“And?” I prompted, ”that’s it” she said. Thus a corner of a green English field enhanced by some royal snowdrops was destined to become a Welshman’s first self-build.
The unexpectedly abbreviated list was a list of life-sustaining features she deemed absolute move-in must-haves for our minimum viable new home. When a woman falls in love with a building plot it is surprising how few luxuries she deems essential to swing the deal with her master builder to be.
I have been a reasonably competent master & commander of a middle size 35ft sailing yacht in recent years though beyond that claim I am a jack of zero trades. Early encounters with the good denizens of the BuildHub forum tarred me as a hopelessly naive computer programmer fit for little more than making tea onsite. Some forum luminaries offered encouragement and suggested that with sufficient aptitude my career as a selfbuilder could see promotion to building site chief portaloo cleaner.
A period of financial scrutiny followed acceptance of my offer on the plot. The sale of the yacht had released funds to build to about shoulder height and money from a previous house sale would buy a roof, windows and staircase. Beyond that I will need to dispel the notion I am a chinless wonder of a self-builder otherwise this whole project might become a millstone around my neck and by winter 2018/19 it would be a cold unoccupied millstone.
Heritage is a double-edged sword for a house builder, some nearby castle ruins come at a cost. Our new conservation officer is reputed to wield a fearsome sword according to local village lore. The build material costs will be loaded with conservation extras such as a slate roof, cute bricks that I suspect were rejects during the building of Hampton Court or Euro Disney and sash windows. At least the royal snowdrops were free.
Looking back to the beginning of the year our transition from house hunters to self builders was a spontaneous event triggered by some cheerful rural birds on a cold January Sunday afternoon, back then the “Beast From The East” meant the local conservation officer. Just four months ago we were searching for a regular house complete with a roof and front door key. And now, as I write the first entry in this saga, we own a plot with detailed planning permission for a modest 1500 sq ft house fit for Jane Austen. I should also report that the science behind the butterfly effect is incomplete as it should include birdsong.
p.s. Does anyone know what a dormant snowdrop looks like? I need to effect my own conservation before the JCB moves in.
I attach some thoughts from Pinterest about small garden spaces. The key is the three dimensional nature of the designs...a clue to success. A clue to garden design is to itemise/list nice to haves, needs and wants, taking into account views, overlooking, climate and seasons, indeed not dissimilar to house layout, and of course changes in fashion, plant growth etc. Another must is to observe sun angles (OK that's climate and seasons) but it's easy to make assumptions. Obviously think about family changes, as you would for house layout.
It's been a quiet few weeks on the house site waiting for the contractors to come back, but we have done the following:
Building control and quantity surveyor inspected the works carried out to date
The plumber supplied our the internal drainage.
Anchor straps fitted.
Alum clad, triple glazed windows order finalised and placed
Attic trusses design reviewed and finalised
We are now commencing the final stage of the foundations. In filling the solum is the first job.
The solum has now been infilled and whacked with the aggregate. A finer layer is now being added on top.
Plenty of diggers and dumpers here.
Last day of the foundations. DPC was put down and then the concrete wagon came back on site.
We used around 25m3 of concrete and as the photos show through the last few blog posts, we had fantastic weather conditions during this foundation.
I was also pleased with the amount of the rubbish that is going to the dump, just four cements bag full of plastic waste.
My planning permission is now submitted and I've a reference number and everything! So, there's about 5 weeks waiting for objections and then 3 weeks where the planners will come back with questions / start examining the submission. Then you get a preliminary approval with a 4 week cooling off period before the final official permission is granted, with their contribution bill! Once granted, I'm planning on some preliminary groundworks on the current old house to realign the driveway and access water and broadband services so I don't need to dig up that front garden again. I checked and I can issue a commencement notice but agree to only pay a portion of the contribution fee (nearly 10K) until the main build commences. I'll have water connection charges to pay also but they are changing their fee structure in the next few weeks to standardize it across the country which puts the price up unfortunately - that's how it goes!
I reviewed the final drawings presented by the Architect before they were submitted and noted that they called out some details which I wasn't expecting. Plus there was a legal letter I'd to get signed and witnessed by a solicitor to state I own the site which was a surprise and required getting a quick appointment (section 97 statutory declaration).
