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  1. Hello, A piece of 'legislation' I wasn't aware of.



    This info came on an email today, I guess via the people behind Buildit magazine and the Custom build strategy team ( NSB+RS) in Swindon.I assume that's all Castle Media!

    All very interesting and poignant.


    I did send them a copy of my book 'Self build home...the Last Thing you need is an Architect' but sadly not a peep. Perhaps they are inundated with literature, or believed the book to be full of b+ll-sh+t., but no 'Thank you, but no thanks'...No matter, it is selling anyway. I freely admit it's not a technical book (there's enough out there, including their own establishment, not to mention, 'The green building forum' if you really want to get into sums and err 'Dense definitional Thickets' to quote Amory Lovins.) The book is more a design check-list, don't forget and why don't you consider? thinking about space, ;light, circulation...all things architectural, and getting more wow factor value and character...and a few references and reviews of great design books. 

  2. divorcingjack
    Latest Entry

    We have our building warrant, FINALLY. I have a new job. The small one has started school. 


    MBC are here. The glorious day of the 29th August arrived, and so did the vans, carrying Brendan's crew. The sun was shining, tonnes of sand were delivered and painstakingly spread out. It's amazing how much time the MBC boys took to make sure everything was exactly level before carrying on, I found the level of care that was taken very reassuring, and of course Sean was on hand with a terrible joke whenever required. Sometimes, also when not required. 


    Our months of waiting for the building warrant were not completely unproductive as we now have a pimped out site office, including a cast-off white leather sofa (practical colour choice for a building site), high speed wifi, a gopro to capture the build, a desk (with executive chair), first aid point, filing cabinet, H&S kit storage, many many many copies of all the plans, and most importantly of all, a tea/coffee point with fully stocked biscuit drawer. "Luxury!", as the MBC boys proclaimed. 


    Drainage channels were hand dug the next day - a nervewracking time with measuring and re-measuring. The brand-new-just-out-of-the-box Bosch laser measurer was ceremonially launched from the top of the rubble pile by the small one, landing with an ominous crunching noise. "That will hardly have affected the accuracy at all", we thought. Still, at least we know who to blame if all the drains are in the wrong place. 


    Over the months/years we have had various thoughts about where the kitchen island should go, but now we come to decision time. The drains and conduit must go in, today, and they are non-changeable. The island will be all our workspace (the rest is floor to ceiling units) so needs an electrical feed and hot/cold water as well as a drain for the sink, waste disposal and dishwasher. So, instead of making a decision that will inevitably be wrong, we decide to put in the two final options. 


    1: The architect's recommended positioning that we think is too far away from the sunny spot 

    2: Our preferred option, closer to the large sliding doors


    We try and position the pop ups in such a way that the unused one will be under a sofa or table and hopefully not too noticeable. It is almost guaranteed that the architect will be right in the end, as he always is, but it's a struggle to commit at such an early stage. The unused one will be cut off, and topped with an official plaque set into the floor, engraved with "always listen to the architect". We're justifying it as a feature. 


    The next day was the delivery of the EPS on a very large lorry. Our site is right in the middle of town and the access is surrounded by garages and illicit parking. This time of year, there are no students around, so although the lorry is a tight fit, there are no hastily abandoned cars in the way. Next month though....


    The EPS ring beam is fitted and the footprint of the house becomes rapidly visible. Although pre-warned by our architect that the space would look small with no walls up, we are both thoroughly freaked out and convinced that the rooms are all too small. There is measuring, re-measuring. comparing against plans... but nothing we can do. Thankfully, on our way back to the rented place, we drive past a new build estate that is also just at foundation level. We slowly realise that the footprint for those homes contains a 3-bedroom house AND garage. Ours is generously sized in comparison, to say the least.  


    The next few days are taken up with making steel reinforcing cages, laying UFH pipe and checking the drainage (again). My time is spent at work, obsessively checking the weather forecast. We have, against all sensible and knowledgeable advice, decided to attempt a smooth concrete finished slab. No tiles, carpet, wood, screed, diamond polish … nothing. Trying to explain this concept to the many people involved has not been easy. Reactions have varied between trying to convince us that diamond polishing to a mirror finish is hideously expensive (we don’t want a mirror finish – there are deliberately no shiny surfaces in the whole house, as I am obsessed with matt finish and hate polishing) to “but it’ll look like a B&Q warehouse!” (my dad). MBC are also not keen AT ALL, due to a problem they had with a previous job where the finish didn’t work and all the window/door thresholds had to be redone to allow to an additional screed to go on top. Showing people a photo of a farm shed floor that had been done by a friend by just powerfloating the surface for longer than normal did not help. The conversation went along the lines of the following:


    “This is the finish we’d ideally like, it’s a farm shed.”

    “…..? A farm shed? For cows?”


    “But, polished to expose the aggregate? What kind of aggregate do you want?”.

    “No, no aggregate. Not polished. Just powerfloated.”

    “But it won’t be shiny, and that needs specialist tools.”

    “We don’t want it to be shiny. Just smooth. Like the IKEA warehouse. Or B&Q”.



    “hmmmm.” (sucky teeth noises follow..)


    The process was somewhat wearing, but we rode confidently over everyone’s objections and doubts anyway and carried on. One thing we did know (from our farm shed creating friend) was that rain during or shortly after the pour would be bad. Very bad. It’s September, in Scotland. Could have been worse. Two week ahead forecasts are notoriously inaccurate. Right? Right? I had seven different weather apps on my phone at one point, all saying the same.




    A 14 day forecast went to a 10 day one, then a 7 day one .. rain all week, particularly heavy on the day of the pour. Just to put the cherry on top. The day before we poured the floor, it tipped down all day. Not 5 minutes passed without freezing rain. The next day, I left for work, having deleted all the weather apps and given up all hope of a polished floor. At the site – not a cloud in the sky. Brilliant blue skies, sunshine, tonnes too much concrete. The MBC crew powerfloated the slab for much longer than they normally would, and by the time I saw it at 8pm that night, it was as smooth as we could have wished for, and a beautiful mottled grey. If I wasn’t a rabid atheist, I would have sworn I heard a troop of celestial trumpets playing.


    So, a perfect end to a brilliant first stage of the build.  



  3. Finally!!  At last there seems to be light at the end of the renovation tunnel.  We had planned to have the house finished and up for sale by spring 2017 but that did not happen.  Then the deadline was summer but no such luck ,  everything seems to take twice as long to do than planned.  But at last we are nearing the finish line.  The kitchen arrived at the end of October from Howdens and I thought we'd have it all fitted within a couple of weeks.  Yet here we are nearing the end of November and its still not finished.  Its half in but we cannot fit the breakfast bar and units till the flooring is done.  We decided to keep the kitchen tiles for two reasons.  A -  they arent too bad - slate tiles which do clean up quite well and B - I tried taking one up and it was a nightmare. They have been concreted in, with underfloor wiring. So I agreed that we would keep them. However, that meant there were a couple of places where our new units did not match the position of the old ones and we needed some extra tiles to fill in. 


