Blogs

 

It starts!

Progress this week. More photos than words for now. HQ is set up, including the shower.   After felling the trees on site, a few big machines visited to get the logs out.   Leaving the site looking like this:   The last few days have then involved a lot of muck moving and getting decent material out for the tracks and base, leaving us looking something like this:   Next stop, foundations!

jamieled

jamieled

 

Part 1: Site Clearance

Hello folks, finally about to start my new build in Aberdeenshire so thought I would try and document it. I’ll do my best to keep it updated. It's been a long road to get here but the builders are due to start very shortly so the site has been stripped ready for them. Electricity is due to go in mid July, Scotframe kit in August and water will be getting dug in after herst. Below is a photo of the site plan so you have an idea of whats happening. Couple of photos to show the progress so far   Site fenced off Sept 2018 Clearing the entrance and making a road in/turning area. Site strippped and ready for the builders to make a start.   Next will be the sub build and electricity connection in a few weeks. I'll do my best to keep it updated but I normally forget to take photos

Warrior89

Warrior89

 

Schedules...what schedules?

Lies, damn lies and building schedules! Where does the time go! it's been a month since the roof was started a process that should have taken a week...and we're only just ready to put the standing seam roof panels on a month later. More on the standing seam roof in my next blog. At the time of my entry we were trying to find a roofing team to finish the work. The team drafted into build the roof had had to return to Glasgow to meet other commitments requiring our builder to find another team to pick up and complete the work. Much to our surprise we ended up with a choice of two, a local builder who had done work for us in the past and a local roofing company ICF Homes had used in the past. Our builder decided they would call in a favour from a roofer they had used in the past. There was inevitably a few days delay. To add to the entertainment we had two large roof lights 1200 x 2400 each weighing 220kg scheduled for delivery on the 3rd and the roof was not ready for them. Some last minute calls to Roof Maker and we managed to get the windows rescheduled for the 8th. With the roof far from ready we needed to get the area for the roof lights completed. Our builder put in two guys to do the required preparation to take the windows. This probably created as much work as accomplished as they were not chippies or roofers, but with some corrective work from the new roofers it was enough to prepare for the roof lights installation. To get the windows onto the roof we made use of Terry Peach and his show hiab again. The day of the window delivery arrived and true to form it was just about the windiest day we had had in a long while. Wind, cranes and large fragile objects are not a good combination and we thought we would need to call off the installation and try again on a more settled day. In any event we decided to give it a go and the windows were gingerly lifted up to roof height on the sheltered side of the roof and gently eased over the ridge into the gale...with a couple of restraining ropes and guiding hands on the roof they where successfully lowered into place with a sigh of relief from Pat and I . With the windows in place the roofing crew continued to work on our roof. They could only do a couple of days a week due to other commitments and work progressed rather slowly. By the 18th the roof was still not finished, and our roofers departed. Fortunately the remaining work was neither skilled or structural so Pat and I stepped in and completed the boarding, papered and battened the roof. We also boxed in the eaves ready for the spray foam insulation of the roof. The delay in completing the roof also meant we had lost our slot with the spray foam insulation company. They had been rebooked by our builder but just failed to turn up, no phone call, no email, not a good way to operate. In exasperation we agreed with our builder we would get it organised ourselves. Back to our schedule... all our windows from Velfac were due for delivery imminently. In our initial planning we had allowed some contingency time for build delays, but not nearly enough. Our original delivery date, the first week in April was arrived at after discussion with our builder. We realised some while back that it was unrealistic and delayed to mid May which seemed like a safe option, oh how wrong you can be! It's a curious detail with the Velfac design that you have to have your window apertures rendered prior to window installation. Our render work finally started on June 2nd with an anticipated completion date of the 21st. The work got off to a good start and it looked set for an early completion. We opted to go with JUB for our render as they are our ICF supplier . With us being their first build in the UK they have been very good to us providing render materials at cost. In general the ICF block work was clean and true, just perfect for rendering. Of course there were areas that were not good enough to just render and required remedial work. On our first concrete pour the cantilever beam supporting the first floor was not braced correctly. The beam had twisted deflecting the first floor wall 10-15mm. Regrettably it did not got spotted at the time of the pour and the beam was set. To correct the problem the course of blocks added to the beam was adapted to straighten the first floor wall. This worked out reasonably well and the remainder of the wall is straight an true, but it left a step in the ICF wall face that needed to be fixed before rendering could be done. We did this by building up the wall with cut block and shaving it back, a lot of work. We also discovered another wall bow, not anything like as major but still another task to get fixed prior to rendering. With some help from Velfac we had managed to get the delivery delayed a further week, but after that they would be charging us £50 a week for each pallet and we have five pallets. With the budget already groaning we decided to take delivery on the 17th June and to store the windows in the house ready for installation once rendering completed. We have some big windows and getting them into the house without damage is going to take a lot of care. We talked to the company doing the window install and they kindly agreed to split the install and to assist in the window unload. When our scaffold was installed we had a loading bay added on the first floor specifically to get the windows into the house. We also have organised a hiab delivery vehicle. Even so it's bit nerve racking, fingers crossed all will be well. Last but not least we have water and gas utilities connected, just electricity to go.  