In case this helps someone else who are reviewing their drawings, these are the areas I called out in mine:
PVC gutter and downpipes - I indicated I'd prefer aluminium if budget permitted. Would stating PVC prevent me from this option later? (They removed the reference to PVC)
Timber Gates 1.5M high vs boundary wall of 1.8M - The current side gate is 1.8M so I asked them to raise it
Concrete boundary wall - Currently all boundaries to the neighbors are concrete posts with timber fencing that slots between them.
Overheating - I'd suggested stretching the porch overhang (zinc) over the downstairs bedroom window and assumed they'd reduced the height of that window. Turns out they just raised the height of the overhang!
Plain black roof tile was listed - The current houses have red concrete tiles that have weathered very dark. I was wondering if we'd need to go with red tiles but this colour would be less jarring to the neighbors!
A brick finish was listed - We're going to fake it with K-Rend so I wanted to check we weren't forced to use brick slips. Strangely enough the Architect wasn't aware / forthcoming about this technique and was discussing actual brick slips until I got talking to a K-Rend guy at a self build exhibition. I'm sometimes surprised by the little things I've picked up on this forum and doing research that I assumed the Architect would know about?!
I asked about a Green roof on the rear roof the use of a roof overhang shade the upper windows - The response was cost, weight factors and pitch are working against a green roof here. An overhang would require structural loads from wind to be taken into account so we're sticking with louvres which are a better fit for my budget. I figured this would be the answer but better ask I say than wondering what if...
A friend suggested removable Louvres - They are in hardwood so one concern I had was maintenance over time. Maybe stainless steel would be better. Again hardware louvres was the term used in the drawing so I wanted to check I could use a different material later. Hardwood timber should be ok though. We'll see what the options are closer to build.
Attenuation vs rainwater - I'd seen some other planning submissions and their SUDs report favour water butts. I hope to install a rainwater harvesting tank underground if the budget permits. The drainage layout specified didn't have any provision for same but the Architect has since added in a reference to a concrete rainwater harvesting tank which I hope I can afford to install.
Solar PV - they forgot to add the 8 panels on the south facing roof / reference them there but I asked about adding more panels out the back garden. There's a 12 square meter limit for solar panels and you can't reduce your free garden space below 50 square meters. They indicated the ground mount array could be dealt with later so I'll look into this at a later date.
Basically I read every detail on each of the documents to ensure understood them as much as I could. The docs may trigger questions from the planners at some point. The questions will incur an hourly charge by the Architect to respond to. The Stage 2 fee was paid prior to submitting the plans and they are posting me out a full set including some A1 printouts which will be nice to hang somewhere! I'm still waiting on the DWG and BER/DEAP XML files I requested so I can use these when discussing heating, ventilation etc with a few suppliers. I got an A2 preliminary BER but can increase to A1 with a few extra solar PV panels (6 x 270W in total) and we've got 8 panels allocated so we're good to go there.
The PHPP results prompted the Architect to recommend radiators over underfloor heating. I've already discussed the overheating issue. They seemed content with 5% which in the current climate context I thought was surprising. I asked them to change the climate data to London and it shot up to 13% (because I think that's where we're heading). I'm more worried about overheating when it's warm than heating when it's cold. We've since got it down to under 1% (local climate data) when allowing for opening of the roof lights. I'm happy enough with that for now. I might tinker with the glazing G values at a later date. The treated floor area is a bit misleading as it's a 108 m2 house but I still can't believe the heating load figures. I remember the architect saying there's about a 500w peak heating load for this house. I've a 2kW electric oil-less heater sitting beside me here on the old house just to warm my office/bedroom!
So, this week I'm talking to builders, timber frame suppliers and visiting one or two sites to line up reputable tradesmen I'll need down the road. I've also sent off the plans to a few companies for quotes on MVHR, Underfloor heating and timber frame prices. Then I can start to hone in on those areas and shape some choices. I received strong recommendations on one timber framed provider but haven't been able to get in touch with the key person. Hopefully they'll get in touch in due course as I'd like to visit one of their sites to understand their approach as they don't show their detailing on their website. Another company can do a turnkey solution. The only issue is they have extensive site pictures where they use two courses of concrete blocks above the foundations and sit their timber frame on top of this. I'm concerned about thermal bridging as a result but hope to visit one of their nearly completed houses to see if this is the case or not. They have some other examples of a passive slab I'm more in favour of so I may not be looking at the most applicable examples!