    I found some similar tiles at Topps Tiles which should be fine.  Apparently the slate tile is quite 'on trend' so it just shows that old things eventually become trendy and are worth keeping. ( I wonder if it applies to the OH??)


    This is the old kitchen before we took out the wall on the right hand side.  That was half of the kitchen with a large range cooker taking up the other side.  The breakfast bar is going where the old house wall was, which was taken out and replaced with rsj's.  P1090555.JPG.0bd7f131e729a36d98daa9ca328ecf71.JPGDSC_1977.thumb.JPG.2d7d2236406f29198f60b1809dc52877.JPG


    Once the rest of the wall was removed, we were left with a large hole as well as a lump of concrete.  We worked out where the units were going and using an angle grinder, we took out the excess concrete so I could add the tiles.  This was a really dusty job which the OH was not happy about doing but after covering everything up with sheets, as he cut, I hoovered up as much dust as I could and it wasnt as bad as we thought. 



    But then when the units were placed in position, we'd got it wrong and we had to cut some more out!  The OH was not impressed but in fact it only took half an hour and I had the area all cleaned up and ready for tiling.

    Unfortunatly that was when I came down with the flu bug which has meant no work for nearly a week, and then we are away for a few days at the weekend so its into another week before I can get the tiling done.  Thats the way its been and why the renvation is taking much longer than planned.  But never mind!  We are getting there slowly. 

    So here is the kitchen to date.


    The new sink and tap has been plumbed in and the oven (Ikea) and induction hub (Howdens) are in and working.  Two sections of the Rustic Oak worktop are in place but now he is waiting for me to get back to work and get the additional tiles in place so he can add the breakfast bar units and top.  The single unit on the right faces into the middle room and next to it will be a 700mm wall unit under the worktop and accessed from the main kitchen side.  These units are where the wall was and it makes the kitchen much bigger.  The compromise is that the breakfast bar takes space from the middle room but we think the kitchen was the important part and it does give much more storage than it ever had. 

    The OH has been quite impressed by the Howdens units.  The quality and fit have been very good and there have been some improvements made since the last kitchen we bought, ten years ago.  Okay, it is not a top quality kitchen but we are very happy with it.  Little things are much better.  For example, the small bits of metal that support the shelves now have a little sticky up bit which locks the shelf in place so it does not slide out.  And the legs were much better to fit and adjust than the old ones.


    The only issue occurred when he went to fit the legs onto the drawer unit (far left) and realised that the base had been put on upside down so the holes were actually inside the carcass.  I rang the lcoal store and explained the problem but they did not seem to believe me (a mere woman - what would I know!!) and decided to send out a sales rep to see what the problem was.  He turned up within the hour and was very good in arranging a replacement the following day once he agreed withour diagnosis.   And we got to keep the old one as it was of no use to them - it would be impossible to turn the base round without damaging the unit.  So all we need now are some drawer fronts and we have another drawer unit for free.


    In the rest of the house, the carpets and doors have been fitted to the bedrooms and stairs. The rest of the house has been plastered and I have been busy getting the garden sorted.  We had pushed the garden back in front of the house to give ample room for sitting but I wanted to create a proper wall and border (I am a gardener after all).  So I installed concrete foundations, then a twin wall using concrete blocks at the back and reclaimed bricks from the house.  It took a lot of work but I am very pleased with the result.  I did think that as the bricks were all odd sorts and colours we may have to paint the wall but it looks brilliant as it is.  And we got the concrete blocks from a skip in BIcester so the only materials were the sand, cement and the coping stones for the top. 


    I have used driveway pavers for the lawn edge and have now planted up the border.  The only job now is to level the lawn and re seed where necessary.  By the time we come to sell - probably in January or February now, it should all have settled in and the bulbs I have planted will be coming up - snowdrops and Narcissis. 


    So what is left to do - finish the kitchen, clean and tile the kitchen floor, lots of odds and ends with CT1 and Filler, much painting, finish the coving in the lounge and then lay the bamboo flooring. Not much at all...... 




  4. There really is a sense that we are approaching the business end of our self build project – the thinking, reading and talking has now evolved into making firm commitments and paying deposits to secure various orders.

    Ahead of our permanent move  to the Borders in February 2018, [Rented accommodation] we travelled to the area in late October with the express determination to finalise matters with a local builder and to confirm the stone we are going to use, the specification for the oak car port and oak front porch, [ see attached images] together with the kitchen cabinet requirements. The windows and external doors will be confirmed in February when we will have more time.

    5a11916351c91_GarageMainFrameRafters.thumb.jpg.446a437a61ab7900dde8cb23d884200e.jpg        Porch.thumb.jpg.fc2c493e046a75bab4d063ca71bd786d.jpg

    We also met with the Landscaper / gardener who has been maintaining the plot for us and whilst there, we took the opportunity to measure out the footprint of the house and car port. A neighbour asked – is it a big house on a small plot or a small house on a big plot?

    To us, it seems a perfect fit but even so, it is still very hard to visualise both structures sitting on the empty plot. I’m sure once March comes round and the ground is broken so to speak, there will be days when we think it is both!

    We also met with Field Operatives from the Electricity provider and Water Company to discuss connections. Both were set up via their respective online websites and to date, the process has been a pleasant one. Neither foresee any difficulties so that is one thing less to worry about.

    However, I do find it strange that Scottish Water will not do any “road crossing” connections. I have to source this through the builder / independent contractor. They will only connect their work once it reaches the plot.

    So without this additional cost, which is yet to be confirmed, the utility connections have cost me £740 for the electricity and £957 for the water.

    A  builder is on board. No written contract as such has been prepared and signed. He was sent a very comprehensive schedule of works to price up, we have since discussed a few minor matters and he has agreed to undertake the work. I know this perhaps goes against perceived wisdom but he is a well established local builder, with a family reputation to maintain. I will be supplying the bulk of the materials for him and his team to install etc. When we first met, he mentioned the word “trust” and that has to work both ways. Each case has to be considered individually and against its own circumstances. For us, we are happy to move forward. Deep down, I would have liked to have entered into a formal written contract but it just didn’t feel right to impose such a process. Fingers crossed!

    We have chosen the stone to be used and that in itself was a surreal moment. We travelled to the back of beyond to a stone merchants and found ourselves in a  small hut called the office. For all its basic elements and piled up paperwork, their internet connection was probably faster than we have at home!!  When the stone is up, it’s not like wallpaper. You just cant go and buy an alternative pattern! So after much thought and deliberation we have gone for a “local blend” made up of stone from Cumbria, Perthshire and Borders Buff. I just hope it looks OK !

    The next update will be in March 2018, when we hopefully break ground and set about with building our dream home with earnest. [No, that’s not the builders name!]

    Thanks for reading. PW.

