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Finishing the Shell

Sorry for the delay since the last blog. Things have been very hectic keeping a track of everything that is going on with the build and holding a job down !  As we approach end of January and move into February there are lots of things going on simultaneously on site including battening the roof in preparation for the roofers, finishing of fitting the smartply in preparation for blowing in the insulation and fitting the windows and doors.       The first window goes in on 30th January. Many of the side reveals to the windows have splays to help spread the light from the window.  We are using Green Building Store Progressions windows and Green Building Store Ultra doors. The Progression windows are expensive, but the narrow sight-lines give a lovely contemporary look and very little of the frame is visible outside, so it should be as maintenance free as you can get and seems like a good investment. The Ultra doors look very similar to the Progression doors and are of a similar thermal performance but are more cost effective to purchase.       From the 12th - 15th February, the Warmcell insulation is blown into the frame. I hadn't realised, but you can do this before all of the windows are fitted, as long as the boarding out is completed inside and out.    By 21st February all windows and doors are fitted. A lot of time has gone into ensuring the windows are fitted properly and are as airtight as possible. In parallel, the brick plinth is built. Whilst you won't see all of this once the ground levels are built up, I am really pleased with the quality of the job.      Next job is and fitting the Aquapanel in preparation for the rendering.       The roofer we had lined up pulled out at the last minute, but we are able to get a local firm with a good reputation to take their place at short notice. We took a lot of trouble selecting the roof tiles and  we are particularly looking forward to seeing the tiles laid. The roofers are on site beginning of March after a small delay due to rain to do the counter-battening and lay the tiles.      The roof is a pretty simple shape so the roofers make quick progress. We are using plain clay smooth machine-made tiles made by Dreadnought tiles and supplied by Ashbrook Roofing. We found out about them at a self build show we attended and have had great support from both Dreadnought and Ashbrook. We are using two colours - 70% staffordshire blue and 30% blue brindle mixed randomly. Before you know it, the roof is in place.     Big Day on 8th March as it is our first Air Test. We'd put 0.3 air changes per hour (ach) @ 50pa into phpp so we were hoping for something similar or better. Results were: 0.08 ach @ 50 pa 
0.11 m3/hr/m2 @50 pa Absolutely delighted with the results. Given building regs are 10 m3/hr/m2 @50 pa and Passivhaus standard is 0.6 ach @ 50 pa, this is over 90 times better than building regs and over 7 times better than Passivhaus standards and a great testament to the attention to detail shown by the build team.    Flashings between the wood cladding and the render are fitted. These were made by a Herefordshire based fabricator.      Work continues fitting the cladding. We are using Douglas Fir, supplied by Ransford which is literally 5 minutes down the road.      Once the roof has been laid and the weather allows, the rendering starts. We are using the Weber system, with a base coat applied first followed by a thin silicon based top coat which will be sprayed on.      The roof and detailing around the dormer window are completed            Once the cladding is complete and before the scaffolding comes down, we need to treat the cladding. The gable ends need a fireproof coating due the proximity of other houses, so it's one coat of primer, two of Envirograf and two of Osmo. The front and back of the house get one coat primer and two of Osmo. It's one of those jobs that costs more and takes longer than expected. We hadn't planned on having to to apply so many coats of product and in my naiveity I thought it would be a layer or two of fireproof coating on each gable.    The wood looks a little orange at the moment but that is typical when new and it does weather down nicely which is what I plan to allow the wood to do. Hopefully to osmo will help even out the weathering but I have no plans to keep on applying it.    The guttering is attached whilst the scaffolding is still up (Lindab galvanised)       The scaffolding on the house comes down and goes up on the garage to allow the roof to be completed on the garage. The second coat of render is sprayed on and the shell of the house is now complete.     

jonM

jonM

In a renovation install your ASHP early - here's why

If you install an air-source heat pump (ASHP) to heat your property, it will attract a subsidy called Renewable Heat Incentive, which is a payment to you based on how much CO2 emissions are saved by the installation of the system.   The calculation is done on the basis of the guestimated CO2 emissions numbers in your (less than 2 years old) EPC Report, taking potential savings by loft and cavity wall insulation (which you can often get done for free) into account. Naturally that means that if you upgrade your fabric by other methods, and have a new EPC done before you apply, your subsidy will be materially smaller.   Here is a comparison for 2 semi-detached bungalows, one with an EPC of 74-C, and the other with an EPC of 44-E.   Restored bungalow.   EPC: 74-C. Annual energy for heating: 6,577 kWh. Annual energy for water heating: 1706 kWh. Total energy: 8283 kWh.   Calculated RHI Payments: £530 for 7 years.   Unrestored bungalow.   EPC: 44-E.. Annual energy for heating: 12,283 kWh. Annual energy for water heating: 3421 kWh. Total energy: 15704  kWh.   Calculated RHI Payments: £630 for 7 years.   What to do:   Get a new EPC report to document the poor status (about £50), and get your ASHP process done under that rule, rather than doing it later.   In the case of the small detached bungalow above, the difference is worth £700.   (Cynics Corner: The apparent truth that for such an install done the official way to get the subsidy - via an Approved Installer - seems to cost more than having one by a competent installer who is not Approved, by an amount which takes up most of your potential subsidy-gains, is not to be mentioned.)

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

 

First concrete pour done and scaffolding up

Well, it’s been a month since my last blog update. We've witnessed out first concrete pour and now have floor joists so we are all set to build the next floor. The bracing plan we have from JUB looks like we have the potential to pour the second floor and gables in a single  pour. This is a decision I'm only too happy to leave to the builders who continue to impress us with their ability to get on with a job regardless.     In my last blog we had got on really quickly and had the ground floor pretty much ready for a concrete pour. We needed to wait as there was no rebar on site for the cantilever lintels for the first floor. Our structural engineers had provided a revised structural plan toward the end of February, but it did not have a bar schedule. One was requested and sent through quickly. So far so good, we had the second lot of blocks scheduled for delivery on the 24th March. The original schedule allowed the pour and joists to be in place prior to the block delivery. At the same time as this was progressing the pricing for the next phase was finalised and we gave agreement to proceed.     A hiccup with the joist delivery delayed work on site. On a small site the second block delivery pretty much took up all the available space. ICF blocks and a cramped working site are not good news. The ICF is pretty dense but it’s easily damaged when it gets in the way. We ended up playing shuffle the blocks to get the remaining work done and for the first pour.  Our builders did a splendid job and just took it all in their stride they were careful with the blocks and didn't complain about the site restrictions once.   We had been warned that pours are not for the feint hearted, thankfully in the end ours went pretty well. The only real surprise was the bottom courses of blocks on one side of the build started to move outward on the raft. Fortunately it was spotted and the pour was suspended while Mike and the other lads added some more shuttering. With the new shuttering in place the pour continued and was completed without incident. Apparently it's unusual for the bottom row of blocks to move, but given they are not keyed into the raft and are subject to the greatest concrete pressure it's not entirely surprising. The blocks on the second floor will be keyed into the existing blocks so they should not suffer.   With the pour done it was time to get the ledger beams in place to take the first floor joists. Our structural plans had the ledger beams fixed by bolts at 500 centres with the joists at 400 centres. Sounds OK but in practice it’s not ideal as it means you get clashes of beams and bolts, so the plan was revised and the bolts put in at 400 centres so they would not clash with the joist. Ledger beams in place the joist went in pretty quickly, transforming the house.   Once you get past the ground floor you need to get scaffold in place for an ICF, not to build from but to prevent possible accidents if someone were to fall through the blocks from the inside. Our builder wanted us to arrange the scaffold, not sure if this is the norm, I suspect it’s liability related. We have used a local firm ROM Scaffold. Their guys arrived on Wednesday and pretty much had completed their work on the Thursday. The scaffold will also allow for our window installation and rendering.   Looking forward to getting the next floor up and starting work on the roof.      