Brexit as always plays a part as my build commencement may be 2019 so I have to be careful about supply / support from the UK in that context. There are some excellent companies in Northern Ireland I would like to employ but I may have to reconsider those until we see what happens in March next year.
So, that's this phase almost complete. Just waiting on permission now and then can see about how to shape the next stage from there.....!
The ground works have moved on considerably, no doubt assisted by the fine weather we have experienced since mid April. The dwarf wall and base for the car port was always the priority as the frame itself arrives to site on Monday 14th May. The main house sub structure is almost complete – the ducting for the electricity cable and water pipes are in as are the drainage outlets. Over the next week or so the sub base will be completed. The TF is due to arrive Tuesday 29th May.
You will see I have electricity going into the car port structure – this is where I will be housing the main electricity meter. Look close enough and you will see an additional piece of ducting. This will allow a return run back into the house. I have also allowed for water to be supplied to an outside tap in future.
You may be able to pick out the orange temporary fencing. Installed to protect the tree as per a planning condition. However, more importantly, nesting in the long grass between the fencing and the tree is a pheasant. She is sitting on a nest of at least 10 eggs. I discovered this as I was strimming the long grass a week or so ago!!
I have also attached an image of the trench in which we placed the water and electric ducting.
One of the many reasons for joining this forum was to try and establish the likely costs for various elements of a self build. A s a complete novices it was important to us to try and establish such costs as we didn’t want to venture into something that was going to financially break us. So with this in mind, I am happy to disclose the cost of our ground works to the point displayed in the photos shown in this entry. Hopefully, others will appreciate it as I am keen to offer whatever information I can for the immense wealth of knowledge I have gleaned so far from this wonderful forum.
Total cost so far for the ground works –
Strip site and to do concrete foundations - £5500
To build to floor level - £4100
To prepare and concrete ground floor - £9000 [includes car port]
Thanks for reading.
Well, all the outside is done now except for some weird small bits the builder has not yet done for no reason I can work out - the stone above the porch window (1 layer about 6" thick) and the ground floor bathroom window sill, and the bottom of the porch doorway.
They are coming back which is fine and there is no panic, but I don't quite know why they left those bits undone.
Anyway, as is the way of these things, we ran over by a good few thousand - mostly because both the independent QS costings we paid for and Buildstores own costings people, omitted parts of the stonework (quite a lot of stone mullions as well as stone water tabling). I contacted Buildloan and explained we'd need more dosh. First advice was that it would be cheaper to get a loan - so, knowing we have a 999 score credit rating and more than double the equity in the house & land, we applied - and for the first time in our lives were refused! It made no sense, so we tried another - same result.
Reasonable income, its affordable, whats going on? On a whim I checked with Experian and found Talkmobile (who I've not been with for about 2 years) had wrecked my credit record claiming unpaid bills! Simply not true! So I chased them - they apologised and said they'd get the incorrect information removed by Experian "in 30 days" - I offered to sue if they didn't do it immediately for the extra thousands it was going to cost me having to go the mortgage route - rates plus Buildstores £500 + fee for filling a form in. So, I check and sure enough, my credit record was restored a few days later.
Next day we apply again, - and were refused again! I check and find TalkMobile have done it again ! This time adding a completely bogus claim of a late payment "within the last 2 months" - for an account which has not existed for about 2 years! So back we go, and they apologise again and within 48 hours this one is also removed from my record (I've looked online and they've done this to loads of people - to one guy for a supposed £1 debt!). But now we have several "refused" records showing, so they've absolutely stuffed us, even though they admit error and we are back to a 999 maximum credit rating.
So, with heavy heart we've had to go back to the nightmare that is Buildstore/Buildloan, and yet again, they are dragging the application out for as long as they can. First time round their game was to ask for say 3 months bank statements, then once you'd sent them, wait a couple of weeks and then ask you for the previous 3 months to that - this went on with payslips, P60s going back about 6 years and on and on - but never just asking for what the Building society wanted in one go, just one document at a time, even when I called and said "look, tell me *everything* you need and I'll send it all in one go" - oh no. (we should have known really when our initial application to Buildstore sat on someones desk for a month with nothing done until I rang and asked what was happening. I then had to chase them every single step of the way to make them get on with each step otherwise they just sat on the documents until they "expired", at which point they'd want the next months document, then the next months payslip - by which time a new statement was due and so on and on and on. I had to find how to contact the Chief Exec in the end to get them to actually just submit the damn application! A job which if i could have done it myself was all doable in maybe a week maximum.