Simon R

Simon R

 

Accessible Ablutions - Three

This project has now been going for a week, and should be finished with just under another day of work.   Tiling and grouting has been done, and it is now just to fit the shower, the loo, and install shower screen and those grab handles etc that we have obtained so far. Then it will a case of experimenting and putting the final touches in as the shower is used.   Here are a few slightly rushed  photos taken at this stage.   Two runs of pipe installed for the future just in case, which go through to where most of the plumbing related gubbins live beyond the other end of the bathroom.     Shower tray protected from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.   Access hatch for future maintenance     Give it a shout - get on and grout. It's Friday.     Nice corner detail     Stay out and let it set     If anyone has any bright ideas, I need to have a set of hooks about a foot below these. Is there any product that hangs hooks off the other hooks?     We should have wrapped up by Monday afternoon, and I'll aim to do one more piece, with details and costs.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Accessible Ablutions - Two

At the end of day two ... the shower tray is in. I was planning a moulded non-slip shower tray, but these are proving elusive without a special order so I have gone for a normal one instead and will add a full size non-slip mat.   The only other point worthy of note is that the UFH manifold-and-gubbins are under the stairs, but that a lot of other gubbins is in the garage at the other end, so I am putting in a couple of runs of water pipe in case they are needed later. These will be sealed at the garage end.     Look to your laurels, @Onoff, we'll be done in the time it takes you to choose loo rolls.

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Accessible Ablutions - One

And so it begins ... the refurbishment of my downstairs bathroom to be a shower room.   The self-builder who added an upstairs and extension to the bungalow got a few things wrong, and one of them was that he put a bathroom downstairs, and a shower room upstairs; exactly the wrounf way round for when a frail relative or disabled visitor needs to have downstairs facilities.   So this summer both bathrooms are being overhauled - starting with the downstairs one this week.   I was expecting a few things to emerge from the shadows, given that there have been a couple of idiosyncracies in the way elements of the house have been done.    The downstairs bathroom has been gutted this morning, with FOUR surprises.   Firstly, and I am probably unwise to admit not finding this in up to the last 5 years or so, it turns out that the plughole was not connected to the waste pipe .. or rather, became disconnected from the waste pipe at some point between 2009 and now. I moved in in 2012, and have never had reason to burrow under the bath. And I don't mean the overflow, I mean the plughole - where all the water exits.   You could have blown me down with a bicycle pump on that one.   It seems that originally it was not pushed on by the self-builder who did the house (treat self-builders like Mr Brezhnev - trust but verify !), in that the little flange around the male half had been treated as a "push pipe up against here" thing, rather than a "push pipe over this flange to make sure it grips properly and stays on" thing. Interesting. So the waste pipe was in mid-air below the plughole and a portion of the bathwater had been missing the entry to the pipe. The effect was a moist slab, but apparently no humongous harm has been done, other than a need to run my medium sized dehumidifier overnight.   (The room dimensions are roughly 3m x 2m.)   Photos:   Damp patch in screed caused by plug-disconnection. And secondly, a huge crack in the sand-cement screed - caused we think by expansion-contraction as the ufh cycles. Fibres, Fibres, Fibres !     Davina the Dehumidifier doing her thing.     Thirdly, for some reason the chap had painted the wall behind the bath with some kind of water-impervious gloop, which guarantees that the tiles were not very well attached as the strength is that of the weakest layer.     And fourthly, there was an interesting recessed trench round the end of the screed, perhaps for pipe-tidy and "flat floor" reasons.     And that photo shows a better view of that crack.   I am now hoping that the already identified crack in the floor of the upstairs bathroom is in the screed not the subfloor, as that will perhaps save me hoicking out quite so many of the underlying layers.     Come back tomorrow for the next enthralling episode of ... the Saga of Badezimmer Zwei.   And - if you have not done so recently - check that your drainage pipe is properly attached.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

