Blogs

 

Results, and cock ups

When I posted up the first install in my blog there were a few comments saying they want a warts and all blog   ok then let’s see if I can do that, now you will have to bare with me a bit as my spelling is terrible, my punctuation even worse and I’m using one finger to type.    A GOOD BIT.  as you may have seen I removed the cabin from site.  So what did it cost to do this ? NOTHING, ZILCH, NOT A PENNY   so we had two skips to take away some of the waste. Cost aprox £520.  I put an add on e bay for the insulation that was in the ceiling and sold all of it in 48 hours. £240 next day I took a drive down to the scrap yard to weigh in a copper cylinder and all the pipes from the heating system.  Scrapyard payed me £226  sold the oil tank on e bay for £250  so all in it covered any fuel in the digger, petrol in the truck and a couple of sheckles for me so I can keep the wolf from the door.      Now for the the beginning of the    COCK UPS,  our site is an ex quarry, a gravel extraction pit, a big hole where they took out gravel and allowed it to fill with water to become a lake.    So our house plot sits on the edge of the dig line   so ASSUMING that it’s all gravel,under the plot we should get away with some simple footings, an insulated slab maybe.                            wrong,you fool Two trial holes with the digger down to 1.8m, nothing but poop,crap,plod,backfill,   oh bugger,    so major reality check, poor ground,go and talk to a neighbour who had recently built.  AYE LAD HAD TO PILE IT DUN WE.  go and talk to the contractor building a bunch of holiday homes just down the road from me.  You guesed it.  PILES MATE about 8m down.  oh shit telephone type numbers flying around in my head breath son, calm down, shall we throw in the towel, sell the site, take the money and run   after a couple of large jack n cokes and a nights sleep I calmed down a bit, so I built our last house and that was piled, so what’s the problem.      SO THE REALITY BIT FOR ANYBODY THINKING OF SELF BUILDING  THIS SITE HAS JUST COST YOU £20,000 more than you think it was going to.    what could i have done, what should you do, you could have a soil survey before you signed on the dotted line Really has anybody actually done this on a site they don’t own yet.   

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths

 

Cabin remodel.

So we’ve got planning for a new house.  Middle of February and it’s just starting to sink in, I told the misses I was going for a walk around the lake to gather my thoughts and get a plan started.  after a walk I made the executive decision that the little hedge would need to go before bird nesting started.  So I grabbed the digger and a box of matches (I do like a bonfire) this won’t take long I thought, soon have it ripped out, bit of smoke won’t hurt it’s a very overcast day.  I asked on here before for people’s opinions on what to do with the old cabin sell it dismantle it sail it down the river Severn to @Nickfromwales house   well i can be accused of being lots of things, but a dithering bloke is not one of them so the next day the little ol cabin had a slight accident      two skips turned up one for the insulation and one for the plasterboard, 2days later I had this.    sorry Nick.   

Russell griffiths

Russell griffiths

 

August 2018

Well it has been some time since I did an update. Really busy at work and of course with the house.  Things have slowed now as money reaches an end, and as time goes on the finishing will be on a "when can afford" basis, but we always knew this, and one of the points of this whole exercise was to end up with a house we could never have afforded to buy of course.   So the stonework is all done and looking great, and I have built the stairs and gave them a temporary coat of paint (they will be carpeted and the outer wood stained and varnished).   We even have a stone from a Saxon church incorporated into the house wall. This was found incorporated into then old drystone wall on the site which had collapsed and identified by the archaeologist we had to have on site. He said use it maybe as a garden feature but I felt that it would one day be lost so had it incorporated into the house wall - I plan to get a little plaque made for future generations to know what it is (there had been a Saxon church on the village green about 10 metres in front of our house before the "new" Norman church was built).    Next job is to finish the floor insulation. This is to be 200mm thick with a  100mm  screed and just under a kilometer of UFH pipes laid in.   So far we have the first 100mm in and I saved a fortune by buying seconds for that. At the end of the day it doesn't matter how pretty it is! Also, I've struggled to see why most of it is even "seconds" actually - one lot had a makers date of only 3 weeks earlier, was still shrink wrapped and immaculate.   It is not foil faced, and initially I bought some "proper" foil faced Celotex for the top layer. But I did wonder about the function of that foil in reality and what if anything it actually adds to the function. Reading a post on Buildhub suggests nothing in fact, with the poster stating that he believes that foil facings only serve a purpose with air space in front to reflect "into".  This kind of coincides with my own thinking and so I'm planning on doing the top layer in "seconds" too. I'm not convinced that even if the foil does some reflection of heat, that it would make a measurable difference between 200mm with foil facing or 200mm without. There being a polythene sheet of course over the top of the insulation before our 100mm thick concrete screed. The 50% saving on buying first quality from the builders merchants will buy us one hell of a lot of gas heating anyway, and if I've calculated correctly, several years in fact. The panels we got have a thin glass fibre covering which also makes them if anything stiffer than the purely foil faced ones. In total, they've allowed me to do the insulation for about half the price by buying them by the pallet load.   In the photo is the "snug" room, which is about 7.5m x 3.5m to serve as a sort of second sitting room with the large TV in it. The beauty of this room is that should we need it in years to come when maybe stairs become an issue when we get old, it will make a downstairs bedroom quite easily.  Shown here, it has the first 100mm of insulation down.