To my horror, they are doing the same again - they asked for 3 months (cunningly sent them 6 months so they couldn't play the same trick) payslips and bank statements, and already they've sat on them so long they are asking for the next ones! They have to be the most stressful way of getting a mortgage by far. when I rang the Building Society they assure me they send out a sheet to Buildstore at the start and list everything they want in one go (Buildloan tried to tell me it was the Building Society asking for one thing at a time - which made no sense to me, as why would any building society or bank do it that way?) .
So I've just read an email asking me for a statement they *already have* and for this months payslips (which we don't have yet of course). I've written back pointing out that this will go on indefinitely if they don't just submit the paperwork and keep waiting until the statements and payslips are a month out of date. So I've also asked for a definite date when they plan to submit and have said if they cannot give me one, and do not plan to submit it this week then it makes sense for me to send all things in future direct to the Building Society, telling the Building Society why, rather than them being sat in someones desk at Buildloan until they expire. Give me strength!
One final push today saw all the furniture and curtains put in place- a big group effort with much input from the in-laws. I'm very fortunate to have a MiL who is an ace seamstress and who has a bit of a thing about Harris Tweed.
To say I'm chuffed is a bit of an understatement. It's been over four years since the concept of this project first appeared, and three years since work began in earnest. Today we finally saw the culmination of all that effort as the building site was transformed into a home. It's exactly what I imagined: cosy, welcoming, stylish.
We'll be listing it on the booking websites tomorrow (most likely a combination of AirBnB and Booking.com) so that will give me the impetus needed to tackle the lengthy snagging list and major outstanding jobs, most of which are on the outside.
Some of the cladding details (corners and window reveals) aren't finished yet, the soffets need to be completed, and the biggest job of all is the decking. There's also the creature comforts of WiFi and TV to sort out. I know people come to Skye to get away from it all, but I bet the first thing they will ask for is a WiFi password
Once again, huge thanks to everyone in the BuildHub community who has held my hand throughout this whole project. It's a lot smaller than many other builds, but it's been exceptionally hands on with me personally tackling almost every trade, from drafting the plans to building the kit; I even got an excuse to do some digger driving a couple of weeks ago.
A few days for the foundations to settle and then the deliveries arrive and the builders set to work again............ The images will show the footprint of the house and utility room together with the walling and dwarf wall on which will sit the oak framed car port.
In a recent blog, I listed some of the chapters on garden design and ways to approach...clue, 'The same way as a house layout'!
So it seems reasonable to list some of the chapters and book reviews in my book...'Self Build Design...the last thing you need is an architect', not a sideswipe at architects, but a review of your way forward before the architect/designer's fee clock starts ticking. The book is equally appropriate for bespoke/custom designs, as well as renovations, rebuilds and extensions. There is no padding, none of it put together by Phil Space or Phillipa Page, and few pretty, pretty snaps to make you jealous.
Here goes, in no particular order...
House on a narrow plot...a tale of some real, narrow houses...with clues.
Character, Interest, Delight...wow factor. a reprise of earlier thoughts with a real tale
Whither fashion...Some thoughts about the sale of a tired classic design, and the ability to see beyond fashion
The Small House...Its Architecture and Surroundings...some thoughts about an early twentieth Century book, written by an Arts and Crafts architect, but very valid for today.
The Artistic House...A book review, with reference to Tips from one of the UK's most successful Arts and Crafts architects.
The Place of Houses...another review of an American House design team complete with extensive check-list.
Solutions for Making small houses feel big...a further analysis of Frank Lloyd Wrights thinking. well illustrated with plans.
The Sensual Home. Some thoughts about Ilse Crawford's coffee table work on the impact of a home on our senses. ever since she has contributed to a US TV show the book now retails for over £100...good luck tracking that down...time for reprint I feel!
How about a garden to be proud of...My thoughts, along with colleagues, from my spell of teaching architecture.