The Slates Start Going on in Typical Cumbrian Weather

We have a lot of roof and the only planning condition we have, is that we use local slate, 18 tonnes of it at a cost of £22k.   So here’s the front roof of the house.   And the rear roof of the house.    A total of 18 separate roof planes in all! Why oh why did I let the architect talk me into this design?   Once the Timber Frame company left a local roofer started to batten our the roofs for our random width, diminishing course roof. Everything was going swimmingly, however he complained of feeling dizzy whilst on the three storey section, so i sent him to the doctors.   He’s very old school of farming stock and would probably be more comfortable going to the vets!    The upshot is he was signed off sick and needed hospital tests. The doctor has told him no more roofs. So that’s it, he’s told me to find someone else!    I’ve  wished him a speedy recovery, he is a really nice local guy and I’m gutted for him as he’s no pension, so relies on local roofing and small building jobs.   He’s irreplaceable, but somehow I had to find a replacement. If only I had a magic wand, I’d wave it for him.   Gutted!    Went to seek the advice of a neighbours regarding good local roofers.   The upshot being, I’ve was told to hunt down a guy known locally as “Old Fruit”. I asked the neighbour “don’t you know his real name” the answer, “NO” I’ve only ever known him as Old Fruit” So I have no phone number and only a vague idea where he lives.   As luck would have it, the third house I tried was Old Fruits parents house. So I now know he’s called Chris and having looked at the job and agreed an hourly rate, he’s start battening the roof out.   Fast forward a couple of weeks and he’s back and this morning the slates started going on in the pouring rain, Old Fruit is keen to get on with the job! More to follow........        

Triassic

Triassic

Insulation 3 and rendering

The last entry was back in February when we put down some much needed flooring and we have made some progress on both the interior and exterior of the build.   The first job was insulating the first floor.    Two layers of 80mm quinn therm was then fitted between the rafters leaving a ventilation gap to the sarking/breathe membrane.     A final layer of 25mm quinn therm layer on top with a service void.   For the flat ceiling we used a couple of layers of frametherm 35 with an airtightness membrane and Quinn therm 25mm layer.     We still have some work to do around the windows.   Downstairs was a lot quicker. This already had frametherm fitted between the studs so the Quinn therm 25mm went on top.       Now for the outside. We had been waiting for good weather for rendering the blockwork.   The first step was rendering beads and mesh.     Then a scratch coat coat was added.     Then finally the rough casting.         The rough casting will now be left and painted in July.    The next step is getting the electrician and plumber to do first fix.               

Checklist for Dodgy Media Articles

Inspired by *this* piece in a newspaper by Rupert Jones, I am compiling a Checklist of Items for testing the dodginess of an article.   1 - Is the author a specialist in the area being reported?   2 - Does the feature image actually relate to the content of the article? Is it giving a false impression?   3 - Does the Title represent the article accurately? Is it sensationalist? (The title is the snippet that will make Twitter).   4 - Does the "hook" (probably first sentence of paragraph) ask a relevant question? Or is it misleading?   5 - Is the killer fact to set the agenda credible? Is it anecdotal? Is it evidenced?   6 - Are relevant facts or information missed out when a point is made? Why?   7 - Are claims supported by linked evidence?   8 - Is anything simply wrong?   9 - Does the newspaper show any evidence of subeditting or fact-checking?   This is a checklist and a work in progress rather than a scorecard; yet the article linked above scores about 12 out of 9.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

Supervisory Cats

For a reason or reasons unknown to me I am about to pen a short piece about cats.   I think it is mainly because @AnonymousBosch posted a picture of his supervisory cat, here.     Now, that cat is a lot of things, and whilst allegedly Jellicle (ie black and white), is not so. It is clearly a Rum-Tum-Tugger - particularly given a penchant for using 'playbites' as a slightly abrupt management tool.   It is also the fault of whoever did not tell me about the statue of Hodge, the supervisory cat that used to own Dr Samuel Johnson, when I was living in the City of London back in the late 1990s. As reported by Boswell:   'I recollect [Hodge] one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson's breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying, "Why yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this;" and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, "but he is a very fine cat, a very fine cat indeed."'   I need to record somewhere that a statue of Hodge now exists in Gough Square, outside Dr Johnson's House - just around the corner from where Cafe Opera used to exist in Fleet Street. Cafe Opera was just what it says - reasonable Italian Food whilst being serenaded by Opera singers earning a crust on the side.     (Credit Mrs Woffington, who's current blog, which seems unfortunately to have stopped in 2010, is here. I will assume she found a congenial Latin teacher who now occupies her interest).   The oysters, upon which Dr Johnson used to feed Hodge, are a sign (in 2019 anyway) of a very supervisory cat.   Whilst I'm jabbering about this area, I recommend that anyone wanting to get some amazing ideas for Garden Design take a tour around the two dozen pocket-parks in the City of London. These are genuinely delightful, complexly small designs, and deserve a profile as high as the collection of City Churches by Wren.   Greyfriars Bobby, never mind Paddington Bear, eat your heart out.  