curlewhouse

curlewhouse

 

Planning. Slipping in the back door

So I’m laying in the bath (steady ladies) trying to think of a witty title without being to rude  the one I came up with might get a chuckle out of mr @Onoff as I know he likes things that are a bit near the mark.    PLANNERS I hate them  little squirming plebs, just hanging on for their fat council pension  our planning officer even admitted he could earn better money in the private sector but stayed at the council for the pension      BUT I WON. I BEAT THEM    HOW DID YOU DO IT RUSS, I hear you ask   @ProDave asked why we had built on the plot we did, 2 reasons   1 I don’t think dave could see the picture clearly. )   dave mentions building on the bit of land at the bottom, well under all that green that looks like grass is actually another lake, it just looks like grass due to the surface covered in lilies.  Out of the 11 acres we own only 2 acres are land the rest is water.    So the brown blob in the picture is an old timber building built on 1 out of 2 useable plots of land          this is what it looked like in February of this year.    SNEAKING IN THE BACK DOOR.  HISTORY OF THE SITE.  so in 1993 my business partner decided to buy this site, with being rather busy at the time he decided to put a manager in the cabin to run the lakes, answer the phone and cut the grass.  Now unfortunatly, or fortunately depends how you look at it.  The poor bugger died just a little while later, so with out him we didn’t have a manager, but we did have a tenant in the shape of his wife, so we gave her a rent book and it was all official.    We had to cut our own grass but where getting rent, so alls good in the world    move on to 2015, we have moved back from Australia, off I go to collect the rent one day to be greeted by an ambulance at the gate trying to get in   blow me down the poor lady widow in the cabin gets whisked off to hospital, never to be seen again.    So we decide without a tenant we might as well move into the cabin.    Perfect idea. IM NOT LIVING IN THAT BLOODY PIG STY.  im sure that’s what she said.  Oh well another plan was needed, let’s knock it down and build another new house then.  I decided to go and see a planning consultant as I like to get a bit of professional help now and then, we sat down and I told her the postcode and where it was, oh dear I didn’t like the look on her face, she basically told me hell would freeze over first before we could build a dwelling on this site, but we already have a dwelling I told her. No you have a managers residence she insisted. But the manager died over 20 years ago I said.    WHAT. You haven’t been using it in connection with the business.  No marm sorry, have we been naughty  well it turns out we had been very naughty and we should never have let the cabin out, as it’s sole purpose was for habitation of the business manager the consultant said we had a good case to get the cabin as a lawful residence as the council should have stopped us years ago and made us remove it.    When we put in for lawful use i thought the top of the council blokes head was going to blow off when he realised how we had slipped that past them.    So the next part was to apply for a replacement dwelling.  EASY.  NOPE.  16 months and £14,600 later we had consent we had the newts counted the bats counted over wintering birds flood risk calculated  aeriel photos  models made thanks @JSHarris internet pictures found from 1960 you name it we did it     and then in February 2018 WE BLOODY WELL GOT IT.  STICK THAT IN YA PIPE AND SMOKE IT COTSWOLD COUNCIL.    so @ProDave that’s why we are building on that bit.    The last 2years has left me a bit bitter towards any official pen pusher types   can you tell.  Hope that wasn’t too boring    Russ. 
 

Another week comes to an end

Been a busy week, roofer, brickies and joiners going hard at it , I believe upstairs is almost finished as far as insulation and plaster board goes, I say I believe because I haven’t been up there having a phobia about ladders! Got hubby to go up and video it for me, problem is since it’s an oak staircase it will be one of the last things to be fitted so it could be sometime before I see up there by which time it’ll be too late! Tonight we’ve gone through the ever increasing pile of ‘rubbish ‘ that has accumulated and rescued a lot of lengths of wood, some with a couple of nails in that must not have fitted the bill! Having a full new garden to construct I’m sure it will all come in handy at some point, I can’t stand waste but the younger generation are definitely a throwaway society!
 

Introducing the Griffiths family

So where do I start without this turning into a life story, when you really just want to see the house.    me and the wife, I’m the one with the stubble.    What are we building ? hmn I don’t know really it’s sort of like a big bungalow  big as in you don’t find many bungalows with 5m high ceilings,  i am still having sweaty moments about the design and hope I haven’t made a gigantic balls up of it all.    this is a pic off the internet that we based everything around, the final design is a mirror image so it slopes the other way.  The pic is American so don’t you all get your knickers in a twist about cold bridges and those steel beams poking out, it’s all been re hashed and I hope still has the same appeal after we re hashed it for about the tenth time.    THE PLOT.  we own a chunk of land in an area known as the Cotswold water park, it’s a series of lakes that where dug out for gravel extraction.  Our plot was dug in the late 1940s and finished in the early 50s, the gravel is still being extracted and new pits appear every year as planning is granted.  The gravel in the ground was deposited here in the ice age as just down the road from us is the source of the river Thames.    Our house site is the square brown blob you can just make out.    I might stop there as you are probably all yawning away.  
 