  5. This is the Part II roll up of a couple of earlier blog posts and forum topics which provide the groundwork and context.

    in summary, so far into commissioning and early use, everything is at least achieving our expectations and the house might in fact perform better than my predictions.  The key design points that I listed in part I seem to be spot on.  I want to compare a figure that I gave in the modelling topic with a corresponding plot during commissioning and testing to underline this:

    image.png.e558f16cbd3b03fa4e5a343aa87b1a4d.png   5a0dbd5c77170_UFLheating13-16Nov.png.198c5d9a778f2c4e8ff7204e2b48d447.png


    The first graph is a theoretical model based on a few simplifications, and the second live data, warts and all, and complete with hiccups as I test and restart the control system.  The bottom line is that the slab is reacting exactly as I modelled in overall behaviour, though one of the parameters is different.

    • The UFH pump at its medium setting is under half the modelled flow rate, increasing the delta temp between out and return from 2°C modelled to  5 °C measured. 

    However, I decided to stay with this setting because the pump is almost silent at its medium setting, and the system and its subcomponents are still operating  well within specification at a delta of 5 °C.


    So in my view, if you are building a house with near Passive performance (wall, and roof U values < ~0.15; windows < 1 and not too much area; well sealed warm space and MVHR; decent insulated slab), then you should expect heat losses of less than 40kWhr / day in worst winter months.  You therefore need to put roughly the same into the house.  You only need to input the net top-up, because your occupancy, normal electrical consumption and solar gains all contribute to this input; this net is going to be 1kW or less on average.  Given that a cheap and simple Willis heater can provide 3× this,  using something like a gas boiler capable of 16-20 kW is just crazy, in my view; in our case even the economic case for considering an ASHP is marginal at best.   


    Yes, in terms of running costs, the electricity unit cost per kW is more than that for gas, but you also have to factor in other running costs such as boiler maintenance.  In our case, the British Gas boiler maintenance contract in our old house is less than our total expected heating cost in the new house so unit price comparisons are irrelevant to us.


    As I commented in the Boffin's thread, you need to limit the heating going into the slab: one way (the one Jeremy currently uses) is to throttle back the heating rate right back (e.g. using a buffer tank and an accurate thermostatic blender) ; the other way is to use a chunking approach and simply heat the slab in one (or possibly two) chunks per day.  In the chunking case you instead limit the total heat injected into the slab per heating round (that is the integral of the power rather than the power itself).  Doing this might seem awfully complicated, but in practice you can let the slab physics do this maths for you.  You can use any moderate heating source that has a reasonably consistent but limited heat output; this could be an inline heater like a Willis heater or an ASHP with the flow temperature and rate at present set-point giving water at, say, 30°C. The slab itself slab acts as the buffer, so no additional buffer tank is needed.  The algorithm is simple:

    • Turn on the heating at a fixed time.  This could be the start of E7 or in the window of peak power if you have PV installed.
    • Turn it off when the average return temperature from slab reaches a specific set-point threshold.

    The actual set-point (which in my house is going be around 27°C in winter) does vary by season because what you are doing is control the total heat put into the slab, and it will need trimming for any specific house and heating scenario,  but it is largely self correcting for short term temperature variations in that if the house gets a little colder due to greater heat loses in a cold snap, then the slab will require more heat to  reach the set point.


    At the moment we are using a twice a day heating cycle.  This is settling down to ~6 hrs overnight during the E7 window about £1.50 and a couple of hours top up during the day (another £1).  This being said, we are still warming the house from a pre-commissioning temperature of around 13°C to a pre move-in target of 20°C as as you can see from the graph, we are currently increasing the house temperature by ~0.5°C / day on top of the sustain heat losses.


    This in itself takes a lot of energy as we have approximately

    • 17 tonnes of slab,
    • 5 tonnes of plasterboard,
    • 11 tones of wood

    inside the heated zone of the house and

    • 8½ tonnes of cellulosic filler in the insulation

    Plugging these numbers and their  Cp's, it takes roughly 25 KWhr to raise this fabric by 1°C, or 4 hrs of Willis Heater to raise it by ½°C.  So at the moment roughly half of the heat input is maintaining heat loses and the other half is slowly raising the temperature of the house fabric .  This maintenance heating element is less than the JSH spreadsheet estimated for current average outside temperatures.


    So another way of thinking about this is that if we do without heating for a day, then the house will drop in temperature roughly ½°C to compensate for heat losses.  The daily ripple in temperature with a single heating chunk will be less than this. 


    If we only heat the slab during the E7 time window, say from 2 - 7AM, then the house temperature will peak roughly 3-4 hours later late morning and then fall by maybe ½°C during the rest of the day.  I feel that a ripple of ½°C will be barely noticeable to the occupants, and given that the heating during the E7 window is effectively half price, it is better to accept a midday peak (and possibly set the target temperature half a degree higher) than to pay double for an afternoon heating top-up to reduce the ripple.  

  6. Woke up this morning in our new home! Now sat on the sofa watching tv in my new home, waiting for a full day of rugby TV to start so I can sit and sip cold beers in my new home!


    Can you tell I’m pleased?!


    Facts and Figures 


    1 year, 1 month, 14 days

    (Breaking Ground to Moving in)


    4 Double Bedrooms

    3 Ensuite

    1 Family Bathroom

    1 WC

    Open plan lounge kitchen diner

    Utility Room

    Double Garage




    Land: £120k

    Build Cost: £200k

    Size: 300m2

    Cost per m2: £666/m2


    (This figure is slightly off as a large part of my ground floor is garage / workshop space so can’t really be counted as fully costed m2. However I’ve also got a £30k retaining wall in the ground floor section that wouldn’t usually form part of the cost per m2. Either way I think I can happily say I’ve built for approximately £800/m2 which I’m very pleased with)


    Photos below of all the finished areas. Garage and outside space an ongoing project!















































  7. There are different views about Planning Consultants, and whether they should be used.


    This is a short example of a Planning Consultant offering superb advice, that most of us self-builders would perhaps not think about.


    The Problem


    I have just received a Planning Permission, after 3 months of engagement with the Council. It is a commercial Change of Use but the lesson applies to self-builder permssions. We received our permission, but on the last morning the Planning Department applied an unacceptable Planning Condition which threatened the whole project. The Planning Condition clearly violates several of the basic tests.


    This condition had not been mentioned in the previous months of consultation, and I did not see it until it appeared on the Decision Notice. At this point the Planning Application has been "determined" (ie decided and frozen), so the Condition cannot be modified without a further Planning Application or an Appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.


    The problem is that a Full Appeal gives the Inspector the opportunity to reopen the basic Planning Application, and modify it - which I do not want.


    The Solution


    The recommendation from our Planning Consultant was:


    1 - To apply for a Variation of the unacceptable condition, which might be accepted, then...

    2 - To Appeal the Refusal of the application for the Variation if we need.


    The advantage is that we then if needed we can get a Determination by the Planning Inspectorate on the narrow point, while keeping all the other acceptable aspects of our Planning Permission out of their scope.


    The Learning Point


    As self-builders, we think about discharging Planning Conditions at the end of the build process. The same process can be used to vary them before we start building. It takes extra time and a fee, which is smaller than a Full Planning Application fee for a new dwelling, but does not run the risk of reopening the entire Permission to change.


    More information


    The appropriate form on the Planning Portal.

