Blogs

 

Electricity burial

No, I haven't managed to sneakily bury the wayleave officer somewhere on site!  This post is for the other electricity cable on my site, namely the one that directly supplied the previous building and will supply the new one.  This comes onto the site via an overhead cable and a post and stay that are very close to the new building.  Entirely safe but very ugly and certainly won't fit in with the lovely garden that we're planning. So, from the outset, we've planned to bury this supply as much as possible and today was the day.   Burying the supply has involved putting in a new post right on the boundary with my neighbour's garden, through which the cable runs from the nearby transformer.  The existing cable was then attached to this one and the supply cable runs down it, through a trench and eventually reaches the garage.   The trench was dug last week and blinding sand laid along its length.  Simple enough, but it's a really long trench, something in the order of 50 metres all told, and we got through the best part of 4 tonnes of sand to line the base of the trench.  In digging out the trench, an old land drain got smashed up as it ran directly parallel to the long run of the trench, and at right angles to where the trench turns in to the garage.  I'm really glad that it was dug last week and not this as it was lovely and dry last week.  This week, I'm well on my way to having a moat as a result of the broken land drain.   This is looking back towards my neighbours' cottages and where the new pole will go in, against the fence.  The pole to the right of the cottage on the right is where the supply runs in from.     And this is around the corner, looking towards my garage.  At the end of the trench, there is a duct that MBC put in (there are a few others, too) that allows the cable to come into the garage from under the slab.  There will be a whole bunch of kit going into the garage, including my sunamps, so this seemed like a good place to run the supply in.     Because it's such a distance between the new pole and the garage, the first 30m of the supply cable had to be a very heavy duty one.  About 3/4 of the way along the long trench, there's a fancy looking connector that links the heavy duty cable with a normal one, which continues on into the garage.   As well as running the new cable into the garage, whilst my back was turned, the meter fairy arrived and my electricity meter that was previously located on the old pole near the building magically re-appeared on the wall in the garage.  Useful things, these meter fairies.  When I rang my electricity supplier a couple of weeks back and asked when they might be able to move the meter, the earliest date they had available was mid December, which would have been disastrous.  Thankfully, the forces of good prevailed and the meter is now where it needs to be.   My site seems to have a natural affinity for augurs and drills.  Back at the start of the build, a rig was on site taking soil samples.  This was followed in due course by another rig drilling holes for all the piles and now we've had another one, this time to drill a hole to put the new pole and stay into.  As usual, the augur came up caked in clay but the soil was still dry at depth and it came away nicely.  Here's the augur going in for the pole.     And here's what it drags up.  I really should consider a pottery business.     Just a final pic of the pole on the van:     The guys from SSEPD made the job look very easy, but a reasonable amount went on and there was a fair bit of equipment on site including the cherry picker, drilling rig and the ubiquitous land rover, with 4 guys in total.  They finished just before 1pm and worked efficiently and were a very nice bunch of guys.  A couple of them will be back in due course to do whatever is deemed necessary to the poles carrying the oversailing wires, but that may be a little while off yet.   I have an electrician coming onto site tomorrow to put some connections into the house.  I wasn't planning to get this done until at least another week's time but it needs to be done this week as MBC and Norrsken (windows) are back on site next week for remedial work and they will need to get plugged in for all that.    Once the snagging work is done, the next big push is to get the various roofing jobs finished off so that the building will finally be watertight; my parapet walls may look lovely, but they are leaking like mad right now, so I shall be relieved to get finished there and let everything start to dry out.  I'll also get the trench back-filled as I don't really want a moat and certainly not that close to the building.  It does serve to illustrate very well why a soakaway wouldn't work, though.    

vivienz

vivienz

 

Before...

So a few snaps from Google Earth of the before images - these may be the current images also for a few months. of course Google does mangle the views and the walls are straighter than they appear!  

Adam2

Adam2

 

Ooops (anyone need a window?)

So going on holiday in the middle of your build is not ideal.  Best laid plans and all that.  Holiday booked a year previously.  With extended family so couldn't avoid it.  House build delayed by lots of things.  Resulting in our holiday being slap bang in the middle of the timber frame construction.   Reluctantly we left for northern France, asking the build team at MBC to send photos.  They didn't.  [But a friend did, so we knew it was all going up] The problem is that we didn't see how much of the frame went up so had a lot of questions on our return.     First day back and we spotted this. Actually this is a photo from the second day but we didn't spot the problem until the internal walls were up. The window isn't in the centre. This is our stair well which will have stairs that go up, along and back. It took me about 3 seconds to notice it once we got home from holiday and about 3 seconds to realise that OH wouldn't be able to stand it with the window off centre. Completely our fault.  Should have spotted it on the MBC drawings about 6 months earlier.     The MBC crew were great.  We all set about solving the problem.  Moving the opening was the obvious one but not easy due to a structural vertical support being to the left of the opening.   You can see what we did in the next photo.     Sadly, it wasn't possible to change our window order (already in manufacture) so we ended up ordering a new window.......   Anyone need a window?  

Weebles

Weebles

 

Blink and you miss it (MBC timber frame goes up)

Using a timber frame company (such as MBC) made the frame erection stage of self building quite satisfying.  It only took two weeks to build something that truly looked like a real house.   We did spend more than 7 months in dialogue with MBC over all the little details.  And still we made some quite clanging errors.  More of that in my next post.   It was glorious weather back in July.  [How I wish we weren't in rainy autumn now - we are still not watertight......]   Anyway, the first week passed by in a blur of unloading lorries and the ground floor going up.  And then we went on holiday......        

Weebles

Weebles

 

That's alot of polystyrene

MBC arrived on site, laid Type 1 and soil pipes pretty quickly and 50mm sand blinding and then set to constructing the EPS raft that is now our slab.  Its been said many times on this site, but I will say it again.  These guys work hard.  They arrived before 7am each day and left at 6pm or later each night.  They hardly stopped.  And after a week it was assembled.  Ready for concrete.                

Weebles

Weebles

 

Foundation - how deep shall we dig?