After the rain

I wasn't going to visit the site today, but we've had heavy rain showers today in Dorset and I thought that would be an ideal opportunity to see how level the slab looks after its late night power floating.  My reasoning was that whilst I can't identify any high spots by eye, it would be easy to look for the low ones by where the puddles were lying.   Here's a photo taken from a slightly elevated viewpoint (the top of a pile of wood chippings!), looking from the south east corner where the snug will be, over towards the north west corner, where the main living area will be.     Most of the puddles that you can see are barely a couple of millimetres.  I'm not sure how long it had been since the shower that caused these, but it was a breezy day and not hot.   The next is taken from the other end of the right hand side of the property, as seen above.  Between the brown foul waste pipe and the white UFH pipes, you can just about see that there is a hole in the slab.  This is meant to be there right now, but is due to a mishap yesterday.  As the concrete was being transferred in the digger and poured from the bucket, the digger rocked slightly and the bucket bounced on the exposed UFH pipes.  Harry from MBC reckoned that one of the pipes has been damaged as a result, and so the area around the punctured pipe has been left uncovered.  My trusty plumber/UFH person will be coming early next week to fix the damaged section of pipe and make good on the concrete floor, and MBC will be covering the cost of this.  Once I have the bill for the repair, I will pay it and MBC will deduct the amount from my next stage payment.  This was all agreed this morning without any arguments or quibbles.     So far, all the puddles in the photos have only been a couple of mm deep.  The deepest is on the far north west corner of the living area, shown below.     It's not easy to guage the depth of this area, but I think it's about 4mm at the deepest.  The thingies are a couple of end caps that get put on the pile rebar, but the wind was blowing them towards me.  You can see how they are tilting.   Here's another view of the same:     I don't recall the exact tolerance that the slab needs to be within off the top of my head, and I'm not going hunting for it right now as I'm one g&t into Friday evening with a couple more to follow, so no point now.  However, the figure of 5mm is scratching away in the deepest recesses of my grey cells, so I think this should be acceptable. If anyone knows otherwise, please speak up!   The finish on the surface overall is very nice.  I had a walk over the whole thing and couldn't see anything obvious, but then apart from squishy concrete under my boots, I wouldn't know quite what to look for anyone.  To my unpracticed eye, it looks pretty good.   One very good think that came about from all that excess concrete being dumped all over the place yesterday is that the team spread it all out between the hard standing and the slab, so I now have an even more level and sturdy surface for the crane when it arrives with the timber frame:  

vivienz

vivienz

 

Self build book

My book 'self-build Home...the last thing you need is an architect' is now available in kindle form Amazon as an option...you'll get a few pages as an introductory sample. Any questions email lofthousestudioAThotmail.com Thanks, Jim

caliwag

caliwag

 

A difficult day...

...for the MBC team, and not their fault, but I have a slab. This is only down to the tenacity and incredible hard work from the MBC team who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat today following horrible equipment failure on the part of the concrete company.   So, let's start at the beginning.  The slab team worked like frenzy yesterday morning to get all of the EPS down, followed by the mesh which then got tied into the ring beams.  After that, they put all the underfloor heating pipes in (there are several zones and many, many pipes to come into the manifold).  The building control officer turned up just before 6pm last night and gave everything the okay for the pour today.    Here's the slab with everything on it first thing this morning, just waiting for the concrete, at shortly after 8 this morning.  On site already is the pumping lorry and one mixer of cement. Very exciting, so far, so good.     They started with the furthest part first, and the first lot of cement went onto the garage area, where the chaps are standing in the above photo.   Here's the pump, concrete lorry and plenty of other equipment all good to go.     Except, it wasn't good to go.  Well, it was, because that's what it did in the end. Go, that is.  The concrete pump packed up and after a good while of trying to fix it, nothing was happening so off it went. All wasn't lost, however, as one of the drivers was also a pump operator and offered to get a fairly old pump out of retirement and use that.  Brilliant!     This is the ageing pump putting the concrete over to the garage.  Meanwhile, several hours have passed and after a bit of grumbling earlier in the morning about the concrete lorries not turning up on time, suddenly, they're coming thick and fast and are all parked up our narrow country lane.  Then the second pump got blocked and couldn't be cleared.  A very large man with a very large mallet did all he could to clear it, but it wasn't working. By now, it was nearly 2pm and the slab should have been poured a good few hours ago and power floating started.    Left with no other choice, Harry, who was heading up the team, got the bucket onto the whopping great digger and ALL of the rest of the cement got dumped onto the slab by digger, and then the guys had to drag it over to wherever they needed it.  This was for a floor area of about 180 sq metres.     Fortunately, there were 5 on the team today as they had brought in an extra guy to cover for one who was late back from holiday, but turned up straight from the airport to the site so the numbers were beefed up, and boy, did they need all of them today.   The garage slab was screeded (is that actually a verb?  Dunno, it is now), and was looking fine.     Eventually, the rest of the concrete got where it was supposed to be and the lane finally emptied of concrete lorries - there were 5 on or around the site at one point this afternoon.     Now, the eagle-eyed amongst you will realise that there are no photos of the final, powerfloated slab.  This is because I pushed off at 5.30 this evening and they were only just starting on the garage; they reckon that they would just about get it finished this evening by the time the light went, so I'm afraid, dear reader, that you really will have to wait for those photos.   One final photo from earlier in the day has something of interest, as it shows the shuttering that was put in place on the threshold for the lift and slide doors that are going in the living room area.     Tune in soon for the next thrilling update!  