Simon R

Simon R

Bathroom Refurbishment Project (2) - Proposed Design

My bathroom needs a refurbishment because a whole line of tiles has cracked, I think due to moisture-induced movement in the subfloor.   In my last article, I posted some photos of the current arrangement, and possible ideas. This is just thinking out loud about a couple of possible layouts. As ever all comments are most welcome.   Here is the current layout, which shows the plan but does not include the full set of posh bits (eg shower here is a wetroom area with showers both ends):     and 3d-view   Here are my two ways to incorporate a bath, and replace the wetroom area. Personally my preference is for  a location in the window, though perhaps with no door to the shower. Whilst I think this is stylish, the other option below is more practical.    IMO this option would need something of a more solid barrier to separate bath and loo.   2 - Bath in Window Area / Reduce Shower Size   This option uses a double ended bath as shown.       3 - Bath in Alcove / Reduced Shower Size   This has more intimacy, and would probably want a single ended bath, due to the alcove.       The alcove into the hipped roof:     And a photo of the dormer window alcove, which is 1.5m wide.      

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Grand Designs Gravenhill - Budget vs Reality

This post is a record of the initial Estimated Prices, and stated final cost of the 10 self-builders featured in the Grand Designs - The Street, about 10 of the first houses built at the Gravenhill Self-Build development site at Bicester.   Watching the first episode, the 10 property street is starting to remind me of the Homeworld 1981 / Future Home 2000 exhibition, which is now Coleshill Place, Milton Keynes. The featured picture is of that exhibition site as it is now taken from Google Earth - looking embedded and conventional.     No 1, The Street - Budget for plot + build £275,000. Out-turn quoted - £335,000. A couple in their 60s.   No 2, The Street - Budget for plot + build £275,000. Out-turn quoted - £400,000 approx. A single lady in her 70s. This house had cantilevers fail and the roof split at the ridge-beam, requiring £20k + of recovery work.      

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

10 steps to Cut your Energy Bills in an Older House

These are 10 steps if your Electricity Bills are out of control in a house which has not yet been renovated. They are the "low hanging fruit". The aim is to get you started and seeing good results in a short period without too much long-term work.   If your house is currently not insulated, and you have not optimised your electricity bill, savings of 40-50% or more may be achievable.   Here with go with the first 10 steps, which can be done then left alone for some time - ignoring major investments like new windows and doors, and major or very detailed projects.    1 - Set some realistic targets and monitoring - I suggest, over 3 years:   Year 1: Minus 20% on current bill. Year 2: Minus 33% on current bill. Year 3: Minus 40% on current bill.   Record and monitor usage at some regularity ,whether weekly, monthly or quarterly. Perhaps a thread on BH or a blog post. For performance and encouragement.   If you want to monitor your whole house supply, there are also meters where a sensor clamps around the main supply cable and transmits to a meter inside your house. These have been around for a long time, and the best known is by a brand called OWL.   Suggest in addition to your meter and a couple of plug meters, one of those Owls or similar that clamps on the supply - use it to check which of your four buildings uses most. If nobody else can, I can lend you one - I think.   Remember to keep looking for the big targets.   2 - Check the balance vs payment numbers.   Is there a big credit on the account if you are on monthly payments. Can you get 10% off the monthly charge with a phone call just by challenging it?  This will need a repeat check as your usage falls fsater than they notice.   3 - Change tariff.   Savings on the first switch seem to be 20-30% for most I have seen try it.   I use MSE Cheap Energy Club, and have it set to warn me when I can save >£150 per year. That prompts action, but does not annoy me every month.   Consider a longer term fixed tariff from a decent big supplier of energy, rather than a bust-every-3-months minnow.   4 - Get the stuff other people will do for free.   Call someone like the Energy Saving Trust, and see what is available in your area. For example:   a - 250mm insulation in loft. I can still get this. b - Cavity wall insulation? I know someone who had this last year.   5 - Replace all your lightbulbs with LEDs.   Payback time may be around a year. Especially any of those 300W or 500W outside floods.   6- Are there any visible holes?   For example, light through gaps round outside doors, catflaps etc. Block 'em up with traditional draught remedies, and keep the cat in the shed, with a catflap there.   7 - i s your roof space well sealed from the main area of the house.   For example, is your loft hatch sealed and insulated? New insulated ones are cheap.   You will need this in place for a Positive Input Ventilation fan to work successfully.   8 - Do your extract fans have backdraft shutters?   If not, switch them over. From about £30.   9 - If you have trickle vents, then replace them (foam them up) with proper controlled ventilation.    Use a PIV in the house, and trickle /boost extract fans to keep it flowing. That is what I usually do in rentals and have now done at home. Works and gives some control for £400-£750.   10 - Use spot heaters that heat People not Rooms   Can you tweak the heating in your garage or shed, by using spot radiant heaters rather than heating the whole thing?   eg For our childrens play area at the gym we have one of these: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eterna-Quartz-Radiant-Mounted-600watt/dp/B00F2H1WF8 . Costs <£30.   Bonus 11 - Over time work on the strategic stuff as you are able - underfloor insulation, 2G, dry lining, thermal survey etc. And also the tactical stuff - replacing appliances, finding small but constant loads.   Turn it all the way to 12, and beat Spinal Tap  - Plan a big treat with some of the savings. This may help convince the rest of your household that it is worth persevering.   Wrapping Up   I hope that this brief guide will get you started on some of the more straightforward and easier things you can do to cut your bills, without having too much hard slog to achieve noticeable results quickly.   If you have any questions, join Buildhub and start a thread on the main forum, or comment below.