The SE suggested digging 900mm deep because the soil survey said we had clay.  And we have trees. I used the NHBC foundation depth calculator and did alot of reading around foundation digs.  Overthinking it all, alot. BC said to dig to 700mm and see what was there.  Guess what?  No clay (well, only a tiny patch amongst loads of gravel). So the SE suggested a new depth of 200mm.  But we are already at 700mm I said.  No problem he said.  Fill it back in, with crushed concrete and then Type 1 on top. So £5K for muck away and another £7K to fill the hole we didn't need to dig.  Did I mention our contingency was gone? But we have extra secure foundations.  BC happy.  And we have moved on.   A photo blog seems like the simplest way to show what has happened.  So here we are digging it out.       We even shovelled a bit by hand late one night.       We laid some ducts.  Thanks @JSHarris for swift assistance on getting those in properly.  For about 10 days we got up at 6am, worked on site for 2 hours, went to work, got home, worked on site til 11pm or later.  Couldn't have MBC turn up without it being ready.     Then we put the crushed concrete and Type 1 back in the hole and compacted it to level.  Just in time.  MBC arrived the following morning.  Its now 4th July.  

Weebles

Weebles

 

Demolition part 2

From this     To this       The demolition guys worked alarmingly slowly.  They didn't bring any machinery in until late on when the slab needed to be dug up.  Unbelievably they were loading the skips by hand, brick by brick, concrete lump by lump.  Anyway, we ended up a bit behind schedule due to them taking 3 weeks longer than planned.   If we were ever going to do this again, which we are not, we would know better.  I would drive a digger into my flat pack bungalow myself.    

Weebles

Weebles

 

Demolition

So, as I am backdating this blog by 6 months I need to catch up quickly.  I covered alot of our demolition in other posts due to the asbestos issues.   The bungalow was encased in plastic sheeting and over the course of three weeks amosite asbestos was removed from the soffits, chrysotile asbestos from the roof tile edging and from inside every internal wall.  We left this job to the professionals and were pleased to do so.  It whacked up the cost of our demolition by about £20K in the end and the contingency was dipped into straight away but best off done properly.        

Weebles

Weebles

 

Our new home

Back in March our new home arrived.     Manoeuvring it into place took more time than we possibly imagined.     And we looked at our snow covered new home from the relative warmth of our 1960s flat pack bungalow and wondered if it was too late to turn back.     Thanks to fellow buildhubbers we got it safely hooked up to gas.  Thanks to You Tube we got it levelled.  Thanks to him indoors it got all plumbed in to mains drainage.  We moved in in mid April.

Weebles

Weebles

 

Wonky wall update

A brief update on my inward leaning gable that I posted about recently.  Just to recap, I spotted that the gable section of my west facing bedroom wall was leaning inward at an angle and made it look as though there was a problem with the window, which turned out not to be the case.   Over the last couple of days I've been liaising with my timber frame company, MBC, and my window company, Norrsken, to see what needs to be done.  I've taken plenty of photos to illustrate the problem and the MBC team will be on site week commencing 22nd October to put things right.  They would have come earlier but I have some other things that are scheduled for next week and need to get those done first, so I requested the slightly later date and they were happy to oblige.  It's clear enough from all the photos that the problem lies with the timber frame but it's still very reassuring that MBC haven't argued or quibbled over anything and have been positive from the start, agreeing that it does need fixing and setting about organising it.   Because of the position of the section that is out of line, the window will first need to be removed.  The Norrsken team were due to come back at some point to go through the snag list and they, too, are happy to come back that week so that as well as sorting out the snag list, they can assist with the removal and re-installation of the bedroom window.   It has to be said that with the weather that we've had this year, I've had something of a charmed run on the build so far and given how complex and large a project building a house is, I'm amazed at how few problems I've had to date.  Even so, I've always been prepared for something going wrong at some point and my view is that it was almost inevitable.  What is less predictable is how the parties involved respond to the problem to get it sorted out.  In this case, I have been really pleased with the responses.  Pretty much as soon as I contacted MBC and brought the issue to their attention, the response has been to get it fixed.  At that stage, they couldn't say what caused the fault and until they see it, they can't be sure.  What they have been emphatic about, though, is that they will get it sorted and before the next stage of works are due to commence on 5th November.  Norrsken also deserve a special mention as they haven't hesitated to co-ordinate and make sure that MBC can do what they need to do whilst the windows are taken care of.   All that remains now is to see just how the Leaning Wall of Bagber will be rectified; it doesn't look like any easy job to me and I'll be interested to see how it gets done and greatly relieved once it is done.

vivienz

vivienz

 