vivienz

vivienz

 

The Build - plaster boarding and insulation

Yes, now that the first fix has been completed, the plaster boarding has started with the upstairs being done first. The builders will move downstairs an a weeks time or so. Whilst they have been boarding out, I have been installing the insulation for the partition walls, loft space and ceilings downstairs. The insulation being used in the loft space is 140mm - two layers laid at right angles to each other if that makes sense. The insulation used for the partitions is 100mm and the plasterboard for these walls has sound proofing properties, weighing in at 6 kilos more than the standard boards. You will see from some photos that we have also managed to install two full length oak beams. One for the sitting room and the other for the kitchen/family room. They look great even if I say so myself. They are not structural just aesthetic. Outside, the stone mason and labourer have been cracking on with the stone work. They intend to get the house done at head height before moving up as additional scaffolding will be required. They start the back of the house later this week. Enjoy the photos and I will be back in a couple of weeks, hopefully with a full boarded out house. Thanks for reading.

Redoctober

Redoctober

 

Wayleaves and electricity lines

Not surprisingly, I've been pondering the dilemma of the overhead electricity lines near/over my proposed garage.  I'm still waiting to hear back from MBC and I suspect my request for a call has got lost in the works somewhere, so I will chase it up.    In the meantime, I've decided to take another course of action in parallel as, given the choice, I would very much prefer the overhead lines not to be there, or at least not so close.  The immediate thought that comes to mind is £££££.  As many of us know, anything to do with moving electricity supplies tends to be expensive.  This is a slightly different case to the usual one, however, in that the overhead cables don't supply me or my property so I'm not over that particular barrel.  On the deeds to my property is a copy of a fairly ancient wayleave agreement, made in 1958 between the then land owner and what was the Southern Electricity Board.  The key term here is "wayleave". If it were an easement, I would really be in a spot of bother, as an easement is agreement made in perpetuity, as the legal bods like to call it.  To us laypeople, that means forever.  So, the fact that I have a wayleave is a good start.   So what's so good about a wayleave, then?  Well, I can serve notice to the electricity board that I am going to terminate it and they have 3 months to do something about it or respond in some way.  That's not to say that the response will be the one I want, but it gets the ball rolling.  It seems that this not an uncommon request from developers and farmers and there is a well laid out process for it so I shall get things started today - no time like the present and all that.   I will update as and when, but my knowledge is sparse at the moment so I shan't go into too much detail that may be a load of rubbish.   Once more unto the breech!   Quick update: of course, everything has been done before on BH!  Here's a link to a previous thread for Lucy Murray's build in Scotland but with English cases cited from Peter Stark.  Just love this place! Burying electricity supply  

vivienz

vivienz

 