Ferdinand

Ferdinand

 

Window dramas

So, I know I promised  tales of cladding and roofing in the last instalment, but I have reviewed my photo stream and in fact realised that the window install was the next thing. At the end of November (as we all know, winter is prime building time), we finally retrieved our bargain basement windows from storage and brought them to site. Ah, the bargain basement windows, a tale of joy, horror, stress, fury, confusion and eventual revenge all in one.    I should explain. When we had secured the plot and had initial drawings from the architect and were waiting for engineering/calcs/building control drawings/services/everything else, we passed the time by getting hilariously large quotes for every aspect of the design. It kept us amused. So, after reading a lot on fabric first design and passive homes, off we trotted to our local Internorm dealer. Lovely showroom, excellent coffee, charming, if slightly oily salesperson. There was much discussion about our options - I asked about passive standard 3G timber aluclad. After a while, a large figure was mentioned. A very large figure. So large, in fact, that I actually was convinced that the salesperson was having a little joke with me. He wasn't.    No further coffee was offered. We gathered our coats, emptied the complimentary biscuits into my handbag and prepared to leave shamefacedly, and preferably without admitting that we were FAR TOO POOR to afford these lovely windows. On the way out, the salesman commented off handedly and rather insincerely  "Sorry we couldn't help you today. Unless you want to buy the ones in the basement, ha ha ha."   Reader, I have little-to-no shame when it comes to sniffing out a bargain. I cannot be humiliated. So, I was accompanied to the basement of the showroom, whereupon I was greeted with a £100,000 wonderland of window-related (expletive deleted)-ups. Results of inaccurate measuring, bankruptcy of developers, incorrect specifying, just general inefficiency. Of absolutely (expletive deleted)-all use to anyone, of course.    Apart from someone who had not fully finalised their house plans. And a salesperson who is uncommonly keen on crystallising some value from said (expletive deleted)-ups.    It was a partnership written in the stars. Details of hard-nosed negotiating aside (and there was someone in the room close to tears, and it wasn't me), we came away with 15 brand new windows (including 3 large sliders), a fully biometric ex display front door with side lights, a utility door, and a large panel of glass. All pretty much passive standard, some with built in blinds, some alu-clad timber, some Alu clad UPVC. For not much money. At all. A very satisfyingly small amount of money.    The architect was somewhat perturbed by this moderately unconventional approach of designing the house around already purchased windows, to say the least. For a while, I had a Quooker tap and approx £80,000 of windows as my only purchases for the house. However, he came up trumps and designed the house in such a way as you would never know that he had any design restrictions at all. The man is a quiet genius. We had cherry picked the best stuff - so all our sliders for the bedrooms are approximately (but not quite) the same size, they vary by about 30mm here and there, but they are all on different elevations of the house so you never see them right next to each other. We wanted to use one particular window in the bathroom as it had built in blinds, but it was a little too big, so we sank the bath into the floor to allow the window to have opening clearance. It looks amazing and like an intended "design feature".    So, we purchased the bargain basement windows, and following our cynical, but realistic architects advice - we got a trailer and got them the hell out of that warehouse. They stayed wrapped up and palletised for approx 2 years until that fateful day in November.    Now, what we should have done was quit while we were ahead, taken note of the surpassingly large number of (expletive deleted)-ups and run like the wind away from that warehouse. You will not be surprised to learn that this did not happen. We still needed our large feature window - a 5m wide, 2.7m high alu clad timber lift and slide window and matching fixed panels above. This was not cheap. Very very not cheap. But it was lovely. We decided that as we'd saved so much money with the rest of the windows, we could justify this lovely thing. We got a good, although still bloody expensive price on it, paid a 50% deposit, and were instructed to let them know when we were ready to have the window produced - as we hadn't been through building control fully yet, so didn't want to press "Go" just then.    So, all well. We got on with what we needed to do, engineering, building control, life etc and gave no more thought to it. We get our building warrant. We phone up the showroom to say "yay! please make our very highly priced window!". Only, there's a disconnected tone. Odd, we think - must have misdialled. We try again, same thing. We google. Website down, emails bounce. A light sweat breaks out.    The insufferable shits went bust. No one told us. It may or may not be directly related to the basement of (expletive deleted)-ups. Internorm had never heard of our order and had not received our deposit, so couldn't help. Now, thank christ that I am naturally untrusting of salespeople and INSISTED on paying £101 of the VERY LARGE deposit on a credit card. Section 75, how I love thee.    We got the whole lot back. Eventually. After a lot of paperwork and phonecalls. But now we have a load of second hand windows, some with bits missing and no-one to fit them. And no-one to order our lovely slider from     Help was on the way from an unexpected quarter though. Our house build is being filmed for TV,  and we happened to have a filming day a couple of weeks later. Someone on the crew gave us the details of a helpful person within Internorm, who passed us on to another dealer who honoured the original price for the sliders, came up from England to fit the windows, supplied all our missing bits and were generally wonderful. So, we come to November.    There are two access points to our site - one at the rear, which we can just about fit an articulated lorry up, and one at the front, on the extremely busy main street, that is cobbled and 2cm narrower than a transit with the wing mirrors folded, and only just as tall. The Internorm dealer had already made a site visit to review the access and made many sucky-teeth noises, but said "it's ok, we'll get a robot handler up from Leeds that can hold the window at 45 degrees while we drive it up." "Ooooh", we think, "A robot! Technology will save this whole scenario".    The day started relatively badly when it transpired that the artic driver, instead of turning right when he should have, so he could drive straight down the street and have the windows on the correct side for unloading, had in fact, turned left and was now in the middle of fully reversing down a medieval street so long that it takes approx 8 minutes to walk from one end to the other. At 9am. Also, he was (I think) Romanian, with no English, and there were no Romanian speakers amongst the installation crew.    So, when he finally arrived, after monumentally pissing off approximately 14 million local residents, the windows were on the wrong side and no room to turn. So we had to unload the rest of his lorry, stack it up on the street, taking up virtually every parking space in the place and drive the telehandler across the street, blocking all the traffic to get the window off. It is massive. Securing it on the tele handler is not a quick process. There was a lot of shouting.    Also, did I mention I'm 6 months pregnant at this point?        So, once unloaded, we look around eagerly for the promised technology laden robot. Looking a bit sheepish, the install crew confessed that it hadn't been available, but "don't worry, we brought something else". Great, I think! No problemo. The "something else" appeared, to my untrained eye, to be a couple of skateboards. So, we ended up with our massive window being rolled up the close on a couple of skateboards, being held at 45 degrees by a telehandler and 10 or so guys not all of whom shared a common language. To be honest, it went better than it should have done. The only hairy moment was when the tyre of the telehandler hit a drainpipe and it cracked with a noise EXACTLY like breaking glass. I was at the street end and couldn't see the window, just heard the cracking noise and a lot of a shouting. I was pretty convinced I was about to HAVE the baby.    Terrifying. But, all in all ... TADAHHH!     Over the next couple of days, all the windows were fitted and we were (nearly) watertight. Exciting progress.         
 