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

 

A few more finishing touches

With the 2019 season now here, I've spent the last couple of weekends doing a bit of tarting up around the outside of the wee house. Little things that you don't think really matter, but the end result looks far more 'finished'. I was never very sure how to complete the gable ends of the house- whether to box them in or not- but eventually decided to kill two birds with one stone and use the space for a log store. I think it looks pretty good, and it's tempting to do the same on every side of the house, although those elevations do see a lot more wind and rain. My current obsession with processing my log pile is all down to a fantastic book I was given: 'Norwegian Wood- chopping, stacking, and drying wood the Scandinavian way'. Highly recommended, and an absorbing read even if you never intend to ever light a fire.   The other bit of work has been to create a gravel path around the side of the house, and so properly edge the gravel area underneath the house. The only downside of all this work is that it makes the lumpy lawn look even worse than it did before  

Crofter

Crofter

 

Getting stoned

After the rock 'n' roll plastering at the start of the month, the last 2 weeks have been all about getting stoned outside.  The only drugs involved were caffeine and sugar, however, and the stone was for the perimeter drains around the house along with a few other bits.  Inside, I've been busy decorating, of course, but photos of white rooms are getting a bit samey now, so they will be limited for the moment.   I've been using Richard Moore Contractors for this phase of the groundworks, and they've been a pleasure to have on site.  Really nice guys who know their stuff and got on with the job with a minimum of fuss and hassle.  One of the big advantages for me of using a larger firm for this part of the work is their access to all their own plant and equipment - everything they needed was on hand when and where they needed it and I didn't need to organise anything for hire or delivery.  A financial advantage of this is that the cost of the equipment is, effectively, free of VAT for me as everything is zero rated within the cost of the works.  With a job this size, that can make a sizeable difference when compared with using non VAT registered labour only for jobs.   This is at the start of the work, with trenches still being dug out and making sure the services that run around the perimeter of the garage are all staying in place.  At this stage, everything was still in its post-winter boggy state, and the reduced dig left around the house was still looking like a very mucky moat.     The moat was showing no sign of emptying so the guys pumped it out once they were ready to get started in there.  Although the water around the house needed to go, we wanted to retain as much run-off from the roof as possible and divert this to the pond. To this end, all the guttering runs get collected into drains running around the western side of the house then to the pond via a drain that's been buried and comes out towards the top of the south tip of the pond.  The outlet has been kept high where it exits to the pond to make sure that it doesn't flow back towards the house if the pond ever gets that full; there is also a decent fall on the pipe itself.  This is part of the storm water drain that goes around the lounge, facing west.     As well as putting the drains in, I asked the team to stone up for 1m beyond the building.  This needs to be done anyway, but I also needed to get this done so that there is a firm base around the building for the next part of the team to put the stone cladding on, and also, once that's one, for the Contrasol guys to fit the brise soleil rails and fins outside the stairwell window.  Here's the stoned up pathway along the front, going around to the west face.     Whilst we're looking at the front door, I'm delighted to be able to post the following photo.  For a few months now, the front approach to the house has been a bit on the wet side of things as the concrete that was spread there last autumn has gradually deteriorated with the lorries, vans and cars that have travelled over it on a daily basis.  As well as having to walk the plank over some particularly deep puddles, the trigged up pallets and boards bridging the moat directly in front of the door was becoming increasingly perilous.  Danger no more, however, as we now have solid ground in front of the building - luxury!     A peep a little further around the corner shows the continuation of the path and the sewage tank going in.        Prior to the tank going in, the old septic tank had been desludged - a nasty little hole in the ground that no one wanted to fall into.  This was back-filled with stone and rubble then covered over when the spoil from the site was re-distributed.     When we originally bought the site, the garden for the old bungalow ran to the north, parallel with the lane.  The land has a slope to it going from the field down towards the lane, but there was pronounced hollow running the length of the garden that we had wanted to level out as this should make the area more useable in the winter, when there is a tendency for everything to get waterlogged.  There was still some spoil left over from the pond, as well as everything that was dug out for the drains, so that was used to backfill.  We have kept the topsoil that was scraped off the pond area, too, and this will be spread over the clay to give something decent to plant into.     We are having an area of hardstanding next to the garage because, knowing what we're like, we will only be able to fit one car into the garage by the time we've filled it up with all the other stuff that can be put into an area like that, so we will need somewhere decent to park the cars.  It's also useful for the sewage lorry to be able to pull in there and sling a hose over to the sewage treatment plant for de-sludging without blocking the lane.  The guys have done a lovely job around there, and it's all nicely edged with kerb stones that flow into the edges of the driveway and down onto where it meets the lane.  The amount of stone that's been put down on the site is large, over 100 tons, but then there's been a lot to do and we've also stoned up on the corner between the stairwell and the lounge where will we will form a patio of some sort.  Here's a view of the hard standing going in, taken from the balcony.  You can see where all the stones have been concreted in.     And another taken from ground level.     The hard standing merges into the driveway in front of the garage.  The roadside edge of this has been increased in width by 2 kerb stones each side, on the advice of Matt, the groundworker.  Besides looking better, it gives a much easier sweep up to the garage as there is quite a height difference between the garage floor and the lane, so turning in will be much easier with the more open drive.  Here's the first of many lots of stone going down to build up the level.     More of the same from the lane:     Then with the kerb stones concreted in.     And finally, with the kerbs along the lane/drive border.     Everything there is ready and waiting for the final layer of tarmac, which will go down some time next week.   Meanwhile, I've been doing yet more painting indoors, as previously mentioned.  The large airless paint sprayer I borrowed from Jeremy is a little poorly at the moment and will be in the sprayer hospital tomorrow to have its tubes cleared out and should be back in service very shortly.  I will need it again as I still have one bedroom to spray and I need the power of the large machine to reach up to the vaulted ceilings.  However, I still needed to get the mists coats done on the landing, stairwell and hallway last week, as it was the ideal opportunity to get these high traffic areas done since I was the only one in the building.  I was a bit stumped initially, but I had noticed the little electric sprayers in Lidl on Monday and then Weebles mentioned that they had bought one from Aldi.  I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained and for £25 it was worth a shot.  So I dashed down to the nearest Lidl in Blandford and got one of these little beauties.     As it turned out, it was perfect for the job.  The stairwell, in particular, is a little confined and with operating off a youngman board balanced between the scaffolding tower and a trestle on the landing, it would have been tricky to manoeuvre the larger machine around there.  The little hand held sprayer did the job nicely and was much easier in the tight space, here:     The results from the little sprayer are very different from the big airless system and you get a much more textured finish, but pleasant and perfectly acceptable.  It is a pain having to refill the reservoir all the time, but not difficult.  I poured the contract white into a big bucket and diluted in there, pouring into the reservoir.  I confess that I didn't strain the paint and found that it was fine.  The only time it gummed a bit was if I'd left it open overnight, but wherever there were any splatty spatters I just left them to dry and sanded them the day after.  Sanding was quicker and less messy than straining many litres of paint.  A couple of not very exciting photos of the hallway all masked up and misted:       You can see from the masking you have to do that it would be tricky to get this part of the painting done if there were others working in the building at the same time.  I've now put the vinyl coat on these areas too, but I was too knackered to take photos of that as I only finished them yesterday, so that morsel of excitement will have to be eagerly anticipated.  I've also been painting the Howdens primed MDF doors and I'm pleased with how they turned out.  I used a small fine textured roller and eggshell acrylic on top of 1 layer of white primer and very nice they look, too.   Next week, Harry the carpenter (he's much too young to get all the Harry Carpenter jokes, we gave up ages ago) is back so he can get the kitchen finished off as the last of the laminate splashback arrived last week.  He can also get on with some door hanging and then the utility units arrive next week. Nick is due at some point early next week as well, and he has it all to do given that everyone else is in the final stages of works now.  The bathrooms and loos need to be done in their entirety, the MVHR unit needs to be installed in the loft and all the plant needs to be put into the garage.  For my part, I have what feels like miles of skirting and architrave to get on with, some paint snagging to do and I need to organise timings on the cladding and brise soleil.  I can't think too much beyond that right now, but I know there's plenty more to do after that - isn't there always?!   Stay tuned, folks!