Not so square after all

It's been a little quiet on site over the last 10 days or so which hasn't been a bad thing as I had a nasty cold last week so it gave me an added incentive to stay at home and get some more forward planning done.  One of the downsides, though, is that I only today spotted an issue with the west facing upstairs gable that's only really visible from the top scaffolding lift.   When I first saw it, I thought 'oh bugger, another window problem' and promptly got on the phone to the guys at Norrsken to ask what they thought of the photo I'd just sent them with a clear image of the problem.  This is what I sent:     And this is what it's meant to look like:     Can you spot the difference?  You're buildhubbers, so of course you can.  In the first photo, the apex of the triangular window sitting on the French doors and side panels clearly protrudes by some distance.  It's about 3cm.   At this point, and as before, what I most need to know is a) is it a problem? and b) how do we fix it, if it is.  And at this point, as before, Norrsken were hot to trot and the installations manager, Mark, along with his very bright and shiny new spirit level, did a swift dash up to north Dorset to come and see for himself exactly what the problem is.  I should explain that this window consists of 3 elements.  There are the central French doors, a glazed panel each side of the doors and then the triangular window that sits on top of all this.  When fitting, the installation team set everything up with a laser to make sure it's all dead on, and they took great care to make sure everything was right.   Because of this, I wasn't entirely surprised when Mark from Norrsken established quite clearly that the fault isn't with the windows, but with my MBC timber frame.  Directly above the triangular window, there is a steel with an apex in it, that is then boarded over.  You can see in this picture from a previous entry how these are put into place by MBC, and this is the section that has caused the problem on the west side:     So, first off, is this an issue?  This was my first question to Mark and, in particular, does the fact that the window frame is so proud of the wall compromise the thermal properties or insulating quality?  Thankfully, he assured me not, so I'm happy to accept this.   The next issue, is the physical problem of the top of the window protruding by about 3cm from the timber frame exterior wall.  It's fairly standard practice to have 25mm counter batten on the exterior, to which is attached whatever outer skin is covering the building.  Fortunately for me and MBC, I have planned all along to have 50mm battens on the outside so that a decent sized service cavity is created to run any exterior wires and cables through.  It's possible that I could have got away with 25mm but I preferred to spend a bit more on the larger battens and make life a bit easier when installing stuff on the outside.  This means that the slate cladding on the upper floor will be able to largely cover the error, but it will quite probably be tricky to get a decent finish between the window and the cladding as I had been planning to use powder coated aluminium to do this job and it won't be the easiest thing to fit with such a variation in the gap.  I'll tackle that when I get to it, but any suggestions are welcome.   Okay, so all in all, it's not a disaster but a pain.  I am, however, annoyed because MBC didn't know that I was planning 50mm battens and, aside from anything else, it's really disappointing that having done a good job on the vast majority of the build, this error slipped through.  There were enough spirit levels on site throughout the build that it shouldn't have been so difficult to run one up against this fairly fundamental section of the build, particularly as there was a whopper of a window going into this wall, to make sure that everything is true for the parts of the build that follow on after.   In the meantime, a few other things have gone on at the build.  Nick of Total Energy Systems has made a start on putting in the ducting for the MVHR and shoving some of the UFH pipes and manifold towards where it will end up.  The UFH manifold for the upstairs is going up into the loft section.  In the original plans, the upstairs landing was vaulted, but the decision was taken early on to board this out and create a loft space that could then be used to stash away all the MVHR kit and other ancillary equipment, including the upstairs UFH manifold.  There is another bit of kit going in there that is a heat pump but used to cool rather than heat air going through the MVHR system and thus provide active cooling in the summer to complement my shading from the brise soleil and exterior roller blinds on the south facing windows.   Here's a photo of the MVHR ducting and UFH pipes coming up through a cut-out section in the floor and up into the loft space.  The stud wall that you can see divides the landing from the en-suite for the master bedroom; it is planned to be a twin stud wall and so, once done, all the pipework and ducting will be hidden in the cavity of the twin wall.     More of the same:     The plenums for the MVHR will sit at the far end of the bedrooms, i.e. near the windows.  The idea is that this will achieve a proper through put of fresh air through the entire room, rather than just circulating around the door and landing areas.  You will see that the plenums are quite a bit lower than the central glulam beam supporting the vault.  The plan here is to introduce a central flat section along the ridge, low enough to cover the ducting and the glulam and the plenum will then just pop out of the plasterboard.  Whilst this means extra cellulose being required for the increased volume of the roof section, it will make detailing it and covering it in far easier for MBC when the time comes to do that, so there's a decent quid pro quo there.     A major benefit of stuffing the MVHR ducting into the ceiling section that will be filled with cellulose is that the pipes up there don't need to be insulated, which would normally be the case.  The ones for the ground floor are currently getting their NASA-style coats and I'll show some photos of those in the next post.  This also means that it's given a reduction on the cost of all the MVHR kit as the insulation for the ducts isn't particularly cheap.   Aside from the window/wonky frame drama, it's currently a time for figuring out and juggling details.  My flat roof guys should be back in a couple of weeks and I really need to get the parapets and east balcony finished off as until these are done, the main house won't be watertight.  I need to check with the team at County Flat Roofing, however, as I also have my balustrade to go onto the balconies.  The balustrade has posts that are fixed onto the parapets by way of a square/rectangular base plate, about 10mm thick.  These can go either on top of or underneath the roofing membrane, but I need to check which will give the best finish and then press the button for whoever goes first.  I know that if the plates go under the membrane are too thick, it will look bumpy and not very nice but, more importantly, might not give a good seal.  I shall check and report back, but I suspect that we will end up putting the plates on top of the membrane and sealing it up again afterwards.   Although the balustrade hasn't been installed yet, I've been chatting to the guys at Balustrade UK, including the lovely Trevor, and they've been very understanding with my needs for flexibility on timing, so all is okay there.   Moving onto brise soleils, who would have thought it would be so difficult to track down a firm to do these?  Certainly neither me nor my architect.  We tried a couple of local firms, including one that is on the same industrial estate as me and OH, but it was like tumbleweed blowing down mainstreet in an old cowboy film. Nada.  In the end, I contacted another Birmingham firm, Vincent Timber, who mentioned them on their website.  In the event, the only supply the timber for them rather than the whole thing, but they passed my enquiry onto a firm in St Albans, Contrasol Ltd, and they came back with a fully specced brise soleil for the stairwell window which is just the thing.  Not cheap, mind, but not far off what I thought it would be.  The metal supports will be powder coated aluminium (RAL7016, of course, the same as any other bit of metal on the building) and the fins will be red cedar that will be allowed to silver.  When OH and I originally discussed this, we were hoping to get something that would retain its colour but this has proven to be tricky and we have no intention of painting anything on the brise soleil fins every 8 years or so to retain its colour.  It can go grey with dignity, just like us.   I was out on site today getting the trench dug for the re-routing of our electricity supply cable.  Currently, it comes in via an overhead wire and a dirty great pole that's right next to the building.  We've planned from the outset to have this buried and the SSE guy, Dave, will come along next week to lay the cable and, in due course, run it into the garage.  It's a long old trench, mind you.  It took just under 4 tons of sand to put the blinding layer down and it won't take much less than that to cover the cable once it goes in, before back filling.  Still, another job to tick off the list.   I need to get another couple of bits of groundworks done in the coming weeks.  First off, I need to get the spec from the Highways Agency as to how they want the new driveway onto the lane to be constructed.  My sunamps will live in the garage and it will be very tricky getting them in through the house as they're hefty things, so I may as well crack on and get the driveway done.  The only slight hitch is that there is some scaffolding in the way right now, but I'm hoping that by the time we get around to making the new opening, I'll be able to do away with a fair bit of the scaffolding.   The other groundwork task is to start digging out the pond.  OH has decided on the shape and size and I used a couple of cans and left over EPS to mark out the perimeter this morning.  Before anyone asks, these are the answers: no swimming, no fish, no fishing, no duck shooting.  It's a wildlife pond and that's it.  But it is a bloody big pond and I'd like to get it dug before we get some serious weather in as we can then start to get a feel for just how well or not our clay soil will retain water and start to plant up the margins once we have a better idea of what we're dealing with.  It's hard to see the line marking, but this is the view from the top lift of the scaffold.     That's all for now, the next post should hopefully have a bit more interior detail and a lot more roof action.  Stay tuned.