Our house on a lorry

So, I just remembered that I actually had this blog. I'm killing time waiting for a phonecall, so, updates! Over a year later! Stuff has happened. Lots of stuff. Lots of money. Many tears. Some moments of "FFS, what?!", many moments of "HOW MUCH?" and "how the feck does this bloody shower fit together?" and a few, rare, beautiful moments of "woah, that looks awesome".    The last entry ended on a lovely "woah" moment of the successful pouring of our beautiful concrete floor throughout the ground floor plan. It pissed down the next day, obviously. Then MBC went away, laden with cakes, pies and phone numbers of eligible single ladies from the area.    A week later, they came back. My new job is a long commute away, and I had to work that day. On my way to the station (hideously early), I saw a truck drive past, laden with bits of house. "That's our house", I thought to myself, I just knew it. I text my husband to share the momentous culmination of our wonderful joint enterprise and was mercilessly mocked that it probably wasn't our house, as it was far too early. Ha! How I laughed when the driver called him approximately 10 minutes later to say he was stuck in the narrow road outside our site, couldn't turn the lorry sharp enough to get into the access point and was blocking every single  (extremely angry) person in our medieval town from getting to work. That was a brisk drive to site for him. There were many people in hi-viz, a lot of shouting and gesturing, a lot of sharp intakes of breath, a few calls to the police to track down owners of badly parked cars and a huge amount of car horn tooting. Oh, and a LOT of apologising. But, the truck made it into the site. Just.          To the never-ending delight of my small son, there was also an absolutely ENORMOUS crane. I was later informed this in fact this is an embarrassingly tiny crane, the smallest one that you can possibly hire and really hardly worth the bother. I feel like the driver may have had some adequacy issues with his crane size.      So, whilst I was in a meeting, they just wacked the house together. At lunchtime, I called for a catchup FaceTime and the ground floor was pretty much finished! I mean, WHAT? The speed was insane. By the time I got to site later that evening (about 7.30pm), all the ground floor panels and internal partitions were in. My husband and I just walked around rooms, giggling insanely to ourselves at the ridiculousness of the whole thing.     The next day, second storey on. Unbelievable. By the end of the week (in fact, I don't even think it was  full week) the whole frame was up. We were a little shellshocked, to be honest. There was a lot of head scratching about how to run the falls on the roof. This had been discussed and obviously designed in, but our roofer had some input whilst MBC were on site. They were very good and spent a lot of time working out the best way to make it work for what we needed (singly ply membrane roof, adequate falls, hidden box gutters) and did a lot of extra work in conjunction with the other trades. Our roofer also risked the wrath of his wife by coming to a site meeting on a saturday and was subsequently late for a family BBQ  oops.      Oddly, once the frame was up and see could feel the room sizes in 3D, they suddenly felt absolutely massive again. Such a convincing illusion - it's very hard to visualise 3D space from a 2D footprint. Next up? The joys of roofing and zinc cladding  And winter       