    Explanation of Planning Condition Variations on the Government Website.


  8. le-cerveau
    Latest Entry

    I will write about the install of my MVHR system, as this is something I have done myself (with help).  Theo house is being built by my contractor, supervised by my Architect and QS (who is the CDM).  As I am remote from the location I can only watch what happens on CCTV.  When I was last there the old house was standing and we had disconnected the services. 6 Months later, I have a new house, Weather tight shell, Windows and doors in, sarking and felt on, and tiles and PV being fitted.  I am doing the MVHR as I couldn’t find a company to design and install what I wanted so I did it myself.  Had a slot in the schedule for me to work and got on with it.  Internally the team were completing first fix joinery (all the stud work).  This was the two-man team who are always on site and are doing the majority of the work, the company bring in others when required, but the two in the house whilst I was there are my main team.

    My design:


    Ground FloorFirst Floor


    This is my layout as planned, 2 x Brink Renovent 400 Plus units, 4 x Ubbink AE 24 port distribution boxes, 180mm insulated duct and silencers for the main runs and 350m of AE48C duct, 50m of AE34C duct with all the associated connectors and fittings.  A total of 36 outlets/terminals…..  Suffice to say it is a lot of equipment.  It arrived on 8 pallets at around 1100 on the Tuesday morning.  I sourced all my equipment from CVC who were/are great, arranging delivery slots, supplying additional equipment quickly, and I still have an outstanding order for the vent terminals and some other bits still to complete.


    I arrived on the Monday lunchtime after 6 days of traveling (not all to get there) and had a meeting with the site manager and the first thing we agreed on was to board out the plant room with MDF (as a final finish) so that we could install the equipment and be done with it (rather than approximately place it and then remove awaiting final plastering)  This turned out to be one of the best decisions as work could be finalized and other trades could also finish work in there (First fix electrical could fit the 24 way 3 phase CU)…  We also got the loft boarded out at this point to enable the first floor runs to be completed.


    On Tuesday morning the building team started boarding the plant room, starting on the wall that the MVHR units were to be sited as a priority, this was completed by the end of the day and then started on the attic boards.  Once the delivery had arrived and I had checked it I had some initial work to do.  First to install the acoustic insulation into the distribution boxes and trim the spigots to the 180mm mark and move 2 of them to the top for the ground floor.  I the attached the first 2 silencers to the top mounted distribution boxes (Large jubilee clips (44-217mm) work perfectly).  These would then be mounted against the ceiling with the silencers running up into the plant room.  (the first floor is 250mm concrete planks and I am having a suspended ceiling to put all the services in).

    This is where having a builder with all the equipment to hand come in handy.  One of the team then worked with me, the manifolds were fixed to the ceiling, simple concrete screws direct into the planks and then we started on the ground floor ducting.  (I had pre calculated what ducts from what rolls, but that got altered on the fly when we had longer lengths remaining) The duct was run through the stud work and fixed approximately every 2 meters either with wood screws to the stud work or concrete screws to the ceiling.  Rather than buying the Ubbink fixings £15.42 for 10, I used builders band £10.00 for 10m and plumbers felt £10.00 for 20m (you can probably get it cheaper) as the fixings.




    The above shows the 2 ground floor manifolds and you can see how the builders band and felt was used.  We got most of the ground floor ducting done in one afternoon.  The terminals were left dangling with about 1m to the previous fixing to allow them to be positioned by the plasterers when the fit the suspended ceiling as they will be positioned either in the centre of a ceiling tile or plasterboard (room dependent).

    Wednesday started out installing the MVHR units as the main ducts needed to be installed before the attic runs could be done, this also allowed time to continue boarding out the attic.  The first unit was positioned on the wall and to support it extra noggins were installed behind the wall, easy when the stud work is still open:

    Plant Room Noggins

    We mounted the second MVHR unit then measured and marked out the penetrations for the ceiling.  Then the builders simply took down the ceiling boards, cut them out and put them, back up.  The ducts then had a perfectly snug fit through the ceiling.  The two silencers going into the attic had to be slightly compressed oval to fit due to a double joist.

    Plant Room From Inside        Plant Room From Outside

    Images of the plant room with the MVHR units fitted. (already painted)

    Fitting the attic manifolds was a little more complicated, the supply manifold went as planned

    Attic Supply Manifold

    Here you can see the 2 x 90-degree bends attached to the silencer going into the manifold and all the ducts coming off.

    The exhaust manifold wouldn’t go in as planned and had to be rotated 90-degrees to fit between the truss webs, fortunately I had plenty of 180mm 90-degree bends for the final connections.

    Attic Exhaust from Below     Attic Exhaust from Above

    Exhaust from below and side (one duct moved between pictures).

    All the exhaust ducts were relatively easy to run (crawling through the webs).  7 of the supply runs had to cross the attic and not wanting ducts in the main storage area, these were turned down to run along the joist space.  On the supply manifold you can see 5 of the 90-degree elbows turning then down and below the left 3 (2 from the side and one of the front ) look like this from below:

    Cross Attic Runs

    Cross Attic Daagrams

    This was the plan, but on the far side as the came up beyond the truss webs (non-boarded area) I didn’t use the 90-degree bends on the far end just curved them into place.

    View Across Attic from Below

    You can see the runs under the attic boards (incomplete) and moving off to the respective locations.

    By Thursday we had installed all the ducts and terminals (so 3 days with a builder and all the tools).

    We then decided to fix the first-floor terminals into their final positions (just plasterboard for first floor) so either screwing/banding them to rafters, screwing to the attic boards where available, or inserting small offcuts to attach them to.

    The decision was made to paint out the plant room so we removed the MVHR units and ducts, bagged the ground floor ducts and the builders sanded and filled all the screws.  It was painted on the Friday (advantages of a builder and his contacts).

    During the week I realised I needed to order some extra circlips (not easy to get large ones) so I ordered them via CVC and also my RH sensors which were quickly delivered.  I installed these into the units (whilst dismounted) not an easy task, very fiddly and not to be recommended on a unit that is already installed. And the sensor heads into a short length of 180mm insulated duct.  On the ground floor units we had a short length connecting the silencer to the MVHR unit, but one was not planned for the first floor ones, however as the silencers are flexible and compressible I inserted a short length on top of the House supply and exhaust connectors for this purpose and inserted the sensor there.

    GF MVHR Unit              FF MVHR Unit

    Sensors installed in insulated ducting (simply tie wrapped into place)

    I then just had to wait for my final delivery.

    I am planning to plumb my cisterns into the MVHR (Se the previous blog entry) however since then @Auchlossen  has done a similar utilising 75mm ducting so I decided to go down that route (hence the roll of 75mm (AE34C) ducting)  I did use it for some runs.  I ordered 3 x OsmaSoil 3S094G 82mm Reducer to 50mm Grey 860749 to fit over the 75mm ducting and convert it to 50mm plumbing push fit. The plumber will do the rest as detailed in the previous blog.  These fit almost perfectly.