vivienz

vivienz

 

The Build - Nearly done!!

Yes it seems the main phrase for our build currently, is "nearly done" -  As much as September seemed to be a frustratingly slow month progress wise, I am optimistic that we shall see things all come together during October allowing us to move in for November !! Having said that when I look back on the photos that I had taken, quite a bit of progress had indeed been achieved. It is easy to lose sight of such things when you are in the thick of it on a daily basis.   The upstairs is now complete – in as much as we are still awaiting the sanitary ware to be fitted – but the rooms have been decorated, the bathroom and en suite, paneled and tiled. The paneling is moisture resistant MDF, which came in long panels, making it a lot easier to fit and also better than individual T&G panels. The floor tiles, laid in an OPUS design, went down on anti fracture matting.   The oak staircase arrived and has also been installed. We have gone for a predominantly oak staircase. The main stair treads are redwood as they will be carpeted. We decided to go against a full oak staircase as we were concerned about the noise, safety element when coming down them and also due to the financial costs. The cupboard under the stairs is yet to be completed. Once done this will prove to be a very useful storage area.   Downstairs, the cylinder and associated items are being installed together with the ASHP. The cylinder itself is a 170 litre tank which will have a recharge time of 37 minutes to 40 degrees. This will allow the UFH to be fired up and thereby ensuring the screed floor would have dried out completely, prior to any tiles being laid downstairs.   The sitting room is now being plastered and will be painted in due course. The delay in getting this room finished was due to the fact that the chimney hadn’t been completed. Thankfully, it has now been done, which in turn, has allowed the WBS fitters to come and install the oak beam and register plate. The WBS won’t be fired up and formally commissioned until early Dec, due to the delays cause by the chimney not being done in time.   Outside, the stone work is almost complete. The chimney end will be finished this coming week and then work can turn to the awkward gable end above the single storey roof. We are now in discussions with a landscaper, so things must be heading in the right direction.   Over the coming weeks, the drainage system and treatment plant will be installed, allowing the roofer to return and fix the downpipes.   So by contrast, October should be the month when it all comes together - we can look forward to the kitchen being fitted, electrics and sanitary ware being installed and the floor tiles being laid.   Fingers crossed for a good month! Thanks for reading.

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

So near but so far away

That’s exactly what it feels like! Builders have said they have a weeks worth of jobs to do, there’s been a hold up with the staircase, nobody signed it off, the architect came out and did all the calcs and I asked him to contact staircase firm with them, at the same time I emailed them and told them architect was going to contact them but I did feel they needed a visit to see what they were dealing with, this was on August 29th , they never answered me and I took it all was in hand, however I decided to phone them last week as they had said it would be ready beginning of October, f**k, the architect didn’t get back to them and instead of them getting on to me they just let it lie. So now we’re looking at another 4-5 weeks for it appearing, it’s odd that a hand built kitchen can be done in a fortnight but a staircase takes so long. Since I’d not been upstairs we got a cheap staircase and joiners fitted it so I was pleasantly surprised at how the upstairs looks, my mind had been playing tricks on me regarding this but all was well. Hubby has taken over the drain installation as when the builders started to dig with a small machine it was quite obvious they hadn’t a clue what they were doing, a lot of them seem to be jack of all trades! The kitchen is in and we await the corian, once this is done the painter comes along to hand paint it, it’s just under coated at present, it’s a mix of oak and painted, looks good so far and the installer spent 6 days installing, a lot of attention to detail. The electricity is coming on October 22nd , we almost lost that slot because BT were booked in for the same week and wouldn’t work with SP energy, this was going to be a problem because the next available date for the contractor was end of November, in the end I had to cancel the phone connection to enable the power company to get in first but the chap who’s the contract manager has been fantastic and has agreed to put our water duct in at the same time. Most of our problems on this build have been with the utilities, something we’d not come across before as we had water and power on site in previous builds. It’s not been easy living in the caravan this last 5 months and oddly enough we have had little help from family who pay a duty call once a month, most of our help has come from people who were strangers until we started this, I don’t know where we would have been without the lovely lady who bought our cottage, she has provided water, power and even her shower in the cottage, it just makes you reevaluate things!

Foundations

Because our site was on a slope we always envisaged having a walk-in basement, that’s a basement surrounded on three sides by the slope and open at the front to a lawned area. The architect recommended a structural engineer to design the basement walls, what I hadn’t realised until it was too late, was that the design would be way over-engineered. His design is for a 200mm thick steel reinforced poured concrete wall tied into the basement slab. The slab and retaining wall contains about 52m3 of concrete and 3.5 tonnes of steel. The only saving grace is that it sits on an insulated raft designed by Hilliard Tanner and has UFH pipes cast into the concrete.    So here we are just about to start pumping the concrete into the insulated slab.   Next, the ICF basement walls were put together, a bit like Lego. Here you can see the completed walls braced and ready to receive 26m3 of concrete.   Finally, the lounge section of our insulated raft foundation was done to complete the three-stage foundation project. In this photo, you can see the insulated raft and its steel ring beam under construction.