Steel, beams and a problem

Let's start with the problem.  I can't solve it today as today is a public holiday in RoI and the MBC guy I need to speak to isn't available, so there's nothing doing until tomorrow.   I need to get the scaffolding sorted for when the timber frame team arrive on 27th August and thought I had this well in hand.  I sort of still do, but there's a H&S problem with the scaffold erection and I've spent a little time this morning tracing back to the source of the error.  I need a single lift of scaffolding for the construction of the attached single storey flat roof garage that is at the north east corner of the building.  On the topographical survey that was done for the property by the vendor (for the planning permission that he sold it with), some overhead power cables are shown nearby and the building was designed so that the far corner of the garage cleared these.  So far so good.  All the setting out and construction has been done according to this.  Now, lack of observation on my part, but it is now obvious that instead of clearing the north east corner of the garage by a couple of metres, the OH cables are, in fact, directly overhead of that corner and where the scaffolding would be.   I had a look on the topo survey and the OH cables are incorrectly plotted - they are shown further out than they are in reality, so I'm not sure if this is collective responsibility, or who's it is.  I'm not really interested in attributing blame to anyone at this stage, I'd rather just find a solution that gets the house and garage built within the current schedule.   The issue is this - the cables are high tension and the scaffolder's original suggestion has proved to be a no-goer as the DNO has said that the cables are very high voltage and would just burn through any shrouding. Alternatively, they could switch off the supply running through these cables, but it would have to be for the entire time that the scaffolding is in place.  I didn't even bother asking for a price on this as it's probably more than the build cost.   Where do I go from here? Well, I need to speak with MBC tomorrow and find out if the garage can be built without scaffolding, or if there is some other way around this.  Although all access and materials are coming in away from the OH cables, the concern for the scaffolders is if they make contact with a pole whilst putting the stuff up, or if the power arcs down to one being waved in the air.  I have no idea of the likelihood of any of this, but I really wouldn't want to be responsible for an impromptu barbeque.  Of a person.  Update to follow.   And so onto EPS and beams. I have to say that all that EPS on a sunny day is enough to burn your retinas out.  It really is quite painful to look at, even when you're trying not to, and it doesn't do much for the already hot temperatures out there on site.  You know it's serious when your construction workers are all wearing sunnies, as they're not a vain bunch.     The trestles you can see are what they use to rest the rebar sections on before sliding on the steel rings then tying it together with wire before putting in situ and adding the rest of the rings.  The blue polythene that you can see is the DPM/radon barrier sheet.     This is the head of the pile that was previously cut to height.  A hole is sawn through the EPS for the pile head to extend into, then the steels from the piles are bent over so that they can be lapped with the rebar forming the ring beam.  Fruit pastilles are optional.     The steel protrusions lapping over the EPS will get tied into steel mesh, and the two will overlap by at least 500mm.  The channels in the EPS are where other beams will go.  The EPS offcuts are just being used as spacers to keep the sheets that are down in the right place.     Here, you can see where the steels from the pile are tied into the ring beam.  Bear in mind that every single bit of wire that you can see is twisted on by hand.  It makes my hands hurt just thinking about it.   In the main open plan living room area, the west and north facing aspects both have lift and slide doors that need to be recessed into the floor so that the threshold is level.  To allow for this, there are indents in the perimeter beams where the windows will go.     This is the westward facing window; you can see that the building is oriented just over 10 degrees off the main compass points by the fall of my shadow - the photo was taken about 9.30 this morning.   And one more photo of the pile steel lapped with the ring beam.     The rest of the steels will take all of today and all of tomorrow, then there is the UFH pipe to be laid.  Once all the steels are done, the building control bod needs to come and check that he's happy with all the tying in.  Once that's okayed, then the concrete can be ordered and poured. I'm hoping it will be Thursday as we're due some rain at the weekend, by which time, I'll hopefully have some progress on my scaffolding problem.

vivienz

vivienz

 

Larch cladding

Cladding now installed on the utility and porch.       Unfortunately, the rest of the cladding will need to wait until the start of the block work starts in a month or so.   I have also been busy nailing away and fixing what felt like a million truss clips.          

Thedreamer

Thedreamer

 

Update on slab pour

I briefly popped out to the site this afternoon, dragging hubby with me so that I could show him that I really am spending all that money getting a house built and not squirreling it away into a running away fund.   The MBC team were busy constructing the ring beams that then get tied into the piles.  Lots and lots of work in this and so they reckon that THE SLAB POUR WILL BE EITHER WEDNESDAY OR THURSDAY now.    No photos today, but I'll take plenty tomorrow for another blow by blow account.

vivienz

vivienz

 

Busy day

It's been a busy old day on site today, and the main MBC associated action was deliveries of EPS and steel and sand, and the team getting on with putting the blinding sand down onto the hardcore, that they finished yesterday evening.   The EPS supplier is based in Essex - the driver left at about 4.30 this morning to make an early delivery but even at that time of day, he didn't make it to the site until just after 8.30 as the roads were so busy.  The amount of polystyrene sitting on the site makes it look as though I've had the mother of all Amazon deliveries and this is the left over packaging.  It's in 2 forms, large flat rectangular sections and the angled corner pieces.     Later on this morning, all the steel arrived, 6 tons of the stuff.  It was interesting to see all the component parts of this as I'd never seen that much in real life and, for my own build, only on SE drawings.  The MBC guys were very patient and explained to me how it all gets laid out then tied together to form the ring beam and how they tie everything into the piles.  Very interesting if you've never seen it before.     That lot was all put to one side until they need it, and then the main order of the day was getting the sand down.  Progress was slower today as there were only the 2 men on site, but they're still working at a good pace.  The garage area had the sand laid first.     The brown pipe sticking up in the foreground is one of the foul water exit pipes.  These have all been put in situ now, along with ducting for any electrical cable that needs to enter or exit through the slab, and this includes my broadband cable.  The following shows the foul water runs; MBC put these to 1m outside the perimeter of the slab.     And then we have the ducting to take the electrical cables, visible to the rear of the picture:     Then there's a final shot of the blinding going down over the west facing living room area:     The other thing that happened today and is worth of mention is the site visit from the scaffolder I'm using.  If you look at the last photo, you can just make out some high voltage overhead cables that don't directly cross the new build, but are very close.  These are close enough that a scaffold erector might accidentally touch the wires with a pole when putting them in position, so the upshot is that the cables need to be shrouded to protect the workers.  This can only be done by the DNO and it's the scaffolding company who contact them and arrange it all as part of their own risk assessment procedures.  When the scaffolding guy raised this with me, he asked if I was project managing the build and whether I needed to do any CDM stuff.  Thank god for BuildHub, as thanks to that thorny and long-running thread a while back, I knew precisely what he was talking about and immediately stated that I wasn't a project manager, but a domestic client and dealing with a sequence of main contractors.  Right answer.  He said that was fine, he would take care of it all.  Phew!   Back to the scaffolding and that shrouding, with another worthwhile point.  Although the firm will organise everything themselves re. the shrouding, there is a lead time with the DNO, currently about 3 to 4 weeks, as it's that time of year.  You may recall that the MBC timber frame team were due on site on 20th August which is more than a little tight.  As it is, I had an email from MBC this afternoon to advise that, as it's that time of year, they've had to bump it back a week due to staff holiday, etc.  That suits me just fine and gives me enough time to make sure the scaffolding is properly in place for the job.  My windows are due for installation on 24th September; MBC will need about 3 weeks for the timber frame, so all of that works out nicely.   The hiatus between the slab and the timber frame will be useful time to make sure I'm organised for the next push with getting the guts into the house and sorting out all those niggly little details.  Like a roof.    Onwards and upwards!