2019 Design of a High End HMO

I thought this might of interest to Buildhubbers. I have been sent this as material to inform the redecoration / minor makeover of a student house in the summer.   It is some pics of a recent 'Co-Living' (= HMO for Professionals) development designed by Comfort Lettings, one of the most forward thinking Lettings Agencies in Nottingham. It shows how these developments are evolving. It is a careful refurb of a largish terraced house roughly 15 minutes walk from Nottingham City Centre.   There is nothing here that is particularly expensive to do, although some of the items are probably "dressing" for the (professional) photos. I do not see, for example, mini-cacti for the dining table / bathroom, or duvet covers, being supplied as part of even a Furnished Let.   There is more information on the  original page.   Of note are: Greater variety of tones in the room design than 7-8 years ago. "Feature walls" incorporate materials with an 'industrial' feel. "Scaffold plank feature wall', for example. Textiles on walls. Good use of mirrors. All rooms Ensuite (this is interesting, as it is possible for "rooms with facilities" to be individual units taxable as "Band A" dwellings. That is just one of the complexities with which Landlords have to deal.) A " large leafy plant" (a bit different from a "French Widow") in every room.  Everything inclusive, including Bills, Council Tax, and 300Mb broadband. Included fortnightly professional cleaner. An EPC number of D67 - a good move to manage those inclusive bills, and within a shower-waste-water-heat-recovery-device or two of getting a "C", as may be required for 2030. The basic fabric of a renovation such as this will last 15-25 years, even though redecorations, carpets etc may be redone after 5-7 years. All rooms are double bed, unless there is a very good reason not to do so. Typical rents are approx. £500-550 per room per calendar month, with the package described.   It is interesting to see that they are already addressing the Tenant Fees Ban which comes in from June 2019.   Whilst it is clear that this is done to a budget, it looks good. The main effort of design is in careful choice of unifying themes - here I make those common themes to be:   Monochrome vs contrast. No longer 'soopa-doopa-white-and-pale-scandi' - for those who will admit to knowing their Abba, I'm tempted to call the new version an Annifrid-inspired palette rather than an Agnetha-inspired version. It's a bit more folksy-hipster. Industrial and 'natural'. Exposed materials .. eg bed frames, tables, basket chairs, wire shelves, textiles. Geometric patterns. Consistent use of these elements.   Photos (from Comfort Lettings website):                     For me this is an interesting parallel to @puntloos' question about a "next level" vs a "finekitchen" design. The evolution of design feels similar - the finekitchen option seems like a "2010-ish" high-end HMO design, whilst the one featured here shows some similar features to the "next level" version.      