vivienz

vivienz

Bathroom Refurbishment Project (1) - Comments Please

This summer I need to have my upstairs bathroom refurbished. It was installed 12 yeas ago by the previous house owner, who also did the self-build addition of an upper storey to the previous bungalow. The bathroom has lots of lovely features including electric ufh, and a long crack all the way down a row of tiles.   I think the room pretty much needs gutting, as the problem is probably under the floor, which is a huge pity because the fittings are so pleasant. I think, however, that I may be able to retain the wall tiles, and perhaps reuse the existing shower screen (which looks expensive to replace).   The requirements are:   1 - Fix floor, replace ufh and retile. 2 - Replace wetroom area with large shower, perhaps with storage area (I really do not need a 2.6m x 1.1m shower). 3 - Add bath. 4 - Replace loo with something a little less temperamental. 5 - Replace whb with one with more space for bottles and things, possibly a vanity unit.   I have a couple of months to think about this, so any comments would be very welcome.   Here is the crack:     My verdict on that crack is that the subfloor may have been done with 8x4 sheets of standard chipboard, rather than tongue and groove, and that moisture has got in and made the joint expand. There are also a couple of other cracks at right angles, and the wetroom area is suffering a little.       Here are a few snapshots of the room, including some excellent tiling on a hipped corner. First a simplified layout and 3d:       Where it fits:     Inside of dormer window:     Whb and towel rail:     Loo (the blotches are as a result of compressing the photo):     The wetroom area:             As I say, this is one to chew on ... so any comments are welcome.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

 

Book...a few subheadings

As I might have mentioned, there's no real division of contents of the book, really a series of thoughts, comments, replies to earlier forum queries and questions as well as a few reviews of architects books of their own thinking and works. There are not that many that suggest design advice, just coffee table glories with big colour snaps. I taught (or assisted) students in design and interiors for 7 years and helped the thinking and detailing on the works at St Pancras International for 8 years, but that's another story. The printed version of the book is over 200 pages but the e -book has been compressed to a bit less., but hey it's rather cheaper to produce! There are also a few reproductions of blogs, but not the ensuing conversations. Ha   Some chapterettes...   Fortune Favours the Prepared mind...always carry a notebook for inspirational jottings A picture is worth a thousand words A scrapbook or annotated portfolio of images...your likes and dislikes Survey, analyse, propose...description of a logical approach to design decisions Never judge a book Thresholds and entrances Kitchens and all that goes with them Relationship of rooms...crudely put. An approach to layout making Character and Value...fairly vital stuff Gardens...Design and Relationship with House Transparency...Bays and Oriels etc Details and Joining...important...to preempt that 'How the hell do we get round that?' question. My St Pancras experience came into ts own there. Windows (not the computer ones) Transparency and Character...both again, but further thoughts The National Garden Scheme...a useful means  of seeing how others done things...and the cakes are good and it is for charity Extension as a pavilion Cat skinning...nothing to do with a fish, but breaking down different ways to form houses. Clue,there are only really 5   Right, there's more but you get the drift I hope. There are not many books, guides, approaches like this...Some of this may have been nicked by now...oh well...good luck all   You can contact me (Jim) on lofthousestudio@hotmail.com      

caliwag

caliwag

 

Design Book

Hello, If any readers have bought, read, borrowed etc my book 'Self Build Home...The last thing you need is an architect' (only £5 on Amazon btw) I welcome your feedback, comments, criticism. Jim on lofthousestudio@hotmail.com I know I've been critical of plan books on here and other forums, but I thought, for my second edition (!?)I'd include plan designs of some of my projects (realised and doomed), but illustrating and annotating a few important (well I think they are!) design features. Just a thought to stave off retirement dottage!

caliwag

caliwag

 