Triassic

Triassic

 

Ooh er. I feel a backache coming.

Just a quick update to stay on track, nothing special happening really just lay some blocks, have a cuppa, lay some blocks, have a cuppa, I can’t believe I used to do this to earn a crust the most exciting thing is putting the floor beams in place, I love messing with big machines or fancy tools, the local farmer has been very obliging with his big telehandler, after an hour with the forklift you can start to see some real progress  whilst we have him on site it’s handy to get him to shift a few pallets of blocks about, I don’t think we have had to move many further than a couple of metres from where he put them.  So next week we go from bloody heavy concrete blocks and concrete beams, to great lumps of polystyrene as the ICF blocks have just turned up.  Lets hope it all goes together as good as the Youtube vids make out. 

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths

 

Windows and Tenders

I'm currently awaiting the Architects tender documents for review. It's been a two month process and I've been making inquiries into specific heating, MVHR and window options. Budget as always is a worry. I've drawn up a list of timber frame companies and builders and met those on the short list face to face. The Architect will have other names to drop I'm sure but getting a feel of the building pulse and talking with the builders really helped me identify the risks as they see it. Masonry vs Cement Board was a concern, Architect said masonry is 1/2 the cost, builders has it's about the same. Shows what they know!  I have a few quotes for MVHR and for all these options, getting a Passive House Certified unit was recommended. BPC are my lead choice (Ventaxia), Zendher and Paul while better are proving too expensive.  Heating will most likely be ASHP for now. There's too much pushback to get a SunAmp in up front. I'll get the house built and review. Nick gave a great idea about a willis heater but the Architect is opposed. Well, we'll see what the tender responses look like and how this plays out. They tell me I can choose a cheaper ASHP later but later may be too late.    Windows have been the most frustrating area. I've been speaking to over a dozen suppliers. Most don't quote the specs I'm after, don't have the glazing options I need or have never heard of the performance certificates the Architect wants. Despite quoting what I need, you usually only get a standard response. Sure, they're nearly passive you'll be fine..!! The PH database doesn't tell you which windows are available in your local area. It's been hit and miss contacting them directly. Some supply to Ireland, some don't.  Previously I'd thought Rationel would be an easy win but the G values are fixed and I need higher ones for my house. I'm hoping for top hung, outward opening alu-clad. The Architect gave the following guidance for the specification they require:   Glass Technical Information •         Ug according to ISO EN 673 •         G Value according to ISO EN 410 •         Psi Glass Edge according to ISO EN 10077-2 Window Frame Technical Information •         Uf  according to ISO EN 10077-2 •         Psi Install according to ISO EN 10211 •         Widths of Frames for Top, Bottom and Sides   Then this follow up: “The ideal window would be the one with a low Uf value around 0.8 w/m2k, with a low spacer thermal bridge around 0.02 to 0.03 w/mk, thin frames. The glass is also very important component and ideally the g value is as high as 65% to 67% and the Ug value as low as 0.5 w/m2k.”   I'm getting good at taking a quote and pulling out the Uw and other values into a spreadsheet for analysis. Most only give the Uw however, not Uf, g, PSI glass edge etc that's needed. I've two good window quotes in but while Rationel were €14K, these two are €28K and a third €40K! I've prices @ €20K from a few but either their performance doesn't match or they can't provide sufficient information. Velfac come in at €14K but just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief, I visited their showroom and let's just say I won't be buying if I can help it.... One piece of advice, send the spec, get the price and ALL the performance details and independent certificates to prove it and only THEN bother to visit a showroom. If you're at a tradeshow, fine, otherwise stick to email and phonecalls! Some sales people are very pushy about a face to face.    I've two more windows people who are getting back to me. At least I've found windows that will do the job. I hope to list one of them in the tender. The lift and slide may end up being Internorm and so may the door so I might still mix and match but we'll see. There's more to consider of course, Guarantee, supply vs fitting and VAT, is the agent solvent etc   At least the Velux windows were easy although over €1K a pop!!    Hope to have prices / quotes back in November for a build in 2019. Brexit takes center stage of course. Should I delay selling or building, I'll have to wait and see.    Window Model / Supplier list:  Josko Prestige True Windows Nordan Ntech Prodomo Internorm MBC  Optiwin Zyle Fenster Meranti Tercoco Velfac Thermax 2 Ultra Oknoplast Winergetic (PVC) Rationel Munster Joinery    

mike2016

mike2016

 

Screeds and screams 2 - how the pros do it.

So for the larger ground floor room, we got a professional screeding company to come in.  They were due to start Monday morning so I took the day off work. For some unknown reason, over the weekend both my wife and I had we had an uneasy feeling they weren't going to turn up, but there was no logical basis for that.  By about 0930 I had a suspicion, and sent a text asking roughly what time they thought they would arrive. A few moments later the phone rings and its the owner apologising saying their forced screed mixer broke down on Friday and he'd gone down South for a second hand one but it didn't seem to be working properly when he got it back. He called again a bit later to say he'd found a solution and his guys would be there tomorrow (Tuesday). Cue me ringing work and offering to work on Saturday if I could take Tuesday off too.   So, Tuesday and 0830 the guys turn up. I'm pottering about  but notice a distinct lack of noise and by 1030 they tell me that they cannot get the mixer to run and away they go. So another day taken off work for nothing.....   I'm back to work on the Wednesday but my wife was at home. She rang me to say that the team had turned up at 0715 (!) and had the machine working.  By lunchtime they were done, and the result is excellent.  When I got home I even texted the owner of the firm to say how pleased we are.    Last night, (Friday) I discovered they'd dumped a barrowload excess mix on my topsoil pile out of sight of the house! Now in front of the future garage is a hole I need filled so if they;'d only asked instead of sneaking out of sight with it they could have actually done me a favour - instead I've now got to take a pickaxe to it and break it up then barrow it back to where it can actually serve a purpose. What a shame to let themselves down like that after doing a good job.   So..... next objective is to finish the downstairs bathroom.       

curlewhouse

curlewhouse

 