Putting the lid on

With our final concrete pour over last Friday, we breathed a sigh of relief. The worst of the messy work was done and it we could start work on the roof.   It was a heck of a week and loads got done, on a very busy and noisy site. Good for us but not for our neighbours. It’s a problem every build faces, maybe worse for a self build where you have known your neighbours for years and been on good terms. We’ve done what we can to keep noise down and not to work antisocial hours, but sometimes you just can’t avoid it. Our last concrete pour should have started at 11am, the concrete lorry didn’t turn up until 3:30pm and as a consequence we were still working on site at 8pm. Then two days of incessant hammer drilling didn’t help. When you already feel like you’ve been put through a mangle, being confronted by an angry neighbour telling you they are at their wits end and that you’ve got to stop is not a good feeling. I think we are now past the worst of the noise but there is plenty of sheet to be cut and nailed down before we return to relative peace.   Our plan for the week was for two experienced roofers to start work on Monday and have the roof done by Friday. As always it didn’t quite work out the way.   First problem, the steel purlins (the beams that span the roof to support the rafters) were not in place. The sockets for these should be cut in the nice soft ICF and shuttered prior to the last pour, in our case this did not happen as the builders ran out of time preparing for the pour. With the concrete being new and not fully hardened we were told it would be a straight forward process to cut the purlin sockets. Good news as the lifting gear to place them was scheduled for Tuesday.   At the same time as the purlin sockets were being cut work was being done to get the pole plates in place to take the floor joist for the loft. Getting the floor in place would make working on the roof much simpler and safer just by reducing the working height. To their credit the roofing team Jimmy and Sam did not sit around but worked with our other builders to get the flooring down on the first floor. To do this all the bracing from the pour needed to come down and the temporary 9mm OSB floor removed along with all the shuttering bits from the pour.   Lifting the beams into place on our site is awkward, the front of the house is less than 5M from the pavement making reaching into the site difficult. We had thought we would need a crane to cover the angle and distance rather than a tele handler. Cranes are expensive, over double the cost of a tele handler even if you have an unsupervised lift. After a bit of phoning around we found a HIAB lorry with a massive reach. This turned out to be a very good option, far less disruptive than a crane as it did not block the road. Our beams are all less than 150kg so well within the full reach capability of the lorry.   The lorry turned up on time mid day Tuesday, and what a lorry it was. It turned out to be a show vehicle with stunning paint work, apparently it’s been on TV on multiple occasions.   There were still two purlin sockets to cut. While work continued on those, the HIAB lifted in the other three beams into place. We only hired the HIAB for half a day and we were running out of time. After a bit of discussion the remaining two beams were lifted onto the gable walls by their sockets, so they could be manhandled into the sockets later.   With the purlins in their sockets it was pretty obvious that they needed packing to bring them to the correct levels and set them straight. It had already taken a day and a half to cut them out, so still more work. Our lesson from this is that while it seemed reasonable to cut the sockets after the pour it really is NOT. The sockets are much rougher and cutting their depth with a hammer drill is far from precise, noisy and time consuming. It’s quite surprising just how quickly the concrete hardens of.   By close of day on Wednesday we had the floors done ready to start work on the roof. With just two days before the lads headed back north it was agreed they would also work Saturday morning. Just to add to the entertainment we had two very large 2400 x 1200 roof lights each weighing around 200kg scheduled for delivery on Friday. The roof lights sit on OSB sheeting on the rafters not a complex fit but the roof aperture needed to be constructed. Our builder wanted to stick to the schedule, but by late Thursday there was still a lot to be done and we decided to postpone to the next Wednesday. By then we should have a decent chance of being ready and have hired the HIAB again so we can get them into place safely.     Work on the roof progressed at a pace and by 11am Saturday we had most of the rafters in place, just one complete section untouched. Our builder does not have any joiners or roofers, so we are now scrambling to find help to finish the roof next week.

Simon R

Simon R

 

For my Dad

Apologies for the lack of updates on the blog. Things have been quite taxing over the past couple of months, coming to terms with my Dad's unexpected passing.    I have struggled to find my feet, and to get anchored in the present again. My beautiful wife Kim and my (mental) kids have been amazing, and I think that I am ready to carry on in earnest.    Long story short, I am getting my mojo back a bit now, so expect a big update in the next 48h - there might even be a bit of skin on show! 😉  