Elvis has left the building

If plasterers were musicians, mine would be Elvis (except my plasterer is still alive, obvs!) or some arena-filling brain-melting rock god, because that's how good his plastering is.  Just ask Nick - he's been trying to coax him away for the last 3 weeks and he's had to accept failure as he doesn't travel (far).  Anyhow, Ian the Plasterer has now left the building apart from a teensy last bit in the hallway that can't be done until the new stairs arrive, so 99% there.    The week just gone saw the most challenging part of the plastering, which was the drop down the stairwell and the box section along the floor/upper ceiling run, which isn't one for a person with the slightest touch of vertigo. To get this done, the temporary staircase had to be removed and a compact but tall scaffold hired in to allow access.  A youngman board was run across from the landing to the scaffold stage so that the width of the area could be accessed.  As the last of the plasterboard was going up, we packed in as many of those pesky offcuts as we possibly could as this was our last chance to dispose of this within the walls of the house.  It looked like some random form of plasterboard modern art as it was going up.     Clearly, you can see that the stairs have been removed.  Also moved temporarily was the UFH manifold that's been sitting comfortably under the stairs, as we didn't want any damage to come to that whilst Ian the Plasterer was doing his thing.  Here's a not very good shot of the boarded stairwell and a peek at the edge of the PB lifter putting the board onto the hallway ceiling.     The stairs are now on the floor in the lounge.  Whether they will return to their original position depends on how long the permanent staircase takes to arrive, which is unknown right now as I need to have a chat with a couple of people about a couple of things, but I should be ordering it early next week.  In the meantime, here's the stairway to nowhere.     Back to the plastering, things are looking very different now that it's all done and drying out.  The building instantly feels more solid and less like a construction site.  The utility room is all done now and I intend to get in there next week with Jeremy's trust paint sprayer and then emulsion.     There isn't that much going in the way of units going into the utility - just 4 in total.  It will house a fridge, freezer and washing machine, then the units will continue along the same wall and have a work surface running above them.  I've deliberately kept it less full as it's useful to have some empty space for all the things that fill up dumping grounds voids that most households naturally have.  This is the other end of the utility, going through to the garage.     Lying on the utility floor there, you can see my Howdens primed MDF doors, which are destined for upstairs and one between the utility and the main house.  I hope to get started on painting these soon.  The doors for most of the downstairs are currently in production over in the Netherlands, due to arrive around the 5th April, and these will be fully finished so no need to paint or anything, just add hardware and hang.  After some research and a little back and forth, it turns out that the Netherlands is a great place to go for over-height doors.  This is because what we consider to be over-height is entirely standard to them and you can get pretty much any size up to 2300 with no bother at all.  Very handy for those large doorways of mine downstairs.   We've planned to have low level lights in the hallway for some time now and Nick suggested ones that can be put in flush with the plasterboard and then plastered in.  It sounded like a good idea so I ordered them and they arrived a few days later.  Cue panic on my part as they appeared enormous and were way deeper than I was expecting.  I had to measure them several times and be convinced that they wouldn't come out of the wall behind them.  As it was, only a screwdriver point did that.  The lights weigh a tonne - they are moulded plaster of Paris and very odd looking things, but look good once they go in.  Here's the side view of the light that needs to be lost in the cavity of the stud wall.  What a whopper!     And here they are once they've been plastered in.     Finishing off on the plastering, here's a view of the bottom part of the scaffold tower that I've hired for the occasion.  Even though the stairwell is plastered, I've kept the tower as I need to paint the stairwell and the prep for this means masking the long window, so I need the extra height for this.      Ian the Plasterer was cursing the weather that day as the sun was beating in and that long window faces almost due south.  He was bemoaning the fact that you could see every single ripple in the plasterboard and even the slightest imperfection stuck out like a sore thumb.  Overly critical of his own work as he is, he was very relieved when it was pointed out to him that there will be a brise soleil in front of that window eventually, which will smooth out his ripples in a jiffy.     The last bit of plastering is a slight change of plan in the bathroom.  Originally, the slanted wall opposite the door was going to be tiled all the way to the top and the MVHR extract hidden with a false panel covered by a tile.  After some discussion, it was decided that this would look horrible as the side walls are only going to be tiled part way up.  We still needed a work around for where the wall protrudes to house the cistern for the wall mounted loo and decided that continuing the theme of niches in the bathroom, a large portrait-style one above the loo would look good.  I suggested that the MVHR outlet could then come down via the 'ceiling' of the niche, but Nick went one better and it will come out on the right hand side of the niche wall, above the bath, and so be virtually invisible.  As ever, a sharp bit of plastering from Ian.     Plenty more has been going on inside, but let's step outside for a breath of air as it was busy there, too.  The next set of groundworks have started.  These comprise the surface water and foul water drainage, the driveway between the garage and the lane and the hard standing to the side of the garage.  In addition, the surface water will now all be diverted to the pond, which overcomes the potential issue of how to deal with this on our heavy clay site.  I've swapped groundworkers for this stage of the works.  Sadly, my previous groundworker came through with a ridiculously inflated quote for the drainage work and as I already had another firm waiting in the wings as I have to install a dropped curb between my drive and the lane, I decided to use them for all the work as they were far more reasonable.  I'm afraid there are no thrilling photos of the groundworks as it looks very similar to how the site has looked since the onset of winter - wet and boggy, with a few trenches here and there.  However, I'm delighted that the drainage works are progressing, albeit with being called off for a few days due to the awful storms we've been having, as it means that as soon as they are done we can press on with the cladding and get the building properly watertight.     As well as the groundworks, the balustrades for the balconies started going in last week.  The east balcony is completed and the supports and railings are in on the west with the glass to follow shortly.  There was a problem with a couple of panels not being the right size so I'm waiting on those, then the guys will be back to finish the installation.  When I first ordered the balustrade, I had a minor panic shortly afterwards.  I had requested that all the metal work should be powder coated in RAL 7016 to match the windows and be close to the colour of the slate.  The panic was due to my wondering whether I should have gone for brushed steel or something a bit brighter.  Come the day, however, the darker shade of anthracite grey was the right choice as it blends seamlessly with the windows and slate cladding on the upper storey, so much so that standing in the lane, the railings disappear and only the glass is obvious.  Phew!   Here's the balustrade viewed from the balcony.     The same from the top of a pile of wood chippings in what will be the garden:     And, finally, from the lane.     The building looks very austere at the moment, but once the stone cladding goes on, it will be transformed again.   It's a bit chilly outside, so let's go back indoors.  Work has been continuing on the kitchen and the laminate worktop is in situ now, as well as the sink.  Photos on that to follow next week once the clamps are off.  I had been pondering the support post for the overhang on the island worksurface, and how to overcome my dislike for most of the ready made options out there.  I really didn't want a metal post as it would look incongruous against everything else in the kitchen and so in one of those late night flashes of inspiration that occasionally come along, I decided to ask Harry the Carpenter to clad some timber with the laminate splashback to make a post that matched the underside of the breakfast bar part of the island.  Harry did his thing, and I'm pleased with the result.  Much as with the balustrade against the slates, it largely disappears into the background of the recess under the walnut worktop.     I've been busy sanding and painting and all things decorating.  The snug has now had its 2 coats of vinyl emulsion and I'm working my way through the prep for painting my ready-primed MDF skirting and architrave.  I hate prep.  Tedious, boring, and there's no way to get out of it.  However, it will be worth it once all the 'woodwork' is all white and pristine.  One thing that has become apparent since I painted the snug is the difference a paint base makes.  The neutral colour that I'm using everywhere is called Borrowash, from Brewer's Albany paint range. In the snug and low traffic areas, I'm using standard vinyl emulsion but for the hallway and lounge, I'm using durable vinyl.  All in the same shade, just a different base.  So what, you may ask.  Well, here's the thing.  They come out different colours.  I chose the colour on the basis of the standard vinyl - this is how it appears in the colour chart and sample pots, and it's a warm grey/beige, more beige than grey.  The durable version, however, is much cooler and more grey than beige.  I painted the lounge first with the durable stuff and a little while back did one of the bedrooms with the standard emulsion.  I commented at the time how the light made them appear to be different colours except, as I now know, they really are different.  It's not a problem as I like them both and they aren't next to each other in the same room, but it's worth bearing in mind if you plan to use the same colour in different bases.  Here's the snug all painted up, looking out to the hallway.     And another of the same.     Finally, as I started the blog with Elvis, it seems appropriate to finish it with a bit of a light show.  Team Blackmore worked hard on the ceiling feature in the lounge but up until now, it's been uncertain just how well (or not) it would work out with lights.  Nick, the little devil, couldn't bear to wait any longer and so one evening last week, he temporarily rigged up some LED strip lights on the feature.  All I can say is that Team Blackmore had a smile on its face when it saw this.  Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the ceiling lights.     p.s. I was on site to do a clean up today whilst it was nice and quiet there.  There had been plenty of cursing during the week as Nick started to tackle the en suite shower for the master bedroom.  Foul things were coming out of both ends of him the day after his curry night and the recalcitrant shower wasn't doing much to improve his mood.  I noticed this today, written on a piece of board in the base of the shower recess.   

vivienz

vivienz

 

Commissioning the MVHR System

We have been living in the house for almost a year now, how time flies. The Genvex Combi 185LS has performed really well, providing hot water and supplementary space heating. The MVHR system is part of Genvex Combi 185LS. One advantage of the Genvex ventilation system is that having an EASHP built in means that the supply air temperature is always slightly above room temperature even if it is not in heating mode. A standard MVHR unit would deliver air at a few degrees below room temperature, hence feeling cool, unless a post heater were fitted.       I recently realised I had forgotten to write up the process we went through when setting up the ventilation. When we commissioned the ventilation system we set it up for the building regulations rates which were quite high. After the house had been signed off we changed the air flow rates to Passivhaus levels. The Genvex has four ventilation levels and the speed of the supply and extract fans can be altered for each level making it relatively easy to balance the system.                             To set the flow rates I used a Testo 405i anemometer fitted into a piece of flared ducting held over the supply or extract valve. The Testo 405i has a bluetooth link to a portable device running an app which stores and outputs the results. This makes the process much easier than having to write down results each time.       I created a table of room volumes along with Passivhaus air change rates and from that calculated the flow rate and hence flow velocity.            I then adjusted each of the room valves for the extract side starting with the room closest to the Genvex unit and then the next room further away until all the rooms were finished. This process was then repeated along with adjusting the fan speed until the required flow velocities were correctly set up for each room. This was then carried out for the supply side. We found that the set up procedure was very sensitive to wind speed, so we carried out the commissioning on a calm day.  

