keep each other sane!).

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you hang around to read more about my build.

Have a beautiful day!


Finally, we are starting construction in Loulé

It’s taken 4 years, but we are finally ready to start construction on our modern, minimalist home on the hills above Loulé, Algarve.

Our project started over 5 years ago, when we decided that it was time to build the home of our dreams. We had been planning for many years to move to Italy. Researching every area, and spending many weeks each year looking for the perfect location. We never found anywhere which felt like home.

We were watching a TV show about building homes overseas and spotted a few nice filming locations in Portugal. Whilst watching the show, we decided to book a flight the same week to explore north of Lisbon. We spent a few days in the area, checking out the Atlantic beaches, small villages and towns on the Silver Coast. The weather was awful every day we were there. It was April, cold, raining constantly and nowhere felt like somewhere we could settle. Reluctantly I checked the weather in Algarve. Of course, it was much warmer with clear blue skies. We packed our bags and headed south in the hire car to explore the coastline and towns of southern Portugal.

We explored from Sagres, all the way to the Spanish border. Stopping in different towns and swimming off different beaches along the way. Again. Nowhere felt like home. We sat and talked about what we needed from a town. We lived close to the market town of Totnes in Devon, with it’s quaint little boutiques, independent shops and weekly market. This is what we were looking for – Totnes in Portugal. Did it exist? I googled ‘best market town in Algarve’, and top of the list was Loulé. We headed straight for the town and the market hall. Parking was easy and free – good start! There were so many little cafes and shops on the way there, it looked promising.

On entering the market hall, it happened… we both declared ‘this is it!’

Now, here we are 5 years later, finally building our home. When we started, we had anticipated it would take 1 year to design the house and get full planning. This is what everyone told us, but that (as it turns out) was very optimistic indeed.

Today I have a meeting onsite, to discuss the bore hole and fencing on the property to make it  secure. This is the first meeting of hundreds (if not thousands) which will take place over the next 18 months as the build progresses.

We have August pencilled in for the diggers to prepare for the concrete and steel structure, which is due to commence in September. I am prepared for these dates to slip, after all, this is Portugal and we are (hopefully) at the end of a pandemic which has slowed construction projects and limited the availability of materials.

Our plot is large at almost 7500m² so the cost of fencing the whole area will be quite sizable. As we are on top of a hill, the cost of the borehole will be high too. I’m keeping a spreadsheet with all the costs so it will be interesting to see how far the budget stretches. We plan to make use of solar, water via borehole and maybe even a small wind turbine. If we can make our running costs almost zero, and complete construction without a mortgage, I will consider this build a success.

I will start vlogging about the build once things get underway, so check back often for new posts and videos. Thanks for stopping by, if you have any questions, please send to and I will do my best to help you.