Screeds and screams 1

In the last blog entry I was putting down insulation and the UFH pipework in the smaller of the 2 main downstairs rooms.     In the end I decided we would do the smaller (3.5m x 7.5m) sitting room ourselves.   So with myself and daughter levelling, wife and friend mixing and super fit farmer friend on the wheelbarrow we mixed the requisite 4 tons of screed and ton of cement and laid it in a day.  Fish and chip lunch provided of course to helpers!    All in all we didn't to too bad a job.  Not as smooth as the pros but more than sufficiently so, and I may just run a very thin layer of self levelling over, more to fill in little voids than anything.      

curlewhouse

curlewhouse

 

Wayleaves - a resolution

Today, I had my site meeting with the line manager of the local wayleave officer for SSE, to further discuss the situation regarding high voltage wires oversailing my property, all of which I mentioned in a previous post.    The meeting went well and AJ's line manager was as different as she could be from AJ and the whole thing was conducted in a civilised manner.  The resolution is that OH and I will grant an easement to SSE for the wires to be allowed to pass over our property in perpetuity.  In exchange for this, whatever work is necessary to make the wires safe will be carried out by SSE at their cost.  The legal work will start almost straight away, and understandably so from SSE's position, as they want to be sure they aren't being messed around and I have no problem with this.  I understand that the work may take some time if it does involve seeking planning permission and other administrative matters, but again, this is fine.  This has been a very good outcome for what could have been a difficult matter.   Happy days.

vivienz

vivienz

 

Smashing!

Before we get into the events of the day, I have a little quiz question for readers of the blog.   - What is the connection between my build in rural north Dorset and a mystical character from the legend of King Arthur?   Answer at the end of today's entry.  All will become clear.   Today was another busy day on site, with 3 main areas of activity - flat roof, pitched roof and windows.   Let's start with the windows, as they are (mostly) looking great.  Both of the big lift and slide windows in the living room area are in now and quite a bit of the upstairs glazing is in as well.  The flat roof guys changed their work order to get the membrane from the balconies and parapet gullies overlapped on the window thresholds so that the windows could be installed on top of them.  This will allow the sarnafil membrane to then be folded up slightly against the window frame and give a shield against any water that tries to force its way in under the window frame.  There's a bit of debris on top from the window fitting, but you can see how the membrane extends inside from the balcony.  This is the west facing bedroom first thing this morning.     And here is the west facing lift and slide window, looking west down towards the woods.  Note the view of the woods, which are in a slight valley formed by the River Lydden.  It is relevant for a later comment.     Unfortunately, all didn't go to plan for the window installers today.  The final window in the living room area faces south towards my neighbours' cottages and is a four pane fixed window.  As the bracket was being screwed into the frame, this happened:     The window installers looked very troubled by this, not surpringly.  It's the inner pane of glass that has shattered and you can see that it radiates out from an obvious stress point.  Stepping aside from the obvious downside of this, the very small amount of my brain devoted to aesthetics allows me to think that in a strange kind of way, it looks rather fetching.  Then the far greater logical part of my brain tells the aesthetic side to get a grip as we have a broken window.  So, what happened next, I hear you ask.  Well, the window was put in situ and fitted along with the other 3 panels and Norrsken have ordered up a replacement pane and internal bead.  They are, however, up against the clock on this one, as it can take several weeks for the replacement to arrive and MBC are now due back on 5th November, by which time all my windows must be fully installed and as they need to be in order for the air test to be carried out.  Tick, tick, tick.    Breakages aside, I'm delighted with the windows.  I know that it's possible to go to the ends of the earth in research and expense to seek ever thinner frames and other features and that my windows are certainly not the most minimalist products out there.  However, given the expanse of glass compared to the width of the frames, bearing in mind that plasterboard will reduce the visual appearance of these in due course, I think that the frame:glass ratio is more than pleasing enough for me.  Also, the profile is very flat, both inside and out, and combined with the washed wood interior finish, I am content.  Tomorrow will be very interesting as the installation team have quite the challenge ahead of them when they fit the floor to upper ceiling window that is in front of the stairwell.  It's one heck of a piece of glazing, so I think we shall all be holding our breath then.   Moving out of the building and up to the roof areas, both roofing teams have worked their socks off today.  It was hot work as today's weather was warm/hot, sunny and lovely.  Let's start with the flat roof guys, who have been very busy with their protractors getting all the framework in place to make the capping that sits on top of the parapet, ready to receive the membrane that will wrap over it.  you may recall that due to the MBC construction methods, I have a cold roof.  This means that it needs to be ventilated, and this can be a little tricky when you need to have a membrane on the flat roof and it needs to go over a parapet.  Fortunately, I visited the build of @Weebles a little while back now and they had exactly this set up, so being the diligent researcher I am, I did nothing more after that and just shamelessly stole their idea.  And their flat roof people.  Why re-invent the wheel?   From the firring pieces and OSB that I pictured on yesterday's blog entry, more of the membrane went down over the main part of the stairwell roof:     The flat roof guys had to put in the upstand that goes up onto the pitch and they've been measuring and sawing as much as they have putting down membrane today.  Here's the framework they made ready for OSB to go on top and form the cap over the parapet:     As well as forming the cap over the parapet, this area also needs a drain for all the water that will come down from the pitched roof, and this is a hole drilled through the parapet and a drain liner inserted through, then the inside will be coated and sealed with the membrane.     Prior to putting the membrane on, the OSB is rollered with a contact adhesive (red), then the membrane is heated to activate the glue.  This is where they are bringing in the membrane from the parapet gully to run under the window frame, working ahead of the window installers.     In their current allocation of time, I have the flat roof guys for one more day, so I'm not sure how much more we will get done, perhaps the remaining balcony, which would be good, as the balustrades are going in next week.   And so onto the pitched roof.  The pitched roof team were badly delayed yesterday as the tiles that were coming from Bradfords in Yeovil were supposed to have been on a morning delivery but didn't arrive until 3pm.  They made a good start yesterday but have gone at an amazing pace today.  They've done all they can on the east/south faces for now, pending the PV installation.  This picture was taken just after 2pm and you can see that this side of the roof is still getting a good amount of sun, and had been since sunrise.     At the same time as that pitch being tiled, the guys were also working on the long north face of the roof, leaving gaps for both the velux and the MVHR penetrations.  This is early afternoon:     And by the end of this afternoon, they had got this far:     That's about it on the roofing today, but the scaffolding is also being used as a storage area.  As the telehandler was on site yesterday, as much heavy stuff as possibly was lifted close to its final position yesterday, and the solar panels are stacked up there now.  My panels are black on black (not quite the title of the AC/DC track) and from LG.  As these things go, I think they're a nice looking piece of kit:     And so now to the question I posed at the start of today's entry.  There are a few mystical characters in the legend of King Arthur, but the one I have in mind is the wizard, Merlin.  I hope you're enjoying the blog, guys, and wasn't it a lovely day for buzzing a self build in north Dorset?!    Let me explain to, by now, confused buildhubbers.  I've mentioned that there seems to be a definite airborne interest in my build, mainly stemming from RNAS Yeovilton and up until this week, it was predominantly the Navy Lynx helicopters.  I got an upgrade this week and having nearly peed my pants with a very low buzz from a Hercules yesterday, we had an interesting buzz from a Navy Merlin helicopter this afternoon.  I need to give this a bit of context, though.  The Merlin is a big bugger with its three engines and gives out a very distinct bass thud that doesn't quite make your liver tremble in the way that a chinook does, but it's not lacking in long wave frequencies.  So let me take you back to the view that I asked you to make note of earlier, looking west over the field and down towards Bagber Wood.  I couldn't hear Ride of the Valkyrie, but there was undoubtedly a whiff of Apocalypse Now as I heard the distant but increasingly loud thud of a helicopter from the direction of the wood, before it rose up from the dip of the valley, over the wood and well and truly buzzed us, flying low and slow over the house.  Nice to see you guys, keep up the good work, but honestly, you'll get a better view from the ground.   Victor Zulu signing off until tomorrow.