vivienz

vivienz

 

Supermen!

So , Monday night saw us spending 2 hours with our electrician going over everything that we wanted, sockets, switches fans etc  saturday and Sunday the plumbers had been in doing first fix which they finished off today, Sunday was an 11hour shift for them, Tuesday two electricians started their first fix and they arrived on site this morning at 5 am! They worked 13 hours today and were off to look at another job when they left here! Oh for the stamina of youth! roofer did his batons on Monday/Tuesday and started roof tiles today, joiners have all the upstairs flooring down and have started insulation  contracts manager from David l Douglas was in today taking his hard measurements for kitchen, he has us down for fitting on October 1st but I get the feeling we might bring this forward and need to decide soon as kitchen takes 4/5 weeks to make. Ceramic tiler will be here for a look at the weekend and Phil from Greenflame will visit on Monday to advise of any preparation needed for the pellet stove and thermal store. tomorrow staircase manufacturer will be here to measure up . Oh and today I posted the cheque for the electricity supply!!!
 

Foundation course

The slab team from MBC arrived on site this morning.  It's like having the building version of whirling dervishes who've just dropped a few speedballs.  My word, they make progress!   The team is headed up by Harry and he has 3 others in his team, but this will fluctuate a little over the course of the job with Harry needing to have a look at another job for most of tomorrow then the younger lad taking some leave to go to a music festival.  Tsk, the youth of today!  He worked like a machine, though, apart from the bit where he nearly rolled over one of the piles as he was looking in awed astonishment as a rather attractive young lady farmer drove past on the nearby track in a JCB that was most definitely bigger than the roller machine he was on.  I don't think it was the vehicle that caught his attention so much as the driver.  Sniggers all round.   I arrived just after 8 am this morning and the first lot of hardcore had already been delivered.      In total, there were 4 loads of type 1, but I piggybacked onto this and ordered an additional load (paid for by me) which the team will then spread and roller for me in the area beyond the bucket in the above photo, which will create a nice level area for the crane when it arrives to bring in the timber frame.  I've had really good luck with the weather so far and hope it continues, but if it rains between now the completion of the timber frame, the site will turn to mud PDQ and slow things down horribly.   Once the hardcore was going down and getting compacted, the piles were cut off to the correct height, leaving the rebar in position, ready to be tied into the beams.    I have no idea what you call the digger thingy that they are using to move the stone around the site, but it's an impressive beast.  It looks a lot like the bottom of a tank with its caterpillar tracks and then something a bit more transformers-like with its swivelly cab and arm.  Either way, it was mechanical poetry in motion when driven by someone who clearly knew what they were doing.     The team will have been working till 7pm this evening, so they will have got all the hardcore down and compacted and were going to start on the sand, if they had the time.  The first load of sand arrived about 4.30 this afternoon, more to follow on tomorrow morning.  As well as working 12 hour days, Harry has already had a chat with the neighbours to let them know that they will be working over the weekend, too, on both days.  The insulation is due for delivery tomorrow and they will be putting the pipes that carry the service cables into this, along with the UFH pipes.  I'm not sure when the steels will arrive, but that must be also imminent as the piles will need to be tied in before the concrete is poured.  The building inspector is coming on Monday to check out everything before the pour.   For interested parties, THE CONCRETE POUR IS CURRENTLY SCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY.   I've read a couple of horror stories and some not-quite-horror-but-not-very-nice-stories about uneven slabs, so I've told Harry that before they leave site, I need him to demonstrate with a laser that everywhere that a wall rests is absolutely level and within tolerance. Harry is a man of few words and he didn't quite bat an eyelid, but I explained that I would much rather that something like that is demonstrated rather than just verbally assured.  He seemed fine with it.   So, one final picture of the hardcore going down, from the garage side of the house.  More blow-by-blow action to follow tomorrow.          