PeterStarck

PeterStarck

 

Blocks delivered and we're up to the first floor

It's been a week of mixed emotions, we've made good progress on site but hit our first major budget overrun. First the good stuff, blocks got delivered on Monday. JUB will only ship them on pallets which sounds OK but in practice, but causes several problems on site. For a start we didn't have a fork lift on site and fork lifts don't tend to do well on soft ground. In the end we got in a tele-handler for which a single days hire is a significant cost. It should have been a small unit, but in the end the hire company delivered an 8 ton  far too heavy and large for our site. It was so heavy it ended up damaging the new dropped kerb work done for the build. Besides unloading the blocks, other problems with having them on pallets soon became apparent. It's a small site with limited space for storing materials we needed to store the pallets on the raft leaving room for bracing to be put in place once the walls are built. Each pallet had a manifest of the blocks loaded onto it. No cutting is required so it should just be a case of selecting the blocks and putting them in place. JUB provide a nice block plan for the build giving a cross reference of block type and location. 646-2018 WALL - Assembly plan 1of2 A1.pdf It quickly became apparent that finding the right blocks would be a challenge. There are a fair number of types, some quite small, all carry an identifier in the form nnn-tt-nnn but it's not that easy to read, so we thought it would be a good idea to use a marker to add wall position. Not such a good idea as the same block has multiple wall position numbers which further complicates finding blocks as a no 5 is in fact just the same a no 11. I've now looked at the wall assembly plans a couple of times and the logic for the labelling escapes me. It would be a lot simpler on site if each unique block type was allocated a single number for a given kit and the number was used consistently throughout the kit assembly plans. This is a first for JUB in the UK so I expect the kit process will get refined. In any event the block assembly went very well and by Wednesday the blocks were up to the first floor and the bracing was in place. First impressions of the JUB systemare very favourable. One other item completed was the connection and testing of the sewer pump station. The pump has to be connected with “class C” 63mm MDPE pipe which is designed to withstand the pressures associated with a pump. The pipe is referred to as flexible but it's anything but especially over short distances. The result was that making a connection required the use of an angled connector, just a single 45 degree, but we would have preferred no connections. The 63mm run is very short less than 1M and has good access from the pump meaning it can be easily rodded. Now the less pleasant news, budget overrun. In hind site this is a self inflicted wound and I should be old enough and wise enough to have avoid it. Back when we started our project we had a budget offer from our shell builders Intelligent Building System. The budget included the raft and associated concrete and steel but not the ground works. From various items on the build hub and other web sources I had come up with a figure in region of £15K for the ground works. I didn't verify this with the builder or get a phase 1 statement of works prior to the work starting. Sounds a very basic error and I still wonder just how I ended up in this position, my only excuse is that I got carried away in the practical aspects of the build. The phase 1 works came in at 34K added to this was 4.4K for the insulated raft which I had to purchase directly from JUB, so 38.4K total. The original budget offer was 14.3K a figure which included an insulated Isodom raft, assuming this would be about the as the JUB raft brings the figure down to 10K. Some analysis of the costings showed the labour had changed from around 5K in the initial offering to 15K in the costings. There were also additional materials costs which are much easier to understand, we also added items like a very big hole for the rain water harvesting tank and soak away . I had discussions with our builder over this but they are adamant it's correct. My own fault for not getting the work properly defined  before starting. I'm still on talking terms with the builder, whom I'm generally very happy with and would recommend to other self builders. They have been very proactive and helped considerably with getting JUB to engage with the build and many other items.

Simon R

Simon R

Get rid of those awful downlighters...

Bored of your downlighters? Why not replace them with bulbs to give a different appearance to your ceiling?   Just an idea that I happened to see in a house in Kent a couple of weeks ago.   GU10 bulbs are available in shape other than downlighters, for example  candle bulbs:          It is far netter not to have done it in the first place, but at least there are ways to mitigate the damage.   (No, GU10 downlighers are not my favourite. form of lighting.)

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

 

At a loose end

There hasn’t been much happening here since the joiner finished mid January, we started oiling the staircase and associated newels etc, we’ve had carpets laid in 3 of the 4 bedrooms, the 4th one still needs decorating but neither of us has the inclination to do it and I’ve built up a couple of things for the grandchildren’s rooms. We got a brickie out last week to look at getting the steps and ramp done but with the turn in the weather again we’ll have to wait before we can have the machine in again to dig foundations for these and sort out the driveway and garden, so today at a loose end I spent the afternoon counting! With all the talk of price per sq m I wanted to get it all added together, I knew how much cash we’d had but what with using credit cards for some things and using the current account for others and with both our wages going into this account it seemed there were days when I didn’t know how much I’d spent or where it came from! So much for the spreadsheet I started which went ok until things got really busy and I was getting requests left right and centre for all manner of things.It took me a good few hours to go through bank statements, cc statements, cash withdrawals etc but I eventually got it all counted up and receipts into some kind of order, I wanted to get this done so I can hit the ground running when it comes to filling out the vat forms but I also want to now make a spreadsheet of individual costs such as , foundations, block work, drainage and so on just in case we ever decide to do it again!  I’m a great believer in fate and things happening for a reason and the two plots we are marketing there is a couple very interested in one of them subject to talks they’re having just now with the local council regarding style of build, this would leave a spare plot?! Would my OH go for it again? I don’t know, I very much doubt it but stranger things have happened, after all we didn’t mean to build this one! Oh and btw we just found out the builders company we were using has folded, apparently one of the two brothers left the company a fortnight before we parted company with them which goes some way to explaining why they suddenly seemed to lose interest and stop coming which at the time seemed strange to us as they had done the majority of the work apart from the finishing joinery which they kept telling us was 4 days work, the joiner we got in after that spent the whole of November, December and part of January finishing off and redoing some of their work which was substandard.
 