vivienz

vivienz

 

Delayed gratification

So far this week, things are going okay, but in their usual messy sort of way, and with a few time slippages thrown in that are keeping me on my toes.   Let's start with the main show of this week which is the arrival and installation of all my glazing.  Woohoo!  All arrived intact and, as far as I can see for the moment, undamaged.  Everything turned up on a lorry from Poole yesterday morning, so a relatively local delivery as I'm only at the other end of the county rather than the country.  My glazing firm, Norrsken are based in Poole and that's where it was all loaded up from before trundling northwards.   It seems that it's standard practice for the customer to have to supply a telehandler to get the windows off the lorry and then assist in getting them up to any heights on the building.  I think I knew this way back when I agreed everything with the windows but it faded into distant memory but I was able to get organised in time for it.  The only comment I would add here is that it's not cheap getting one of these bits of kit out along with a driver, so if you're on a tight budget you may need to factor in this cost and add it to your bill.  I had my guy there for 2 days and it cost me a total of £600.  As there was so much else going on today, there was plenty of other shifting around for him to do, so I minimized down time as far as possible.  For those, like myself, who have no prior experience in the world of construction, a telehandler is basically an extendible forklift.  Imagine the forks, as usual, but then on a massive extendable hydraulic arm; apparently these bits of kit cost about £80k, so they aren't your cheap and cheerful forklift type thing that you see running around industrial estates and warehouses up and down the country.  The driver also needs to be very skilled at the slow and steady approach and a damn fine judge of distance and clearance.  You'll see why shortly.  My guy, Andy, was all of these and he did a fine job of getting everything into place, guided by the installation team.   After the storms of last weekend, we are having lovely weather again in north Dorset and things have dried out nicely since the deluge.  My windows arrived yesterday on a truck with a type of articulated trailer that was much more manoeuvrable than many of the delivery trucks that have been on site to date.   In the photo below, you can see the big lift and slide doors for the living room as well as one of the apex pieces for the gable in the bedrooms upstairs.     Here's the rest of the load.  Nicely packaged up, all secured with bracing timber and heavy duty cling film.     Here's Andy, my telehandler driver, swinging into action first thing.     This is the telehandler lifting all the slates up to the top scaffolding lift.  Earlier, the apex pieces had been lifted to the same level so the window installation team could put them into position from above.  It went really quiet when that was happening.      The installation team have paid very close attention to everything, included how the windows were left overnight before the main work started today.  Instead of just propping the windows up against a wall, as I might have done, everything was stood upright and braced into that position until they are put into their final placements.     Now, bear in mind that this for the upstairs.  By some way, the largest of my windows are the lift and slide doors for the living room area, each of them coming in at around 300kg.  The 3 installation guys, headed up by Val, quite literally man-handled these out of their packaging and then onto a (seemingly) tiny set of wheels, then into the building and ready to go into the recesses that were formed in the slab by MBC when the foundation team were on site.  Incredible work, skillfully done, and one heck of a job.   Here's the big window on what looks like a roller skate for windows.     In the above photo, you can see a tripod set up to the left of the window.  This is for a laser that puts a laser level line across the windows to make sure that everything is, well, level.   The installation team have now got both of the big lift and slide windows in and they seem to have gone in nicely.  They've got a couple of the upstairs windows in, but before doing the rest, the flat roof guys need to run some of their membrane up under the thresholds so that a seal can be formed once done.  They will get onto this tomorrow and work ahead of the window guys to prep the thresholds.   Ah, my roof.  What a tricky affair that is turning out to be.  It's all getting done, and will be done, but it truly is roofing by iteration with little nibbles of each thing needing to be done before another team can do their bit.  I know that construction people often don't come with the best of reputations for working in a co-operative or helpful fashion but, if that's really the case, then I have the exceptions to that rule working for me.  There were 3 teams working on the roof today - the flat roof guys (County Flat Roofing Ltd), the pitch roof guys (Dylan Faber Roofing Ltd) and my solar PV guys (Environment Logic Ltd) and everyone needed a bit of work doing by the others before they could do their thing.  They all worked together incredibly well, happy to do collective head scratching and work out exactly what everyone needed to do and in what order to get the job done.  It was a masterclass in problem solving and co-operation.    So where does the delay to my gratification come into all this?  Well, I admit that this is entirely my own fault.  I had no idea it would be so tricky to get hold of roof windows without vents.  In my ignorance, I assumed that it would just be a case of dropping by to my local roof window supplier, pointing to the ones I wanted and getting them delivered.   Not so.  It turns out that unvented roof windows are so tricky to get in the size that I need that they simply don't exist as a stock item and so they have to be made to order.  Current lead time is 3 - 4 weeks.  Rats.  Still, never mind.  My pitched roofing guys reckoned that the solar panel tray system would be okay to go up anyway as they knew how much clearance they would need for the flashing around the trays and then around the roof windows, but, of course, it has turned out to be more complex than that and the roof windows do need to be in so that the tiling that will support the trays will be in, and so on.  