vivienz

vivienz

 

The Build - First Fix

Since the last update, things have pressed on but unlike other activities, the visual impact isn’t as obvious. I have uploaded some photos but sadly they are not very exciting as you have to look hard to see the electrics - Anyway, it's a record. The upstairs has had the same treatment as the ground floor; in as much as the walls have had additional insulation fitted, wrapped in vapour barrier and had service battens fixed.  The last two weeks of July has seen the plumber and electrician come to site to do their first fix. A lot of work has been undertaken and all their efforts will be covered by plaster boards.  Whilst all this has been going on, the chimney has been started – the wood burning stove will arrive late September. The front and rear doors have arrived and been installed. The scaffolding has finally come down and I’m pleased to see them off site. This has allowed the stone mason to start laying the stones – a total of 177 squares will be laid in all. So far we have had 31 bags of stones delivered and we await a delivery date for the final 25 bags. Things must be heading in the right direction as we have started to order sanitary ware – a bath, 2 showers, 3 toilets, 3 basins and associated taps and traps. The plumber wanted the shower valves and basin traps on site for his first fix. We have also ordered all the oak skirting, window boards, internal doors, door linings and architraves. The oak products are due at the back end of August. The joiner has assured us the walls will be plastered boarded and plastered in time!!   Thanks for reading.
 

Part 25 - NEW ENTRY - Heating and DHW system performance

In Part 22, I detailed my decision making process in relation to my choice of a pre-plumb Mitsubishi Ecodan 8.5kW ASHP based DHW and heating system.     I now have a full set of data covering 12 months so can provide figures in respect of how the system, and our house has performed.   My baseline requirement was to maintain 21.5C in the house 24/7 throughout the heating season (October to April), and a supply of DHW water that would allow multiple showers to be drawn off without a drop in the temperature of water delivered at the tap.   The Mitsubishi FTC5 master controller / thermostat is set to 21C, and is located in the hall next to the vestibule. DHW is set to and stored at 50C.   Over the 12 months March 2017 – March 2018, heating COP ranged between a February low of 3.3 to an October high of 4.6 over the course of the heating season, with an overall SPF of 3.7   DHW COP ranged between a February low of 2 to a summer high of 2.5, with an overall SPF of 2.3   Based on a kWh electricity unit price (inc standing charge) of 12.3p, I paid 3.32p per kWh of delivered heat, and 5.34p per kWh of DHW (inc losses).   It should be noted that DHW cylinder losses do slightly reduce my heating demand, albeit at a higher cost than if delivered via UFH.   For a reminder of our layout:         In winter, with a set temperature of 21C, the house sits at a comfortable even temperature, the main living section of the house tends to sit at 21.5C, the 2nd and 3rd bedrooms at 21C and the master bedroom at 20.5C. I suspect that the slightly lower temperature in our bedroom is due to the fact I set the MVHR vent at a higher supply rate than the other bedrooms. This would tally with my experience of doing the same in our last house.   The two biggest factors that impact on our heating demand are wind speed and solar gain. In modelling our heating requirement, I took both into account, along with incidental and household gains. The weather data set was based on a combination of met office and local home weather station information.   Our average wind speeds are significantly higher than elsewhere in the country, and combined with the effect of storm force wind speeds (which we get a fair bit of) we do have a higher heat demand when compared to the same house being located in a sheltered inland area. The impact of wind speed, and the differential in pressure it causes is illustrated here:   http://www.wanz.co.nz/ConversionChart   A doubling of wind speed sees the pressure increase by a factor of four.   Average winter wind speeds of 15-20mph (which equates to the standard air pressure test) are common if not the norm here. Average storm wind speeds of 40-50mph gusting to 70-80mph are also common. The impact of the pressure differential that such wind speeds cause was illustrated to me during the build whilst I was decorating. Having masked off the windows with polythene it was noticeable that when wind speed exceeded 40mph, the polythene would inflate on the windward side of the house, and be sucked onto the glass on the leeward side. Whilst we’re not aware of any drafts and the house isn’t any way uncomfortable, looking at the daily heating requirement when wind speeds are high, you can see an increase in the amount of energy used. Part of that will be air leakage (as evidenced by the effect of pressure differential on the windows) part is the unbalancing of the MVHR (gusting wind from a particular direction can cause the fans to struggle), and part is the lack of solar gain on such stormy days.   In terms of solar gain, the vast majority of any gain manifests in the public areas.   In winter this provides a useful uplift in internal temperatures. Depending on how clear it is, and how long the sun is out, the uplift sometimes compares to having a WBS stove on and really is quite pleasant. More generally, with mixed winter weather, the gain is less noticeable in terms of a temperature spike, but does have the benefit of reducing our heating energy use.   In summer, the gain can be significant and does require a cooling strategy.   Without any active cooling, the house has at times risen to 25C in the public areas and 24C in the bedrooms.   Alongside the MVHR summer bypass (set to activate when extract air is 22C or more) we cool the house down to a more comfortable 22C using cross ventilation, opening windows / taking account of the prevailing breeze. We also have a velux window upstairs, which when opened in combination with a downstairs window, creates a chimney effect that is very effective in exhausting hot air.   The biggest downside in using cross ventilation is that it doesn’t work when the ambient temperature is high (not a very common), nor when there isn’t a breeze (again, not very common). You also have to factor in the unexpected as we had to recently as our neighbour undertook ground works, which created vast clouds of dust in the dry weather. Opening windows simply wasn’t possible on those days.   Overall the predicted impact of solar gain is as I modelled it using data from the following two sites:   https://www.susdesign.com/   http://re.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pvgis/apps4/pvest.php   PVGIS provided daily average data, and from susdesign I was able to work out a peak solar gain multiplier to determine what the maximum likely amount of solar gain would be on a clear, cloudless day.   Modelling solar gain for both heating and cooling requirement was a very worthwhile exercise as I was able to determine what our worst case requirements were for both, and what strategies would work.   I’m fortunate in that the prevailing weather conditions here mean cross ventilation is a viable and workable strategy to deal with overheating. I am however in no doubt that had we built our house in a sheltered location in a warmer part of the country, that we would have a very real overheating problem and would have to use a very different strategy, most likely combining solar films on windows and active cooling.   I do have the option of actively cooling my house using our ASHP, via the UFH and if I wanted by retrofitting a duct cooler into the MVHR system, although haven’t felt the need to do so yet. One plus point of the Mitsubishi Ecodan ASHP is that activating cooling is simple (changing a dip switch setting to enable the master controller).   All in all, I’m very happy with the way the house is performing in terms of retaining heat and providing a comfortable environment in both winter and summer.   The performance and running costs to date are certainly more than satisfactory.   Of particular value to us is having sufficient heating capacity to deal with spikes in heating demand (resulting from especially stormy weather) as and when needed, without having to resort to auxiliary heaters or peak rate top up, and the simplicity of use of the master control system. Whilst I could if I so wished set flow temperatures and heating curves, the onboard auto / adaptive program requires one user input – internal set temperature, and the controller works out the lowest temperature way of delivering it.  Whilst I had a very good idea of what our heating curve should look like, using the auto / adaptive mode saved a lot of trial and error, and having monitored flow temperatures, have not seen them exceed 32C.  For those not comfortable with developing their own programming or control systems, this is a very big plus.   Having looked at a variety of options, I concluded that an ASHP would be the most cost effective solution (even after taking into account the cost of replacing the outdoor unit after 10 years) to meeting our requirements, and 12 months on, I have absolutely no doubt that I selected the right system for our requirements.   Whilst I have no hesitation in recommending the ASHP system I have, it is important to recognise that low energy or passive type builds really do need to be modelled and individual requirements identified to determine what type of heating, cooling and DHW provision is required.   