How and Where to start design...as above and self-explanatory
Listing of words and descriptions (and their opposites)...used as a teaching method for 'lost' design students.
Spatial Excitement...Based on A fully developed response to a question on another forum.
Brief and site analysis...the 'must do' part of the design process, and the reason why pre-made plans and plan books are, IMHO, pretty pointless
Above is a brief resume of just a few reviews, reiterated blogs and thoughts from teaching days on approach design...its all frustrating sometimes, but great fun. Some readers will know this already.
For more info contact Jamie on firstname.lastname@example.org
We've got some initial ideas together, image attached. For anyone interested, we've used an architect to help us. The picture roughly shows the situation, the current plan is to take out some of the conifers in the background and place the house there, replanting some other areas with natives.
To give the attached a bit of context, this is a house which allow us to work/restore an area of woodland, hence why the main entry is through the utility room. Overall we're looking for a fairly functional house that will cheap to run but will also make the best of the views as we're in a nice spot.
The 'bottom' wall of the plan faces roughly SSE (lean-to/kitchen on north side).
Windows are sort of nominally placed and sized as we just wanted to get the outline design and room arrangement sorted first so expect them to change. Same for external wall thickness.
What's missing/not going to work?
Hello again...a recent Pinterest garden design vision of approaches...if you don't like lawns! Well you've got to pamper them and cut then 20+ times a year
Just caught a piece on the Today programme (about 8.45am R4. 23:4:18) . This was a brief interview with the Editor of Country Life, gardening section, Catherine Bradley-Hole who is leaving the role after 18 years. Her view suggests that there has been a generational rise in garden design and planting as much to do with the environment, health, food and general well-being often promoted by Radio 4 and TV. I am not a great gardener, but my student and teaching experience with Landscape Architect Par Gustafsson, showed me a new way of viewing 'The spaces surrounding and in between our houses. He always used to suggest (in a school of Architecture, would you believe?) that in any project, the first person to be consulted should be a landscape Architect...well, he would do I guess!
However, this all must've rubbed off as in my book "Self Build Home...the last thing you need is an architect!" equally appropriate for custom design, bespoke work and extensions, I attach a list of mini chapters, blogs, references, observations and teachings of Par, on approaches to landscape and especially garden design.
Threshold and Entrances
Survey, Analyse and Propose
Courtyards and the spaces in betwwen
Transparency and Character
National Garden Scheme
Garden Design approach
How about a garden to be Proud of?
The Bible...A Pattern Language, Chris Alexander et Al
Amongst other chapters, I cite these chapters especially as they are about adding value and wow factor to your pride and joy...Happy designing. Email email@example.com for more info
Yes, after years of dreaming, thinking, researching and waiting, work finally started on our first self build project.
After a couple of false starts due to the builder having to finish a job that over ran and the arrival of the better weather, we eventually broke ground on Wednesday 18th April, two days later than anticipated. Annoying yes, but then what can you do? It’s only two days and it’s important to maintain a relationship with your builder.
Nonetheless, we are now ready to do the foundations, which start W/C 23rd April.
The sheer amount of top soil removed was somewhat overwhelming. The site had to be stripped down to what is called the sub soil – the firm clay stuff and therefore everything above it had to be removed. We had allocated a spot within the plot to store the topsoil but we soon realised that this space wasn’t going to be enough! Thankfully, the neighbouring farmer allowed us to deposit the remaining topsoil, in the field directly next to our plot. He will no doubt make use of it over the coming months but I have to say, if he hadn’t allowed us to do that, we would have had no choice but to hire in a fleet of tipper trucks with grabbers attached. Imagine the expense of that !!
Anyway, the top soil removed and store within our plot we come in handy once the landscaping starts.
I spent a couple of days as the Dumper truck driver and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t have the nerve to give the digger a go – far to many levers and pedals!!
The hired in toilet was christened within half an hour of the Digger driver arriving ! Thank goodness it gets serviced every week.
SPEnergy and BT Openreach both dropped off their respective ducting for when the time comes. Interesting to note that SPEnergy would only allow us 50 metres of ducting as anymore would affect the type of cabling that would have to be installed. 50 metres should be more than sufficient for us but in any case the guy who dropped off the ducting, gave us 75 metres!!