I could have given myself a hard time over this but as the morning went on, it turned out that I didn't need to give myself too hard a kicking as the PV guys have been sent the wrong size trays.  Quite clearly, my full roof covering just wasn't meant to be today.  However, the flat roof guys are still beavering away and they are with me until and including Friday, so they should get the decks and parapet linings finished this week, or most of it.  I've been most keen to get the area over the stairwell finished off as it's like a sieve when any rain comes in, so it will be a relief to have that done.   I've opted to have the pitched roof tiles secured by tile hooks as this is more secure in areas that are exposed to high winds.  I've often seen this method used in France and admired the look of it, so I'm quite happy to have this.  The next photo is part of the eaves course and you can just see the end of the tile hooks at the centre bottom of each slate.     As well as the pitched roof, Dylan Faber and his guys are going to do the vertical tiling on the upstairs for me.  This makes sense given that it's the same material.  The only difference is that on the balconies in particular, they will use copper rivets to attach the tiles.  This is because whilst the tile hooks are very secure, they are vicious pointy little things that are easy to scratch yourself on, so these give a more forgiving finish should anyone come into contact with them.      With the delay to the roof windows and everything else that's going up there, I won't be ready for the air tight prep work and the test itself on the original date.  MBC had been scheduled to return on 8th October to do this, but they're now due back in the first week of November, so that will be 5th November.    I commented on a previous entry that MBC left site very quickly after their last stint and, in my opinion, they left a little too quickly without the opportunity to check that everything was in order for the follow on trades.  There wasn't a great deal that needed doing, but I thought it was poor practice not to make sure that the building was up together for what came after.  This was evident with what was a relatively minor issue but caused some difficulty.  You can't miss the fact that my house is blue on the outside.  This is a breathable membrane that envelopes all the board and is meant to come all the way in over the window reveals as well.  It needs to be there for the window installation, too, but the installation manager came out for a site visit early last week and picked up that a few of the windows, including the long stairwell window, were missing the membrane running into the reveal.  I contacted MBC to get this resolved as soon as the window guy left and was assured that someone would be out in time to rectify it and indeed they did, but not until after 8am yesterday morning once the windows were already on site and after numerous chasing emails.  It's a job that I looked into doing myself, but the minimum quantity of membrane that I could buy was 50m and it seemed overkill for it.  In the end, I've no idea how far the MBC guy had to travel to get to me, but I doubt it was local and a potentially stressful situation could have been avoided entirely by taking a little extra time to check things over before going off to the next job.   What next?  Well, as mentioned, the flat roof guys are continuing this for the rest of this week.  Here's the section above the stairwell:     It's actually a lot further on than this now but you can see the construction of the flat roof area.   A few plumbing/heating things get kicked off tomorrow.  We can't start first fix until the air test is done, just be sure that it's not MBC who have put a hole in the structure before it's done, but there's still quite a bit that can be done before then, such as putting underfloor heating manifolds in place and getting foul water runs in the right place.  Nick and his Total Energy Systems crew will be on site bright and early tomorrow morning, having cleaned out the local equivalent of Greggs and their week's supply of bacon butties, so it will be good to see some progress on that, too.  There may even be a bit of MVHR ducting action.  Calm yourselves, everyone.   Off site, I've been chasing up my stone cladding.  Hitting my head on the lead time for the roof windows was a salutary lesson and so I'm checking out how long it will take to get my stone cladding delivered in case I need to do it now.   Last, but not least, it seems that the build is continuing to provoke interest from military aircraft.  I mentioned that there has been a lot of interest from a passing Navy Lynx helicopter during the summer.  Well, today they really took the piss and have upped the stakes.  We were buzzed by a Hercules transport airplane.  I mean really buzzed.  The damn thing barely cleared the powerlines and was incredibly low and close to the house, I'm amazed that there were no burst ear drums or centre partings from the thunderous low pass.  For goodness sake, if they're that interested they could just drop by.  No, on second thoughts, let me re-phrase that as I wouldn't trust the buggers to not come in by parachute or under slung load the way things are going.  Haven't they heard of cars and, you know, just asking for a look around?   Still to come this week: the rest of the window installation; flat roofing and lining parapets; a visit from the DNO.  Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode.  With or without Hercules aircraft.

vivienz

vivienz

A Winter of Peckering

Our site slopes, so we had the idea of digging into the slope and creating a walk in basement. Having done two trial pits into nice soil and clay  during the initial design phase, we were confident that it was a simple soil dig out sort of thing! Once the bungalow was demolished it became clear we’d quite by chance dig into the only two areas of soil and clay and the house had been constructed on a large lump of limestone rock called Cumbria.  After a hit of head scratching and a coffee with my neighbour Brian, he’s the ‘go to guy’ if you have a problem, as he’s usually got a solution and the solution was a local guy called Chris, a man with a machine and a pecker.   Chris arrived on 1st November and twelve weeks and an estimated 1,200 tonnes of rock later we had a basement.   Here he is starting clearing the site.     The basement hole starts to take shape.   This is about half of the stone removed from the basement hole.        

Triassic

Triassic