Saving Stamp Duty on Derelict Properties

This is potentially relevant to Buildhub users who have purchased, or are purchasing, existing properties (derelict or habitable), in order to repair or replace them. It concerns whether you pay the Residential Rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax, or the Non-Residential Rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (which are lower).   (Gird your loins - slightly - for this, and get a cup of whisky plus a couple of Jaffa Cakes.)   This post is General Information only, and does *not* constitute advice in any form.   It is about a Court Ruling from January 2019 in the First Tier Tribunal Tax Chamber called HMRC vs Bewley, which changed the Liability for Stamp Duty Land Tax in England in one case where the property was found to have been unsuitable for use as a dwelling, and so the (lower) non-residential rate should have been applied. This level of Court is not automatically precedent-forming though decisions may 'be taken into account' by other Courts; the Upper Tribunal, where a case goes when Appealed from the First Tier Tribunal, is precedent-setting.   For two groups of Build Hubbers, it could affect people who buy buildings on plots to demolish, or perhaps people who want to pass a plot or  building-on-a-plot on for the purposes of developing more than one dwelling. There is potential, for example, for the vendor to sell the property in an uninhabitable state by doing various things, and the price varying to allow for the lower amount of Stamp Duty which may be due, or perhaps for an indemnity against a higher tax bill considered (if such an agreement is lawful). The status of a building would be changed by an application to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).   On Buildhub we have had conversations about what makes a property uninhabitable in connection with liability for Council Tax, for example the absence of a potable water supply. This conversation is similar, and eventually will be about what prevents an empty or derelict property from being suitable for use as a dwelling.   I am not launching into my own discussion of that, beyond noting that factors that may end up coming into the future guidance which may eventually be published by the Tax Authorities if necessary may include things such as "is there a kitchen", "is there a bathroom" (both of which affect 'mortgageability'), and potentially "does it have planning permission yet". I will simply post the summaries of the Ruling.   What about the potential impact?   The difference between the Residential rate of SDLT can be substantial. The potential savings for people buying expensive plots look to be quite tasty. Note - these rates quoted below are basic, partial information for illustration; there are exemptions and special cases by the bucketload - and you do need to check properly.   Residential SDLT   Source :https://www.gov.uk/stamp-duty-land-tax/residential-property-rates     Non-Residential SDLT   Source: https://www.gov.uk/stamp-duty-land-tax/nonresidential-and-mixed-use-rates     HMRC vs Bewley Summary     and     Resources:   The full decision is here: http://financeandtax.decisions.tribunals.gov.uk/judgmentfiles/j10915/TC06951.pdf   The existing VOA Guidance relating to Council Tax Liability for Properties in Disrepair or Derelict is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/council-tax-domestic-properties-in-disrepair-or-derelict/council-tax-domestic-properties-which-are-in-disrepair-or-are-derelict   Some notes from a 2018 meeting of Tax Authorities on the meaning of "residential property" subject are here: https://www.tax.org.uk/sites/default/files/SDLT Section 116 FA 2003 meeting 11 June 2018 summary points FINAL.pdf (document itself)   Winding Up   It would be useful to have some of the Buildhub hive mind on this, especially as this is not an area of specialist knowledge for me. We have discussed this issue wrt Council Tax, and mainly at the end of the build, for example in this thread by @vivienz. But we have not - that I am aware of - considered so carefully unsuitability for use as a dwelling at the start, and with respect to Stamp Duty.   Another category I am not aware that we have discussed is Stamp Duty liability on properties gifted.   In general this is one to be aware of, and then probably discuss with advisers. The difference in SDLT liability in the case discussed was £6k.   I have discussed this wrt England (and probably Wales if they have not changed that bit yet !), but the "Notes form a 2018 Meeting" link above shows attendance by Tax Authorities UK-wide.   For example:   Has anyone successfully applied to have derelict properties defined as unsuitable for habitation and removed from the 'register' at the VOA, and subsequently reduced their SDLT liability on that basis? Has it been done with kitchen and bathroom removal, rather than roofs and windows?  

Three pours down..none to go - thank goodness

We’ve just done our final concrete pour, in fact two pours in one week. From ground floor to gables in two weeks with Easter in the middle is quick, a little too quick to enjoy. We can now get a real sense of how the house will look. Next week we are ready to start work on the roof.   Before building the first floor, a temporary floor was laid around the room perimeters using 12mm OSB. This was done to provide a working area to build the blocks from and allow bracing to be put in place without damaging the final floor. 12mm board seemed awfully thin to walk on!  .   With our builders now familiar with the wall plans the blocks went up very quickly indeed. In practice it takes longer to do the bracing and shuttering than to do the building. Not having to cut blocks on site is a major advantage, not just from an accuracy point of view but it also makes the site much cleaner. Some ICF sites look as though it’s been snowing with polystyrene.   As mentioned in out last blog entry we had the option to do a single pour combining the first floor and gables. We’re really glad it was done in two stages, attempting it in one pour would almost certainly caused major bracing issues and risked the block work due to the higher pressures resulting from the depth of concrete. Never thought I would be happy to shell out £1000 on a pump.     Having no experience of other build methods it’s not easy to evaluate the pro’s and con’s of each system. For us, the need to use concrete pumps has to be the worst aspect of ICF. It just seems like you’re never quite ready and there’s another dozen details to attend to before it starts. With multiple companies involved for boom pumps and concrete delivery, it’s both expensive and difficult to get people to turn up when you asked for them. Our last pour was scheduled for 11am and the concrete lory finally arrived a 3:30pm...To add to the entertainment the pump has to be vented after use. This involves a set of guys you probably won’t see again and want to be elsewhere dumping large volumes of concrete on your site. After three pours we have somewhere in the region of three tons of set concrete to break up and pay to dispose of. Some of the last lot got dumped on next doors newly block paved drive. Lots and lots of cleaning up. It’s not too much of a surprise that the builders don’t include this in there list of responsibilities. Definitely the Achilles heel of the ICF build method.     Enough  moaning, it’s been a long couple of weeks with many disturbed nights worrying irrationally about being a lego brick short at the end of the build. We now have a house, no roof, but hey we have to do something next week.  

Simon R

Simon R