    MVHR-Cistern-1          MVHR-Cistern-2

    The first picture shoes one pushed up to the seal, the second one shoes one pushed onto the seal.  They are very tight with the seal but will push on and make a good airtight fit.


    As part of my initial plan I purchased a HB vent terminal for experimentation, just to prove that these systems are interchangeable I fitted an offcut of 92mm (AE48C) duct into the HB terminal, no problem.


    So, when the question comes up can you mix and match, yes (within reason).  On issue I see with the HB equipment is I am not sure how easy it is to unclip the terminals once in place as there does not seem to be a way to easily und the locking lugs. On the Ubbink equipment you can unlick them by twisting the red click ring until it disengages and then remove the duct!

    The roofers are currently slating the roof and will fit my vent terminals in the appropriate positions with a 500mm length of duct to protrude through the roof insulation.  These will then be connected up to the MVHR ducts when a come back to do the final commissioning, fit outlet terminals and balance the system. (next year).

  9. caliwag
    Latest Entry

    Hello, I touch on this subject again because it can be and should be as important as the house. I looked at this a few years ago, on another forum, in response to a member who had been asked to submit a rough design for the front garden and, by his own admission,  had no idea where to start. I mention in the book an approach to garden spaces by listing likely activities, desires, wants etc all dependent on relationship to house, climate, sun angles, overshadowing etc, but this blog is more about learning from enthusiasts via their books


    A sponsored Sunday Telegraph article featured a piece by Sir Roy Strong (former director of the National Portrait Gallery and V+A in London) on a garden. which he and his late wife had been creating since the early 70s. It is an intriguing garden, large by most domestic standards and formal in layout. The garden is now open to the public. (National Garden Scheme)


    The formality derives from the axial nature of the plan, with 'events' at path intersections and vista ends. Events for example include bird-baths, sculptures, fountains, seats in bowers, a sun dial and even a knot garden. You could of course, following your listings, have important points like a practice goal mouth or cricket stumps, a herb or fruit garden, sunny spots, a fragrant bower and so on, all dependent on size. Their garden is called Laskett gardens in Hertfordshire.


    Sir Roy has produced garden design books...I recommend ' on Garden Design, on for under £3 inc P+P. A trawl around your local secondhand bookshop may well uncover one or two of the many books by John Brookes...'The Small Garden', 'The New Garden' or 'Well Designed Garden' all under £3 from from an excellent designer...just be careful where you plant that avenue of Limes!! Good gardening s they say on a well known Radio 4 programme.

  10. Two weeks ago today our stonemason started and poor guy it rained heavily from the very first day! In fact, so bad on the first day that I fully expected him to give it a miss, but there he was when I got home from work, grafting away on his own.  Being a SIPs build, the roof is already in place, so of course all the rain falling on the surface area of the roof flows straight off - directly onto where he is building the stonework below. So this weekend, I managed to get the fascia board and soffit on, on the East side where he has been most busy.  I plan to get the West side done this week, though it will be slower as I'm on my own and can only fit it in after work, plus the ever decreasing daylight hours limit outside work time of course.


    We are over the moon with how the stonework is looking!


    On a less progressive note, we are again having issues with our BCO. The same firm is providing our warranty, so two lots of inspections sort of rolled into one from them. when we got the trenches and foundations inspected, I was relieved to find the inspector was a practical guy, who where circumstances meant a slight change of plan took a pragmatic approach, and gave good advice.


    Come the next stage I rang him and left messages so them emailed him that we were ready but heard nothing back. After 2 weeks of this I contacted the firm - to be told he'd left! Shame no one had the gumption to think it might be wise to tell existing clients or at least check his company email account!


    Never mind, we got a new inspector. Nice guy, seemed a little nervous, but I increasingly suspect he is new to the job .   When I'm asked by a BCO if Kingspan SIPs are an approved building material I do begin to wonder about his experience/knowledge.  When I'm asked if the torn up, puddle ridden site mud, about 500mm at best below the DPC and with lumps and bumps plus a pile of topsoil 1.5 metres high in one part of the site is our final ground level, I really begin to wonder.  Then I'm, told I must contact Kingspan and ask them what the shrinkage will be -  I explain that OSB has (as the name suggests) oriented strands, meaning this is less of an issue, and forwarded him Kingspans technical documents.... but he still wanted ME to ask. In the end I emailed him and suggested that as a BCO, he was more likely to get a detailed answer from Kingspan (and even supplied him their phone number and email)  which he did - it's miniscule, and even then he couldn't tell me the relevance to my build of his query!


    In one part the fabric they put on the SIPS has about a 6" tear. So as it's all stapled on anyway, the guys simply stapled along the tear, holding it closed. Fine? Oh no, on seeing that he insists I contact the erectors and ask if that's the approved method of repair. Now I'm not going to ring anyone up asking what I know to be stupid questions for someone else - you want to ask stupid stuff, you ring them mate.  So I just said look, I'll glue it if you'd prefer.   Next, where there were , <2mm variations along the soleplate, the SIPs folks used plastic packers - my BCO spots this and asks why is it not grouted, and are the packers sufficient and should it be grouted? Wants me to contact them and ask - two things here, 1. good luck trying to grout in places with sub 1mm gaps and  2. If they think it shouldn't be plastic packers then they wouldn't have put them there would they - and they're not about to say to me, oh yes, we deliberately put the wrong thing in! So I'm just not doing it. It's like I'm educating him - but that's not what I paid the firm for.


    He's also nit picked at the most silly things 


    I've been polite, and have had a little sympathy for the guy, but the final straw was he'd told me the next bit he wanted to see was when our wall was at ground floor window height - no problem, so  I texted him that he could do this early this week, and as a courtesy updated him on progress made inside (1st fix socket circuit complete and 50% of lighting,  1st fix plumbing water supply in, and all the stud walls now have 1 side plasterboard on).  The reply I got is that I must not put any plasterboard up as he must do a "pre plaster inspection" and also inspect the electrics. Now unless he is that rare fish, a BCO who is also part P qualified, he is not qualified to inspect electrical installations. So I queried back asking about why my certifying qualified electricians issuing of a Part P certificate will not be enough -  no reply.  


    So I've emailed the senior BCO of the company explaining that I'm not happy - a week later and no reply!  




  11. Well, that's been an interesting few months! I've been hoping for the last 18 months to buy the side garden off my landlord (I've been renting there 8 years) and go straight to building. But, nothing is ever that easy! I was asked for plans, which required a bit of homework, an Architect or two and pre-planning. All worked out and I shared the sketches here previously. But when crunch time came the landlord found it too difficult to sell off part of the site as he had an existing mortgage on the house and I'm not related to him. Anyway, a friend suggested I buy the whole house & side garden, lock, stock and compost barrel which I duly did! 

    Unfortunately that leaves me bereft of any savings as it was more than I was planning to spend. But, I've now got a house in my name (a first!), the site & side garden and a cunning plan to rent a room or two, save, get planning in 2018 and build in 2019, or so.... the bungee Irish property market allowing! 