Stones

Stones

 

We have a house!

After 11 days on the job we are now wind and water tight. Plumbers will be in tomorrow, roofer, brickie and electrician beginning of week, definitely moving along at a pace I’m happy with, lots of ordering went on this week to make sure we are ready for the onslaught next week and I may have news about the electricity soon but can’t say much just now, onwards and upwards ?quite an interesting roof in the middle only wish the budget would have run to oak here as it seems a shame to gyproc it all but it will still be an interesting shape     
 

MVHR, OSB, windows and roofing starts.

6 month update. Started fitting ducting for the MVHR, my wall build is 3 layers, 140mm, 70mm and 50mm so the ducting fitted well (luck) within the walls. Just need to uncoil the 50m lengths and start dragging it through the build.     Then I added the final 50mm timber and insulation before I started the OSB. It took about 2 months to fit about 150 boards, the vapour barrier, double sided tape, airtight tape, it was quite a challenge especially the vaulted ceilings.     For the flat roof, fitted the Velux Rooflights then GRP, about 35sqm, 2 layers. Just need to be very organised and keep all tools and materials clean. I might put some Sedum on at a later date.     Had some windows and doors delivered and fitted. Kastrup and Internorm. The whole experience disappointing so far.  Most of the Kastrup need replacing due to roller marks on glass. Fitting below average.     Finally the Tata SSR. Took me ages to set out but once the eaves and verge square it goes on well. 3 roofs to fit. Now half way through the second roof with 7 Velux which fitted well though very heavy, the soft wood frames very prone to damage if not protected. Working out how the EDW flashing kit works around the SSR takes a while, lots of measuring and cutting, creating upstands  and folding but the end result is good. About to move the Kwikstage round again. Body struggling though.  If anyone wants more detail do ask. Its all quite challenging but still satisfying.

JamesP

JamesP