Interlude and internals

And so almost another month has gone by but progress is still being made on the build and, just as importantly, hubby and I got away for a week's holiday in northern France just as the warm weather hit.  After our abject failure at R&R over Christmas, it was wonderful to have a really relaxing break without illness or stress and come back refreshed for the final push on the build, which is just as well as there's a busy time to be had over the coming weeks.   In the last blog entry, I detailed some of the painting and kitchen fitting that had been going on and there's been more of this recently.  I've been getting the colour coats onto the walls upstairs but haven't managed to complete a room yet apart from the kitchen, but I'm generally pleased with the neutral colour choice.  I say generally, though, because in the lounge, the different light in there makes the wall colour bring out the warm tones of the internal window frame finish which makes them look a slightly odd peach colour.  It's not awful and I'm not going to change it now, but if we ever redecorate (hah!) it will be something I check before committing.  For the more vertiginously challenged amongst you, you may wish to look away now, as here's a view from the top of my internal scaffold tower when I was putting the colour coat on up to the vaulted ceiling above the gable window in the guest bedroom.     And here are the colour choices.  The purple will be on one wall only.  It looks a bit garish at the moment but once the room has its furniture and soft furnishings in, it should tone well and add a bit of life to the room.      Cutting in and painting up to the high vault was a bit of a challenge, but I got there.  I really didn't want to get any colour spatter onto the white ceiling so opted to use paint pads rather than a roller and I was pleased with the outcome.  They give a good finish over the sprayed mist coat and are far less physically demanding than a roller.     I was painting upstairs as the flooring guys were in downstairs putting in the karndean (same choice as upstairs) and it kept me productive but out of the way.  Given all the work that went into making the dropped section of the ceiling in the lounge area, I wanted the floor to echo this but not in too obvious a fashion and so the team took a laser reference from the inner square of the lounge feature and reversed the direction of the planks, using a feature strip to create a subtle border.  First, though, they had to screed the floor with a latex self levelling compound.  In preparation for this, I needed to turn off the UFH a few days before they arrived to make sure the screed didn't go off too quickly due to the heat of the slab.  I turned it off on a Friday afternoon and they started work on the following Tuesday and it was just about perfect.   Once the screed was down, the floor was scraped to make sure it was completely level and then primed.     After the priming, the planks were put down.  Here is the snug - I went in the weekend before the flooring guys arrived to get the mist coats and ceiling painted as it's far easier to do when you only have to mask the windows and not worry about any other area.     Here's the long view of the kitchen/lounge area:     And here's a close up of the feature border underneath the ceiling feature:     Moving on from the flooring and painting, my joiner, Harry has been busy at work on the kitchen.  In particular, he was working on the large walnut work surface for the island.  I decided months ago that I wanted solid walnut for the island but then, as I'm sure happens to many, I had a last minute dither and started looking at other materials instead.  In the end, I decided that granite or other stones really didn't give the colour tones that I wanted and laminates weren't wide enough.  I sourced the walnut from Worktop Express as they were very competitively priced for what I wanted, and delivery was quick.  I looked at using their online template service, but it was just too tricky to get the different profiles right and, in the end, decided to get Harry to make up the island top on site.  It was absolutely the right choice as he's done a lovely job on it.  Here's a photo of the finished top with the induction hob surface mounted into it.     A word on the hob.  You can recess the work surface so that the hob is flush, but I preferred it to be surface mounted, sitting proud of the walnut, purely from a cleaning point of view and so I don't have to spend ages digging out crumbs and bits of food debris from around a flush recess.   These are the two worktops as they arrived from the supplier, waiting to be joined together.  Harry routed along their length, used a biscuit join and then glued and clamped.     The worktops being clamped.  They look and, indeed, are lighter in shade than the first photo as they come treated with one coat of Danish oil.  Harry put a further two coats on once he had sanded the finished surface.     The area where there appears to be a base unit missing and where the surface projects beyond is intended as a breakfast bar area.  There will be a supporting leg on the near right hand corner.    Because the kitchen and island are large, I didn't want anything to be too matchy-matchy and wanted to break up any monotonous areas.  Also, I didn't fancy walnut as the worksurface leading off the sink as I think that's asking for trouble in the long run.  So, I went hunting through laminate choices.  Way back when I was first considering the kitchen, I had been thinking about using large format tiles with a metallic type finish as the splashback, but it was proving to be a gruelling and not very fruitful search.  When I eventually revisited this part of the kitchen a couple of months ago, I came across some laminates with exactly that type of finish, nice long runs (I need a 4m run for the back work surface) and with matching splashbacks.  I also wanted to line the recessed area under the island with the same material to make it more durable and give a contrast in materials and textures. I sourced the laminates from a firm called Rearo and dealt with their Newport branch.  They were lovely to deal with and very helpful.   Here's the splashback applied to the breakfast bar recess.  Harry beefed it up and packed it out with some ply and then put the laminate edging onto the ends to give a substantial look.     Whilst we were away on holiday, my splendid general builder and neighbour, Drew, got on with putting the rainwater goods up.  I'd ordered in soffits and fascias from Fascia.com as they had the width I needed in anthracite grey to match the slates and windows, as well as vented soffits, which save a lot of bother and look much neater.  The guttering is all deepflow and was mounted onto black fascia board.  I looked at other colours of guttering, but none of them were quite right and black guttering is so ubiquitous that the eye kind of slides past it.  Having it mounted on the fascia board also reduces the visual impact of the brackets that can look a bit clunky.  Whilst he was up there, Drew also mounted our swift boxes and bat boxes.  We were required as part of our bat licence conditions to put a bat box somewhere on site, but this is something that we had planned to do all along.  Also, there has been a dramatic loss of habitat for swifts that migrate to the UK to breed in the summer and we wanted to make provision for these too, in the hope that we're lucky enough to attract them to our site.  These fabulous birds migrate 6,000 miles to reach their summer breeding grounds and are the fastest birds in level flight.  Once they have fledged, the only time they ever land again is to sleep and recover from their migration flight and to feed their young.  They are the most fabulous birds and I would urge anyone to make provision for them wherever possible.  If anyone wants details of where to buy some brilliant swift boxes, PM me and I'll send you the details.   Here are the boxes, all sited on the western corner of the north facing wall.     Finally, today marked a milestone in the house progress - the scaffolding is coming down.  Our foul and surface water drainage works start on Wednesday and the site needs to be clear to allow access for that.  Any remaining work at height can be done from ladders apart from the cladding, but I will hire a separate mobile tower of some sort for that work once I've had a chance to identify what will be most suitable.  The stone cladding arrived a couple of weeks ago, ready to go up once the drainage work is done, more details of which will follow in the next post.   Here's the south face gradually being revealed.  The crates to the right of the picture are the stone cladding.     Here's the east face slowly coming into view.     And another view of the same.     Work planned for this week is more plastering, more painting (if I get the chance as I'm the plasterer's labourer this week), groundworks and starting to move some young trees to the site that we've been nursing in pots at home for 12 months.  Next week, the en-suite bathroom will be started, the kitchen finished and the utility room kitted out.  Plenty to do yet.   TTFN.

vivienz

vivienz

 

ICF all done, yippee

So last blog had seen me doing my first icf pour, and it was a proper baptism of fire, 3 blokes running around trying to do 4 mens jobs bloody nightmare.  So next stage was to get some scaffolding up and build up the next bit, I decided to buy some scaffolding as I’m building this myself I knew it would be a long term project and renting scaffolding was going to be a complete non starter, so 4 grand later I own a load of scaffolding.    As usual the walls flew up fairly quickly, until you get to a gable or a window  so for some unknown reason when I designed this place it ended up with 7 gables with 2 different pitches and 17 windows.  That really slowed things down a bit.  from what we learnt on the last pour we knew we needed to add a bit of bracing around the windows So it all got a bit messy looking with random bits of ply every then it decided to snow so I had to bring out one of my all time favourite sayings.  IN CASE OF RAIN OR SNOW TO THE PUB YOU MUST GO.  So for the next couple of days not a lot happened.    With icf  you can fit additional structural parts as you go up even if you don’t need them yet, as when you cast the concrete core it locks in any fixings you have in place, one of these things was our roof support timbers or pole plates, these where fixed to the face of the blocks with temporary screws and anchor bolts poked into the hollow core ready for the concrete to encase them.  if you look at that long timber halfway up the wall that’s our poleplate for that side of the house, all bolts are in place and restraint straps embedded into the inside of the blocks ready for concrete.  Above the pole plate you can see a funny wooden box, this is shuttering to form a cantilevered beam that supports the roof, there are 6 of these in total with the longest sticking out 1900mm from the main structure, so lots more reinforcement in these and then ready for concrete.    The second concrete pour went  without a hint of any trouble, and we even pushed the boundaries of sensibility a few times by pouring the concrete to a depth not recommended in 1 pass without a hitch, this sounds like a recipe for disaster but we had little choice, let me explain.    It is recomended that you pour aprox 1-1 1/2 courses at a time in a single pass, so starting in the middle of a wall go all the way around the house up to your 1.5 block depth or 600mm aprox, you then go around again starting at the same place this gives the concrete just enough time to just start curing very slightly, this will Norma get you to a point of having an empty truck, perfect it gives you chance to vibrate anything you need to and have a quick cuppa, then the second truck turns up and you go around again, 2 trucks of concrete or 15m and your up 3/4 of your first pour, and then so on.  Well with our second pour it didn’t work like that, as we had lots of windows and funny gables the actual concrete amount was fairly small 11m but with that 11m of concrete we had to lift 5 courses of blocks, so 2 passes around the perimeter of the house meant we had to come up 2.5 courses at a time, which was a bit bum twitchy but was perfect it worked a treat.  one of the beams after the last pour.  feeling rather smug. 
 