    For now I've access to the current house as an owner vs previously being a tenant. I've already gotten stuck into the following projects to build my DIY skills to prepare for the later build. I also attended a Home Maintenance course in the UK to get the basics. 



    • Renovate Master bedroom & Ensuite
    • Upgrade Attic insulation - added 200mm Knauf Earthwool insulation, water tank lid & lagging jacket
    • Installed 100% LED lighting, replaced a few fixtures
    • Blocked Chimney top and bottom (Gas fire hasn't been used in 8+ years)
    • Repair & repaint Soffits / Facia
    • Ran CAT6 for CCTV & wired internet to my bedroom
    • Replaced innards in two toilet cisterns with dual flush option
    • Lock upgrades throughout house


    • Renovate other rooms one by one (wooden flooring, standardize on magnolia wall paint)
    • Inspect and repair all ventilation ducts
    • Repaint Exterior 


    The gas boiler is reasonably new and provides hot water and central heating in addition to gas cooking. I'm debating about getting a condenser dryer as the washing machine doesn't have any drying capability and it would save most but not all hanging clothes around the house to try. There are some clothes which would shrink so it won't remove all inside drying. I might have to get a TV, my first in 8 years if the new tenant wants one but a free to air package would make sense there. During the course of the DIY I drilled through a heating pipe three times, causing problems and my one of my cistern overflow pipes drained heavily onto the bathroom floor upstairs as it was never connected to anything. All good experiences! 


    Back to the self-build. I now own the entire site including side garden. I've pre-planning "approval" and next need to finalize the structure and floor layout before going for full planning permission next year. Then I can start making decisions on the interior layout and purchase a few fixtures and fittings as I go along. Depending on the market and timelines I'd hope to start building in 2019 at the earliest. To finance this I currently plan to sell the current house, minus the site, rent the house back from the new owners and try to complete the build in that rental window and move straight in. 


    Lots to think about and the current house needs a lot of TLC which will take the next year. It should build my DIY skills while also making it more attractive to future buyers. I'd love to get EWI and some solar going but can't justify the investment when I know I'll need all my savings for the build / professional fees etc. I'll be able to use the site value as a deposit with the bank but I expect things like windows and the timber framed kit will require up front payments. What's key is the timing of selling the house / closing the deal / being able to pay off the current mortgage and getting starting on the new build with a new mortgage. Lining that up with the lead time of the builder, timber framed kit and windows will determine the length of time I'll have to rent the existing property back. I could do the old caravan trick and I've a sister who lives nearby but living beside the building site lets me keep a closer eye on things and the noise/mess might provoke issues with the new owners / neighbours if they moved straight in. Plus there will need to be some realigning of the driveway and access to utilities which will cause disruption outside the existing house. 


    I need to de-risk as much as possible but there's a lot of unknowns lurking out there. I hope to end up with a smaller mortgage than I currently have and reduce the term as much as possible so I can make some lifestyle choices after 10 years or so. 


    The new house will be Passive or as close as I can get and I've a good Architect's practice backing me up. If I can nail the design and costs then it's down to timing everything and hopefully move in by 2020! 


    In the meantime I've just to enjoy the house I'm in and do some DIY along the way.....



  12. Having completed the initial groundworks last year (see Part 15) it was great to get the digger back and be able to spread the remaining sub and top soil over our site.  All in all, there has been around 150 hours of digger time to get all of the site landscaped.  Other than using stone excavated on site to edge parts of the driveway and round the back of the house, most of the digger time (supplemented for earth moving with a dumper) has been spent on earthworks.


    At the front of the house, we had formed our terraces last year so 'only' had to cover with top soil.



    At the rear of the house, a lot more work was required as we had to spread what was still a sizeable amount of subsoil, before we could finish with topsoil. 




    The result of all that work was a barren 'moonscape' of soil.






    Having considered all of my gardening options, and in particular the exposed nature of our site, I opted to go for a very simple garden scheme - a mix of lawned grass and wildflower meadow.  With 2/3 of an acre to seed, I opted for the big guns and got a local farmer in to power harrow and air seed the meadow areas.  He also harrowed and raked the lawned areas for me, but they did require good old human input to get an acceptable and stone light (I won't say free) bed on which I could sow lawn seed.  






    I sourced both lawn and meadow seed from a local merchant, opting for a local species rich meadow mix, boosted with some annual and bird/bee wildflower seeds. On those areas which the air seeder couldn't reach, I used an aero broadcast seed sower /  "fiddle" sower.  For those who haven't used one, it's a very simple yet effective bit of kit.  





    The lawn seed was sown at a rate of around 45g / sq m, and the meadow grass at 3g /sq m (to allow space for the wildflowers to grow)


    6 weeks on, the grass has established itself and our site is starting to look rooted in its surroundings.  Looking forward to next year to see some colour in the meadow areas.


    Stone lined entrance - large stone will eventually have a house name sign on it. 




    Driveway, lined with timer (old 75mm posts) and small stones at the corner







    Meadow area - depending how this looks, the lawn area may be extended back a little to shape the meadow with flowing curved lines.  






    You can see our treatment plant at the bottom right of this photo.  A diversion channel filled with stone and small stones around the plant lid are in place to prevent water running onto the lid and flooding the pump chamber.





    The slope between the two terraces has been sown with wildflower meadow grass, so the terraces are hidden when looking from the road below.  if this doesn't work / look quite right, I have the option of converting to lawn grass.




    How we have finished the space between the two sections of the house.




    It will of course take time for the grass to get properly established, and no doubt there will be many changes made, but overall things are looking good and the house feels that it should be there / always has been there.  Meantime, we are just waiting for the fencer to come and erect two new boundary fences and replace an existing one to enclose the site from the adjacent field and neighbouring site.  




  13. Original house contained cheap UPVC windows that were ill fitted and would not match the new windows in the two extensions. So the decision was made to fit new windows throughout with the original plan to go for alu-clad wooden, nut resorted to UPVC due to cost and worries on how some of the alu-clad windows were constructed.  Surprising how difficult it was to get quotes that were in an affordable category. Some companies needed numerous follow-up calls which was very frustrating in view of the fact that I would be spending approx £20k on their product. In the end, although I would have preferred to buy local, I ended up sourcing windows from abroad which ended up costing a lot less than anything UK-sourced and also meant they were passivhaus certified! Pity how many sectors in the UK shoot themselves in the foot by atrocious service which is partly down to them not wanting to deal with end clients/self-builders.


    There was a lot of email ping-pong, but I think that would have been the case with UK windows too, but they were at least keen to do business which didn't seem to be the case with many of the UK ones. The only area I was hesitant about was measuring the window openings which was further complicated by the fact that I was using special EWI brackets which would position the windows outside of the window opening itself. So I had to take into account the bracket measurements in addition to the window openings. I must have measured each opening at least 15 times before submitting my final order. Glad to say everything seems to fit (just 3 doors to fit now).


    Unloading some of the units was a bit precarious especially the 800kg 4.6x 2.3m slider using a standard forklift and then travelling 200m down the road! I got a local window company to help me fit the windows and of course they had no clue how to fit them with the EWI brackets. It took a while for them to admit that the client knew best in this case as he'd actually read the bloody instructions. Means I'll have to rectify their first window later on. 