The structures, namely the timber frame for the house and the car port, will be erected during the middle of May and the back end of May. Again, another little set back really, albeit a week later than expected. The team of erectors will not have finished the job before ours in time so we had to take a slot, a week later.
More photos will be posted as the work unfolds but for now here are a few of the work so far.
Thanks for reading.
Well, finally after years of iterations of drawings in the pre-planning and planning phases we're off to the races! Before I post the final plans I was talking to the Architect today about the potential for overheating shown by the PHPP calculations. I'm going for a Passive House and my concern was rising global temperatures (during the build and more likely afterwards!). The PHPP package allows for 10% of days where the internal temps can rise over 25 degress celcius. That's a lot of days! Not so comfy! The Architect initially aimed for 5%.
We delved into it a bit further and I challenged them to improve on this. I did discuss the 3M film which cuts down on long wavelength IR, i.e. drops your Windows G value right down and no more overheating, but, you don't get solar gain in the cooler months either! Bit of a tradeoff. The G values they are using for me currently are 0.6. Other U values are as follows (based on timber framed construction): Floor = 0.12, Roof = 0.1, Walls = 0.125, Doors = 0.96, Windows = 0.84 (These are just placeholders but fairly typical and not hard to meet)
I get an A2 rating from the DEAP package which is my preliminary BER. To meet Part L I need one, yes "1" solar PV panel, go figure! Add 5 more panels and I go up to an A1 BER rating, the highest. This assumes a standard Heat Pump and MHRV etc.
I'll investigate Passive House Plus / Premium at a later time as that encompasses energy consumption & renewable generation. I should fit 8 panels on the roof comfortably, I'm hoping for more in the back garden at some point.
Anyway, what was I on about - overheating! 5% was a bit high given that when I asked them to switch the climate data from Dublin to London it shot up to 13%. Scorcher! By 2050 I wouldn't be surprised if that was the result for this house without a physical move! I want to build for more than today and one generation. The 5% figure is based on having internal blinds on both the rooflights and south facing windows, and opening the windows in the evening to cool down the house if I understood correctly. And that's if you're home during the day otherwise if you forget to pull the blinds you'll be roasted coming home. The MHRV can help a bit but just can't deal with the heat load on a really hot day. I needed to find out what were my options and get that % right down....
I'd read here about the successful use of 3M prestige window film. It drops the G value in half which denotes the level of solar gain the window lets in. The only drawback is while you're cooler in the summer you'll pay for that in winter = less solar gain when you really do want it! It still might be useful for one or two windows and certainly if the temperatures soar over the next decade or two worth introducing then.
External shutters are very common on the continent but rarely used in Ireland. As it's the front of the house this could be a planning battle but is it one worth having? You would have to go back to the planners later if so.....
Brise Soleil if I've spelled it correctly are those overhanging louvres that are angled to block the worst of the summer sun. With these in place and this is the strategy the Architect is aiming at, it reduces overheating periods to 2%. Then if you start opening windows etc it get's it down to 1%. Blackout blinds are available for Velux rooflights but while they can be motorized, they aren't automatic. Even though the roof lights are on the north facing side, the angle of the summer sun will bring in light and associated heat during the peak months.
Internal blinds are of course most likely mandatory but unless they are also automated, they might miss the period of time that would prevent an overheating event.
So, right now we're looking at Louvres and internal window blinds. I did see some nice external blinds but these would have to take the weather and I'm not sure if outward opening windows would be compatible? Inward opening windows I feel would leak over time as the seal is pushed in with wind/rain over the years. But that's a different discussion!
The front of the house faces just off south at 204 degrees. There's a zinc half porch over the front door and glass window beside it. The windows themselves are tall rather than wide so I'm not sure the Louvres will offer as much protection during the shoulder months but that's probably for the best. The PHPP package was used to drive the 2% with the proposed Louvres size so as long as they stay on the house and don't fly off in the wind, they are probably the solution I'll stick with. Unless the planners have their say!
Maybe all I need is electrical windows that darken with a switch....!