Part 26 - Wall mounted Solar PV system

Having originally planned then dropped the idea of Solar PV (a combination of budget constraints and drop in FiT rates) I recently acquired a number of Solar PV panels (a pallet bought in conjunction with @ProDave from Bimble Solar via Ebay).   Having recently collected the panels, lengths of mounting rail and various other bits and bobs @ProDave had kindly sourced, I fitted the system over the last two Saturdays.   First off was mounting the rails on my rear, SW facing garage wall.  I decided to mount the panels vertically simply for ease - a ready made structure to fix the rails to, and easy access to a consumer unit for the grid connection.  There is a penalty in terms of a reduction in annual generation compared to a sloped array, however simplicity won out.   The following picture shows the garage wall with rails fixed;     To start I nailed packers to the cladding to ensure I had a drainage gap behind the rails.  I then fixed the rails (Unistrut - a tip from @Onoff) through the cladding, cladding battens into the timber frame of the garage using timber drive bolts I happened to have.  As the lengths of Unistrut I had were offcuts (only way I could transport them) I used joiners secured to the channel with bolts/channel nuts.  Finally, I added hanging brackets for each panels to help carry the weight of each panel / so I wasn't reliant purely on bolts clamping the panels in position.   I fitted the panels, sitting them on the hanging bracket and bolting them around 300mm from top and bottom as pictured;     The ends were secured using Z brackets I cut down using a grinder (thanks @JSHarris) so that they clamped only the frame and did not overhang the panel itself;     Long M6 bolts with large washers were used to secure the panels into the rails where they met with each other;     The channel nuts (also known as Zebedees) into which the long M6 bolts were secured;     I used M8 bolts and channel nuts for the joiners, end and hanging brackets.   My electrician connected the system up, wiring the panels to a DC isolator, into the Inverter which in turn is wired into the garage CU via a meter and AC isolator.  2 hours work for him.     Switched on, the Inverter ran through all its self tests and everything okay.  Sadly at that point it clouded over and the heavens opened so only a few watts being generated.  Fortunately, today has been a bright and sunny day (albeit a bit hazy) and my 1.5 kWp system is as we speak, generating 1.2kW.   The following shot was taken yesterday just before the rain came on, but all in all, I'm pleased with the way it looks (panels mounted so they read visually with house windows).     Cost wise the system (1.5kWp plus a spare panel), mounting rails, nuts, bolts, brackets, isolators, meter and electrician (@Prodave was kind enough to give me the DC cable he had left over which was just enough for the job) total £550. I already had the inverter.   Final job within the next 28 days is to notify the DNO of the installation. 

Stones

Stones

 

Just what DO we want to build?

I uploaded my draft floor plans a while ago and I have lived with them a while and am fairly content that they will meet our needs.   We have one elderly parent left  who we could easily argue needs to move in with us ( that is closer to the truth than I like to think about as it is my MIL not my own mum).  That gives us the need to a downstairs bedroom and en-suite.  Everything else is fairly normal but of reasonably generous proportions in line with most self builds. We hope to have a comfortable, energy efficient home that we can live in for as long as possible.  Our need to move as we get older and frailer will be more to do with the lane that we live on and our inability to get the 1 mile down the track to the nearest corner shop than the house with luck.  Low maintenance is a biggie for us of course - we have no wish to be doing regular maintenance as we get older.   We have appointed an architect technician to look at my floor plans and check that it is buildable but we have given them permission to come up with better ideas if they can.  The house will run from east to west - the longest wall faces south and I have planned an overhang from the floor above along the entire length of that wall to keep the ground floor cooler in the summer.  The only window I have planned on the first floor facing south is on the stair well.  The east and west balconies will again give shade to the bedroom windows hopefully helping to keep them cool in the summer aswell - a woman of my age needs no help at all to get to hot, especially overnight.   I've posted these plans before but as this thread is going to be all about the design i thought it would be a good starting point so that we can see the progression up to and including planning consent being granted (note the confindence in that sentence  ).   My intention was to have a flat roof so the house would have a very modern look - all render and block like with maybe a little wood cladding as a feature to break up the render in a couple of places.  The architects are trying to talk me out of the flat roof as they believe we will struggle to get the plans approved as they are not in keeping with other houses in the area.  It's a bit hard to know what other houses they may consider as our nearest neighbours are horses on each side who do have stables but tend not to object to planning permission so long as they get a carrot or apple in payment.  Neither plot is likely to get planning appoval for a house in my lifetime (one side has tried and failed).  Very few plots down the lane have lawful houses on them but there are a few plots occuplied by one of more travelling caravans, most of which have enforcement notices served on them.  So finding what is "normal" is a little tricky.  The SSSI which we are close to is a hill that is home to a number of reptiles.  We have walked up the hill many times and you cannot see our house from anywhere on the hill, you can see the end of the plot, but not the house.   I understand that flat roofs have inherant issues that require careful detailing by good roofers - I have been reading @pocster's thread today to remind me of how badly things can go.  I don't like flat roofs.  However I like the look of PV panels even less but I know that I want them.  We have considered putting the PV panels in one of the paddocks on a ground mount system but the dogs love rompng up and down like idiots.  Having space for them to run was one of the big drivers for our move so filling up ground with panels is not something I want to do.  A flat roof to me would be the lesser of the two evils and it means I can have PV panels facing any direction that I want.     So here are the opions I am seeking from the collective:   Is a flat roof a sensible compromise to allow PV panels to be hidden from my view? Is it worth having PV panels facing east, south and west to get the optimum solar generation? What limits are there on PV generation - I saw something today mentioning 4kw and not sure what dictates that? I know we won't be getting the FIT tariff so is there anything stopping us going above the 4kw limit (if that is what it is) and just "wasting" the excess if that is possible so that we don't overload the network?   As you can probably tell, I know very little about PV but am reading whatever I can find.  I've been meaning to put this thread up for a while now and seeing @Russell griffiths post about solar panels reminded me to pull my finger out and ask the questions.   Thank you

Sue B

Sue B