    External view:






    Next stage on the exterior, is to EWI all walls with circa 100mm insulation. Note the brackets above (this is the first window and the bottom bracket aren't fitted correctly, so will need to be fixed before EWI). The brackets will cause minimal thermal bridging at least and certainly be better than having a timber frame constructed all round the window frame. The external aluminium cills (sourced from Germany, cheaper and thicker than UK suppliers) will fix onto that bottom mini (grey) cill at the bottom.


    EWI will tuck in under frame (well all sides of frame of course):




    and will marry up with the insulation I plan to add under the internal cill also:




    My next job is to get started with the internal plastering, so I'm looking at how to detail the internal reveals and cills. My plan is to insulate under the cill also. Cavity wall will most likely be filled with PIR where I can force it down or EPS beads (with a bit of PVA). I'll then fix 60mm PIR board to the now insulated cavity wall using PU adhesive. I'll have to channel out a bit of the PIR to accommodate the window brackets so the board sits flat:




    I should have enough clearance then to fit a wooden cill on top of the PIR. Not sure how best to affix that to PIR. Maybe the plasterboard reveals will sit on top of the cill and help pin it down.


    Probably overkill with the EWI, but my intention was to also insulate the reveals (see grey EPS example above) with 20-25mm PIR board and then plasterboard over the top. Just need to leave sufficient space to get at the internal beading in case the glass ever needs replacing (sons and footballs....).


    The other consideration is to decide where to stick the air tightness tape. Initial thought was to stick that on face of window frame and onto brickwork before I stick down the PIR board. But how well does the stuff stick to clean brickwork? I could add a further layer of tape from window frame and stick to top of PIR board before the final cill goes down.


    I'll try and post some drawings up here later on.




    Not great, but some of the intended detail:



  14. Two years on from starting the hut I'm fitting a gravity water system...I have a wash hand basin in the toilet and sink in kitchen both of which have taps. I connected the waste pipe ages ago which drains to the soak away but never go around to providing the taps with the one thing that kinda makes them useful!

    To be honest the hut isn't in any way uncomfortable to live in. We have a standpipe less than 30m away and just fill up 5l water bottles for drinking and washing. However, I've got some free time and good rioja so why not go and play around up at the hut?

    I'm putting this tank on some posts made up from small tree trunks, against an outside gable wall. This is case of bursts caused by freezing if I (or a less thoughtful wife or teenager) forget to drain the system between visits in winter.

    First made a box for the second hand tank someone gave me.



    The hole at the top is for a garden hose which I'll fill from the standpipe...will know when it's full when the overflow indicates ?

    Bottom pipe will feed both taps. I'm teeing off just under the taps and connecting to both hot and cold. Whalah we should soon have some slow running water for washing...not much need for that but most handy when brushing teeth. Don't like the toothbrush in a cup thing and not having a tap to wash away the spit.??

    I'll post a little photo diary as I progress

  15. Just a quick update seeing as I had the camera on me. As always, not as much progress as I would have liked- I was away from the build for a lot of August, but it's good to come back to it refreshed.

    The painting is finally finished (that seemed to take an age), the WC is temporarily installed, and the woodburner is up and running- I'll do a separate entry for that, at some point.

    The overhead beams are now sanded back and sealed with Osmo Polyx oil- I'll use the same stuff on the windowsills. The trickiest part of doing the beams has been installing the spotlights, with some very careful drilling to feed the wiring through from above. These beams are tied into the rafters so any mistakes would just have to be filled as best I could, and serve as a reminder forever more.

    Today's task was to start on the flooring, which is carbonised strand woven bamboo. I am bonding this down so, again, little room for error. I decided that rather than start at one wall, I would mark a straight line up the middle of the floor, through the big connecting door, and then screw down a batten. This becomes my starting line and ensures that the flooring will tie up as it moves from bedroom to living room. I wa worried that if I'd started at the wall, then when the two sections of floor met up at the doorway I could find myself a few mm out. I have no idea if what I'm doing is common practise but it seems to make sense to me!

    I didn't get as far as bonding down anything yet today, as the floor turned out to be a lot dirtier than I realised, and I've spent all day on my knees with a sander removing blobs of paint and plaster. A few quid spent on some dust sheets would have been a good investment... oh well, I'll know for next time :)




  16. Started external wall insulation, 240sqm in total to fix.  Its Pavatherm combi, 40mm. Fixed a 40mm (cut down from 50mm) batten on the outside edge of soleplate and rested boards on top and off you go. Takes a while to then fit dpm and horizontal battens which I now need to remove and fix vertical battens first......Nearly finished the house frame except the flat roof, Seems a little odd to start covering walls after so long, I need to contact window suppliers again for more accurate quotes.




  17. 05.08.17 - we have FINALLY received our quote for the under-grounding of the electricity wires! 8 weeks and we'll have a date for when the work will commence! Horrah!!!!

  18. Those beyond a certain again will remember Spot The Ball, the competition on the sports pages back in the 80s/90s.


    It was an action photo from a football match with the ball missing – you had to mark the picture with an X where you thought the ball was and send it in with your entry fee. If the middle of your X aligned with the middle of the ball, you won the prize.




    Except, it wasn’t quite like that. What actually happened was that judges also guessed where they thought ball was, and if your guess matched their guess, then you won the prize.


    I now wonder whether a similar process was used to provide documentation to us, and to the purchaser of our neighbouring plot, as to  where the oil and gas pipeline ran in relation to both our plots.


    Here is the location of the pipeline, as shown in the approved plans for the plot we purchased. More importantly, it is also where the purchasing of the neighbouring plot was told the pipeline was.




    And here is the actual location of the pipeline, updated after the pipeline owners had been out with their magic wand and a subsequent dig to perform a visual inspection of the pipeline:




    The ball is not where they thought it was!

    The pipeline owner has a legal responsibility (as defined in the Deed of Servitude) to maintain pipeline markers at boundary points, and you can see two of them at the border of our plot (roughly left of the markers) and our neighbours plot, at the front of the wall.  One is the original marker that existed when we bought the plot, and the second was added after the dig for a visual inspection. There is also a marker at the back of the plot, and that is where the discrepancy was - the pipeline was meters from where the approved planning document indicated.




    I never did find out how this could happen – we don’t know if the marker at the back of the plot was originally in the wrong location (the pipeline owners insists this was never the case) or where the architects who did the original planning permission got their information from, but someone messed up big time.


    I’d like to have thought the specific location of the pipeline would have come up during the plot purchase process, but whilst the missives etc clearly mentioned the pipeline it did not specifically state where the pipeline was in relation to either plot – that information was only part of the planning drawings, which were independent (from a legal perspective) of the plot purchase.


    Thankfully for my wife and I, the new location of the pipeline did not impact us in any way, and in some respects would make our life easier, as we were farther from the no-build zone. Our neighbours were not so lucky – they had to change their plans to move their house and shrink it using a stepped design, so as to not have anything on the no build zone. I’m not sure how far he explored any legal routes available to him, but it seemed he had nowhere to go as the purchase of the plot itself did not specify where the pipeline was.