Chance meetings, research and no fear of being nosy have stood me in good stead for many years and it's proving no different with getting a house built. The 'dig deep' thing was bothering me, mainly the thought of having to go down 2m over the entire footprint of the build and the cost of all that muckaway, as well as the risk of it all turning into a giant, muddy swimming pool during the process. I will freely admit that up until about 10 days ago, the thought of having to get piling included in the build struck terror into me due to what I perceived as the potential cost and complexity involved, all down to my own ignorance about piling. As a new comer to the world of self building, the only thing I'd really picked up on in the past was hearing about remedial work to houses that were falling down and the huge amounts of cash involved.
I'd already had a mooch around this site to see what I could see on the matter of piles and had a look at @recoveringacademic's blog and his comments and rapidly lost my fear but not my trepidation over costs. I also had a visit to the build site of another BH member who has been very helpful and encouraging. It was a spontaneous visit as I was really, truly just passing by his site on the way to my own, but his structural engineer was there at the time so I stood quietly by and ear-wigged, as you do, and then one thing led to another and we started chatting about my site and my clay dilemma.
The upshot is that the SEs were really helpful guys and I'm engaging them to design a piling system to support my MBC build and overcome the risk of both lateral and vertical movement that my site is very vulnerable to. I'm also having them design the drainage system while they're at it. They will liaise with the architect, building control and the timber frame company and make sure that my build not only gets out of the ground but stays in the same place once it's done. I've never had an issue with professional fees as long as they are ones that are genuine and add value to a project. In this case, it will be money very well spent and a huge weight off my mind. How best to approach the drainage plan had been vexing me for the last few weeks, particularly as my clay soil means that soakaways don't function.
One thing that I think may be worth mentioning is the combination of the passive slab and a piling system. The soil beneath the building is not just highly shrinkable clay, but also very dessicated thanks to the long term presence of a few trees and a super thirsty hawthorn hedge. Although these are all now gone, their long term potential affect on the soil will remain for a long time. In particular, the risk of heave. The piling system will keep the building in place, but does nothing to stop the swelling of the clay directly underneath from pushing up and breaking the floor of the new structure. The SE started to talk about a suspended floor to mitigate against this. However, a few days ago I read a BH discussion where @JSHarris mentioned the issue of an airgap under a passive slab having a detrimental affect on the insulation of a slab so was able to say with some confidence that I wanted the slab to rest on the ground, and my reasons why. The SE was fine with this and all the gubbins under the floor will now include a layer that is a honeycomb structure with the face of the cells resting on the ground so that if it does expand, it has somewhere to expand into without damaging the slab.
The helical piles are part of an impressive system - no piling mat, no excavation if you don't need it (I need some to make sure that the floor level of the house is level with the ground), super quick to install and little vibration. This will save a huge amount of time and money compared with digging deep and a far more elegant solution with the dangers of heave solved as well. In all, the cost of the SE and the piling won't cost me any more and it may be somewhat cheaper. The time element is important, too, as the lesser amount of excavation will be much speedier and keep me on track for the main part of the build to take place from end of May onwards, assuming everything else is ready.
The cherry on the cake was put in place this morning with full discharge of all the pre-commencement planning conditions. All in all, a good week.
Last week we poured our concrete strip foundation and we have now moved onto the block work. Monday was a day of stacking the first blocks, taking measurements and setting up lines. By the end of Monday we were all ready to start with the first course in the morning.
By the end of the Wednesday we were at:
By the end of the Thursday, a lot more blocks were delivered and we were at:
The good weather continues into the second week and so does the progress on the blockwork.
A little job during the weekend, trenches now dug and ready for the plumber to put in waste drainage pipes
I am annoyed this morning.
Once again my washing-up water - the first hot water I have used in the kitchen today - is running warm then cold then hot.
And the cold water is running warm then cold.
This probably means that the last people, who renovated the house, did not insulate the water pipes where they pass through the zone where there is underfloor heating, and the water standing in the pipes has heated up.
A small annoyance due to lack of sweat applied to the detail. But one that is noticeable and about which I can do nothing practically.
Yesterday we completed the excavation of the trenches. I had a half day at work and came back to the site after lunch to get started on the pour.
I was slightly worried about the heavy concrete wagon coming down our access and over the culvert, but the driver did a great job reversing and the road passed the test with flying colours. Our digger driver than used the bucket to spread the concrete as required.
Half way through.
We now move onto the blockwork next week.
It was a good day and I'm pleased to get this over and done with. Half a day for excavations and half a day for pouring.