    My learn from this: Don’t trust something because it is on a plan or a drawing. Ask questions and get confirmation. Caveat Emptor.



    We wanted a modern design staircase that looked as though it were free standing but at a reasonable price. After a lot of searching we found an Italian company called Fontanot. They produce spiral and winder staircases from steel and wood. We visited their distributers at Rotherham and chose the Genius 030 winder staircase with white power coated steel work and natural beech treads. We tweaked the design a little and then placed the order. We were given a four week lead time but it was delivered in three weeks. The whole staircase came in a 1.2m x 1.0m x 0.6m crate. Then it was a case of putting together the biggest kit I've built. There was a DVD with the instructions which was helpful but gave the impression that it could be built quickly, which it most certainly wasn't in our case.






    The parts of the spine.






    The rest of the kit minus the treads.















    To build the staircase you start at the top.






















    First tread is screwed to the side of the stairwell.




























    Then you work your way down.

















    The base of the spine is bolted to the floor.

































    On the landing the balusters are fitted into cups that are screwed and bolted to the floor.































    Finally finished and the treads were covered with a protective film.








  20. Please note that this copy of our blog has now been superseded by the version on our own domain so may be in error and will not be maintained. 


    Any comments should be made on the new site as I do not actively follow any comments on this forum.


    Blog is now hosted here The House at Mill Orchard

  21. Making a sensible guess at what it might cost

    We already know from the previous Blog Post that , at the moment, Stone Columns is the preferred method. So, it's straight to SPONS for a look-see.

     Here's a link to the book, it's expensive, but it's saved me more money than I care to count - and here's the twist - it's increased my level of confidence no end. Because I know what a reasonable price is likely to be. Here's the link to a post I made about it recently - goes into more detail than I do here (I don't want to repeat myself, people get bored so I'm told). This blog post will illustrate how useful the book can be: or how useful it is to me.

    SPONS  - the hardback book has a few pages on piling (Chapter 7 p.238 et seq), and when you buy it you also get the licence for an online version - and that allows you to search for 'piling' across the whole book. Suddenly you are aware of all sorts of things to do with piling, as well as the charges directly attributable to piling. So, for example I find that a CFA team consists of 3 blokes (sorry 'people'), their rates  of pay and so on. Very absorbing.


    And that's useful because it begins to redress the 'expert' , 'customer' imbalance. Fuller information promotes partnership and engagement. I accept that some may not want that, but I do.


    Many piling methods need a piling mat. Some don't (Surefoot for example) See also my previous blog post

    So the key for me at the moment is how to sort out the piling mat.


    The Basics

    There are two elements to piling: the piles themselves and the piling and the area which needs to be prepared for the rig. It's called a ' Piling Mat'


    A piling mat is simple: its a level area about 2 meters wider than the plot so that the piling rig can strut its stuff. (I'll post the exact specification later)

    So in our case that's about 14 meters by 14 meters. That needs to be costed.


    Here goes: area affected -  (10 by 10 plus two meters each side for wriggle room , that makes 14 by 14), say 200 sq m, lets keep it easy for those of us who only just passed maths O Level.

    The SI report makes it clear that we have at least 2m of made ground everywhere.


    What's the spec for a Piling Mat? Well, if you pay £45:00 you can find out.  BRE (2004) Working Platforms for Tracked Plant: good practice guide to the design, (etc.)


    For costing purposes we can have a look at SPONS now (page 163)  '...excavate to form piling mat; supply and lay imported hardcore – recycled brick and similar to form piling mat...'

    Spon's Architect's and Builders' Price Book 2016. CRC Press


    Assuming the site needs to be dug over to a depth of 1 m and then compacted, I need a price for 200m cubed . That translates to a price of £1600 to £2000.


    First quote £11,000. Yeah, right.


    The piling itself: The SE will tell the piling company what they need to support, and the SE needs the Soil Investigation and the Topographical survey


    To Be Continued

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    Recent Entries

    J (wife of 30 years, mother of our children & gyroscope - keeps us on the level and on course) and I have always dreamed of building our own home.

    We had a sort of go at it at ‘millstone manor’, see below, by knocking down a single story wing and rebuilding it to two stories - we learned two lessons.

    Firstly we no longer think that architects 'do money'. We gave him a budget and the final bill was 3 times that. Secondly we ended up with a house too big for just the two of us now the boomerang kids are on their outward flight – naturally they may still come back but we are not sure we want to be here when they do. Also I enjoyed it immensely which I was not sure I would at the outset. I have spent a lifetime creating stuff and educating people who go on to create stuff but the scale of the sense of achievement when I fixed the second to last piece of skirting board, the last bit is still to be done in the corner of my study, was fantastic.


    House 1.jpg.png

    We had employed only three trades, Bricklayer, roofer (for the tiling) and plasterer the rest I did myself, with appropriate sign offs, in an attempt to control the budget.

    So when the opportunity arose for me to retire a little early we decided to go for a complete build and fulfil our dreams. Well at least that is what we thought. One and a bit years on and we are beginning to wonder.....

    We cast about the country, from north to south, looking for a suitable opportunity we love Scotland, Yorkshire, the Lake District and of course our home county of Kent. In the end we chose to develop in Kent a suitable plot came up, its closer to home and the chosen location allows us to visit London quickly using the HS1 Hitachi trains.

    So one year ago we took possession of this: 11m x 36m plot with a 1911 dilapidated wooden shack, 2 beds - outside toilet, around brick chimney on the front portion.




    Then the fun started.......



  22. Hello Build Hub!

    First Blog entry in our new home.

    So things have stalled quite a bit over the last few months.  Block layers have left site as they don't want to do the peaks without roof supports.

    Trusses have been measured up wrong which has caused some amount of delays.  Also having issues sourcing scaffolding but finally have that issue resolved.  Just need to get the scaffolding to site.

    There have also been some issues with our window cills.  Got measured up for windows and window rep informed me that the cills weren't level one side of the cill being closer to the DPC and the other being further into the cavity.  This would lead to some potential issues for water ingress and air tightness so needs to be rectified before anything else gets done.

    There is also an issue with the height of the inner blockwork at the cills. The inner blocks are currently sitting around 5-10mm higher than the cill level so these need to be cut down a bit.

    Hopefully there is nothing too major required to sort this out.

    I also have some threads up about a potential problem with our hotpress (its only 850mm wide)  and also possible solution to our 3m sunroom opening (Pivot door)

    This is how the house currently looks.  There has also been a rather large wall built to retain my parents garden and line our driveway.  This gives my parents a much bigger garden as this was previously a rather large bank.  Oh and my father built a temporary staircase, just means we wont have to be up and down ladders.  Also should save the proper stairs, as we wont need them in as soon.

    The House





    Front Door View




    Dining Room/Part of Sunroom


    Dining Room View


    Temp Stairs


    Driveway wall & Garage